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Le Mans Series 2006
Round 3. Nürburgring 1000 Kilometers. July 15th-16th 2006

Race. Issued July 16th 2006

Frustration and Disbelief

Once again, good luck deserted Thomas Erdos and Mike Newton in the Le Mans Series 2006 when a bizarre brake-pad failure pitched the RML MG Lola EX264 out of the LMP2 lead and into the gravel. Erdos, who was setting the class pace around the Nürburgring in Germany at the time, was heading the category by a comfortable margin when the incident occurred. “It’s not the kind of experience I’d care to repeat,” he said later. “I put my foot on the brake and the pedal went straight to the bulkhead. The car wobbled a couple of times and then went into a 360-degree spin. I was lucky to escape the gravel trap, but it was a scary moment.”

Up until this point the MG had dominated the LMP2 category and looked set fair for a richly deserved victory. Erdos had established a healthy advantage during his first double-stint before losing ground as a result of an extended pitstop, on this occasion to remedy an alternator belt failure. He fought back to second place before the start of the third hour. Mike Newton, driving the two middle stints of the race, maintained the car’s excellent pace, and made up yet more ground before handing the MG back again, still lying second. Within minutes of starting his second double-stint, Erdos eased through into the class lead once more, and having overtaken the Rollcentre Radical, soon converted that into a comfortable lead. He continued to pull away cleanly, and as the race approached its final hour, was lying fourth overall and enjoying a margin of more than half a minute over the Radical. His pace was exemplary, but he’d no sooner set a fastest lap of the race than the front left brake-pad suddenly disintegrated.

Erdos was able to bring the car carefully back to the pitlane, where the team replaced the disk, calliper and all pads, but in doing so lost not only the lead, but also a further five laps. With less than an hour to go it was an unrealistic hope to think that so much ground could be recovered, but the Brazilian set-to with determination, establishing a string of new fastest laps, including one of 1:49.148 that would stand as quickest lap for the class. “I was a bit upset,” he admitted later, “but that shows the confidence I have in the team. I know the guys wouldn’t send me out again in a car that wasn’t perfect.” He battled gamely, and made up significant ground, but the RML MG EX264 crossed the line in fourth place.

“Our car and driver combination clearly had the pace to win here today,” said Ray Mallock, team principal at RML. “To have a brake failure cost us the race is especially frustrating.” Phil Barker, team manager, was understandably crestfallen. “From where we were at the time, we were comfortable with one stop to the flag. It was all on schedule for the win. I can hardly believe it.”

The next round takes place at Donington Park over the weekend of August 26th-27th.

To read an in-depth report of the race, follow this link. You can also view the high-resolution Gallery for images from Sunday at Nurburgring