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Le Mans Series 2007
Round 2. Valencia 1000 Kilometers. May 4th-6th 2007

Race Start Hour 2 Hour 3 Hour 4 Hour 5 Final Hour

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMC

Warm Up

Even by nine o'clock the sun was high and the track warm as the full grid of 46 cars set out to take part in the twenty-minute official warm-up. In the RML garage, Thomas Erdos was strapped into the MG and ready to go. As has become established practice with the team, he would complete four or five laps before returning to the pitlane, complete a driver change with Mike Newton, and then wait for his co-driver to do a similar number of laps before going through another complete pitstop simulation as the session closed. "It all went perfectly - no dramas whatsoever!" he declared. "We're in excellent shape for the race."

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMC

Times in warm-up are widely acknowledged as being pretty meaningless. Some teams go out to prove a point, while most are looking ahead to the race and send their cars out in full race trim with full tanks and, like RML, are merely checking that everything is functioning correctly. A fair few will be testing repaired components or bedding in new ones, and this morning at Valencia it was heartening to see the Chad Racing Panoz, badly damaged by fire on Friday and damaged again by an accident on Saturday, out and lapping well in GT2.

In LMP2, the Quifel ASM Lola was "proving a point", and set a fastest lap for the class of 1:26.641, a tenth quicker than it had gone in qualifying, while the T2M Dome finally set a representative time. Although 1:37.328 was slowest in class, it was still twelve seconds faster than the new car had ever gone before. Valencia is that team's dress rehearsal for Le Mans.

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMC

Mike and Tommy were both using old, well-worn rubber, but in full race trim Tommy' best of 1:28.961 may give some indication of what the MG's race pace will be.

Race Start.

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMC

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMCThe following text was posted "live" during the event and has been retained unaltered, although additional quotes and explanatory material has been added. A brief press release about the race can be found here.

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMCRace started at 1:29

Not the expected scramble for Turn One - not at the front of the field anyway, although a fairly argumentative scrum erupts further down the grid - all negotiate the corner fairly, and Tommy emerges having lost just two positions; to the #15 Charouz and #5 Swiss Spirit Lolas (below), but Vergers has had an appalling first few moments, getting a wheel into the gravel even before they got onto the startline straight, and falls back from class pole to 6th in LMP2.

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMC

Tommy completes the opening lap in a strong seventh position overall, and comfortably leading LMP2. He has Joao Barbosa just behind him in the Rollcentre Pescarolo, who appears unable to challenge the MG. The Quifel ASM Lola has slotted into 9th overall, holding second in LMP2, with Robin Liddell 10th, third in class.

The Peugeots are first and second overall, the number 8 just heading its team-mate, but both now well clear of the #10 Zytek, Stefan Johansson at the wheel, although the Swede is not falling back at any appreciable rate.

Tommy has a lead of about 3.5 seconds over de Castro, holding second.

The Swiss Spirit #5 Lola gets ahead of the #15 Charouz, and Tommy moves up onto Alex Yoong in the #15. Barbosa remains close behind the MG. The ASM Lola, with de Castro at the wheel, has fallen back a little, but remains second in LMP2.

Tommy and the #15 Lola are having their own private battle, but both pulling clear of Barbosa in the Rollcentre LMP1. The ASM Lola is falling back, but probably because de Castro has his mirrors full of Vergers in the Barazi Zytek, recovering strongly, and Robin Liddell, now making a charge in the Bruichladdich Radical.

Almost seven seconds now separate Tommy from de Castro, who has eased out a lead of about two seconds on Liddell, who has taken advantage of a mistake by Vergers to move into third.

All are now threading their way through the midfield cars. Balked by a backmarker, Tommy falls back on Barbosa, but the gap to de Castro remains good. They're in among the leaders in GT1 now, and surrounded by Aston Martins and Saleens, which accounts for the fluctuating gaps between the LMP2 contenders.

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMC

Tommy has eased clear of Barbosa once again (above), and Vergers has re-passed Liddell in the Radical.

Tommy is holding on well to the LMP1 cars immediately ahead of him. De Castro is under increasing pressure from Vergers, who is demonstrating the Zytek's pace in his attempt to recover the ground lost by his poor start. Robin Liddell is following in Verger's slipstream. Tommy has four seconds over Barbosa, who is about a second clear of de Castro.

Tommy is starting to put Yoong in the #15 Lola under enormous pressure, and harrying the similar-looking P1 Lola through every corner (below). Problems for the #51 Aston Martin, which suddenly slows and limps back to the pits.

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMC

The Embassy Radical pulls off on the run up to Turn Seven, and is dragged backwards off the circuit. Warren Hughes later rejoins, but not for long. Meanwhile, the Zytek P2 car, Michael Vergers driving, had been making great inroads on the MG's lead, but makes an error (one of several so far) that drops him back again, well down the P2 field, to rejoin behind De Castro in the Quifel ASM Lola. This brings Robin Liddell right up behind Vergers. Fassler in the #5 LMP1 Swiss Spirit Lola with its Audi engine, made a minor indiscretion a few moment ago, and has fallen back behind Tommy, but is recovering strongly.

Soon afterwards, Vergers passes De Castro - again - in the Barazi Zytek. It's 2:09. Then De Castro gets back ahead of Vergers!

Barbosa's Rollcentre Pescarolo and Verger's Barazi are nose-to-tail, and so are the three Lolas, where less than a second separates Yoong, Erdos and Fassler. The two groups, however, are ten seconds apart.

On the next lap the Audi-engined Lola gets ahead of Tommy, who drops back as a result. Vergers passes the ASM Lola once more, the two trading positions almost lap-by-lap. This time, however, Vergers starts to pull away quite rapidly, and soon establishes some breathing space.

Photo:  David Lord / DSC

Tommy is having a tussle with one of the Pescarolos. The #16 car, driven by Romain Dumas, is one of the first to make a pitstop, but once back out on track, seems unable to make any impression on Erdos, who is all over the Frenchman's tail. At 2:19 the MG sweeps by into Turn Nine. Tommy instantly eases clear. He now has a healthy lead over Vergers, second in the class, with the ASM Lola (de Castro) third, and Liddell fourth, who has finally got ahead of Barbosa in the Rollcentre Pescarolo.
At last, Tommy finds himself in clear track.

Tommy is advised over the radio that the team is getting ready for the first scheduled pitstop. At exactly half-past he cruises in down the pitlane, asking for a "visor wipe" along the way. It's a smooth pitstop, with no problems, and fuel only. The tyres should double stint here without difficulty.

Hour 2

Tommy rejoins and still leads LMP2, with thirty-five seconds over De Castro, and forty-two to Vergers. Most LMP2 runners have either already stopped for fuel, or are about to do so.

The gap to De Castro has extended to 39 seconds after the Portuguese car takes on fresh tyres during its own stop.

De Castro spins off into the gravel at Turn 8. He's well beached, and has to be towed out by the tractor unit. He eventually rejoins, but Vergers has sailed through into second place. It turns out that Vergers has actually tapped De Castro into the spin. "He's a good friend of mine!" says Tommy over the radio. It's not clear who he's referring to.

Tommy retains a lead of some 39 seconds on Vergers, although the Dutchman is circulating rapidly through the traffic. The #5 Swiss Spirit car is, once again, back on Tommy's tail.

Tommy complains of a low-battery warning light.

2:52 The #44 Kruse Pescarolo, with Tony Burgess driving, spins off at Turn 1.

Tommy has been repeatedly delayed through traffic, and it appears to have cost him several seconds on Vergers, who has closed to within half a minute of the MG.

Tommy comes back down the pitlane to have a fresh battery fitted. It has been long enough since he first commented on the low-battery warning for the team to make a driver change and still be within the schedule for the race. While the car is refuelled and the rear panel removed, Mike Newton steps aboard. It's a lengthy stop while the new batteries are swapped. Later transpires that the main alternator belt has snapped, and the team swap to the auxillary unit.

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMC

Michael Vergers crosses the line to take the class lead. Simultaneously, the team is refitting the engine cover. They have fitted a new panel, but Mike stays on the same set of tyres that Tommy used from the start of the race. The Michelins are standing up well!

Mike yet to leave the pitlane. Barbosa and Lammers go through - both are LMP1 cars, but Robin Liddell, the next to cross the line, takes the Bruichladdich Radical through into second in LMP2.

The #27 Horag Lola also passes by on the main straight, followed swiftly afterwards by the #17 Pescarolo. The MG slips to fourth in LMP2.

Mike finally gets the all-clear and heads back out onto the track. It's not quick enough, however, to prevent Jean-Mac Gounon moving through on the straight to take 13th overall for the #24 Del Bello Courage. The #19 Chamberlain Lola also gets ahead, and before Mike is back up to speed, Nicolet in the #35 Saulnier Courage forges by.

Timing screens still not making this clear, but Mike would appear to be 16th overall, 6th in LMP2, and has De Castro just behind him. It is worth noting that Tommy's fastest lap during his double-stint was a 1:28.406 - the fastest in LMP2.

The #5 Swiss Spirit Lola pits with a puncture. Shortly afterwards, De Castro overtakes Mike for 16th place, leaving the MG seventeenth overall, 7th in P2.

Gap to De Castro has grown to 8 seconds.

Vergers leads P2 from 5th overall, with Liddell second (9th) and Didier Theys third in the #27 Lola (11th).

Hour 3

Photo: David Lord / DSC3:31
The #40 ASM Lola is in the gravel again, this time at Turn 10.
Mike Newton is back up to 6th after De Castro struggles back to the pits. Mike is 12 seconds down on the #24 Courage, but they are circulating at a similar pace, so the gap is remaining quite constant.

Mike has moved up to 15th overall, and when Nicolet pits the Saulnier car on the next lap, the MG moves through into 14th, fifth in LMP2.

Mike is off the track, but quickly recovers, thankfully having missed the gravel and taken to s sliproad. He rejoins quickly. Initially he suspects a puncture, but drives through what is probably pick-up on the tyres causing the sensation and continues. He doesn't appear to have lost any time.

Robin Liddell pits the Bruichladdich and hands over to Tim Greaves. Juan Barazi has also taken over from Michael Vergers in the #32 Zytek. The order in LMP2 is now . . .

1st #32 Barazi Epsilon Zytek, 6th overall
2nd #21 Bruichladdich Radical, 10th overall
3rd #27 Horag Lola, 11th overall
4th #24 Del Bello Racing Courage, 12th overall
5th #25 RML MG Lola EX264, 13th overall
6th #35 Saulnier Racing Courage, 17th overall

Mike Newton is six seconds behind Bouillion in the #16 Pescarolo, but the LMP1 car is quicker and pulling away. Juan Barazi still leads the class, but is nowhere near as rapid as Vergers - in fact, he was just overtaken by a GT1 car. Elsewhere in GT1, the #72 goes off into a plume of gravel at Curva Nieto.

Miguel Amaral in the ASM Lola is closing down on Mike . . . on the track, but is actually two laps down. Mike is advised not to worry too much if the blue car comes by. On the other hand, Mike is closing steadily on Freddie Lienhard in the #27 Lola.

"That's very good pace, Mike," says Phil over the radio. "Keep it up!". Mike is setting consistent laps in the 1:34s or quicker, and is pulling in the deficit to all those ahead of him in LMP2, even the Barazi Zytek. Juan just did a 1:36.

The #35 Saulnier Courage spins after attempting a pass up the inside of a GT2 car. It is a brief delay for the silver car.

The #14 Racing for Holland Dome spins into Turn 6, and seconds later, Peter Owen in the #19 Chamberlain Lola does exactly the same thing, almost colliding with the static Dome. Owen resumes, but the RfH Dome is pulled back behind the barriers.

Photo: David Lord / DSC

Mike advised that he'll be coming in shortly for his first scheduled pitstop.

Mike is in for fuel and tyres. It's a smooth pitstop, with no problems, and he's rapidly back out and racing. The earlier fix has clearly done the trick.

Mike confirmed as P6 in class, seven seconds down on the #35 Saulnier Racing Courage.

Hour 4

The ASM Lola collides with one of the Felbermayr Porsches. Both rejoin, but the ASM is yet further delayed.

The safety car has been deployed. It is understood to be to enable the marshals to deal with oil on the track, believed to have been dropped by the #10 Zytek, which had a problem earlier. Mike is up to P4 in LMP2, 14th overall. There is much confusion, since the Safety Car has waved the leader by and is circulating very slowly, allowing everyone to pass. Mike radios in to query why he's passed the safety car "for the second time!".

Finally the Safety Car collects Pedro Lamy in the leading Peugeot 908. "Oh good," says Mike, with just a hint of irony. He comments that the pace being set by the Safety Car is very slow indeed.

"Expect to start racing again this lap, Mike!" The lights duly go out on the Safety Car.

The order in LMP2 is now . . .
1st #32 Barazi Epsilon Zytek, 6th overall
2nd #24 Del Bello Racing Courage, 12th overall
3rd #21 Bruichladdich Radical, 10th overall
4th #27 Horag Lola, 12th overall

4th #25 RML MG Lola EX264, 13th overall

Black and orange flag is shown to the #32 Barazi Epsilon Zytek

The #12 Courage is off at Turn 5 - extended yellow flags.

The Barazi comes into the pitlane and is hauled backwards into the garage, whereby the cover is off and the engineers are busy attending to whatever fault ails the car.

Juan Barazi is back out in his eponymous Zytek, but the car has lost the LMP2 lead to the #24 Del Bello Courage, Vitaly Petrov currently at the wheel.

One lap later and the Barazi car is back in the garage again, this time for a more extended stop.The Bruichladdich Radical moves ahead into 2nd in LMP2.

The #27 Horag Lola also now moves ahead of the Barazi, and thereby inherits third.

Phil confirms that the whole of the rear diffuser - the section of panelwork that lies beneath the engine - will have to be replaced. The ACO officials have been to the garage to point out that the section is damaged, and the car cannot proceed with incomplete bodywork. To do so would contravene the new regulations. Phil was called over from his usual residence on the pitwall to discuss the situation with the officials. He suggests to the team that other jobs are attended to while the car is in, and everyone scurries off to find tools, parts and take up their positions.

Jakey is asked how long he thinks it will take to replace the diffuser, and predicts "ten minutes". Phil offers the guys the incentive of "a beer for every minute under." Is that each, or between the lot of us, asks one of the mechanics.

The #24 Courage, currently leading LMP2, is given a Stop & Go penalty. Reason unknown.

The order in LMP2 before MIke comes in for his stop is . . .
1st #24 Del Bello Racing Courage, 7th overall
2nd #21 Bruichladdich Radical, 9th overall
3rd #27 Horag Lola, 10th overall

4th #25 RML MG Lola EX264, 12th overall

5th #40 ASM Lola, 15th overall

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMC5:17
The #24 Courage, Petrov driving, comes into the pitlane to fulfil the penalty. He's also due a scheduled stop, but cannot do that at the same time, so has to go out and come back in again, making for a lengthy delay.

Mike comes in down the pitlane. The team complete a regular refuel, but Mike is kept in the car. As soon as the whistle blows to signify that refuelling is complete, the rest of the crew leap to the car, fit the rear wheeled-jack, and haul the car, and MIke, into the garage.

The rear engine cover is removed, and while half of the team attend to the rear diffuser, others remove and replace the louvre panel over the front right-hand wheel, fit new headlights to the right-hand pod, and generally attend to anything else that might become a problem, and can be fixed in less time than it takes to replace the diffuser. This is made a lengthy process by the need to remove the sidepods, the rear wing and other components even before the engineers can start disassembling the floor itself. With Phil Barker overseeing every element of the procedure, giving instructions, picking up on other potential problems, and generally directing the action like an orchestral conductor, things get done very quickly and efficiently.

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMC

With the rear diffuser and other repairs nearing completion, the car is lowered back onto the ground, and while the rear wing is refitted, Tommy is strapped into the car in preparation for his final double-stint, all the way to the flag.

Hour 5

Tommy heads back out onto the track.
Mike is in the garage, explaining about the problems. He had been experiencing a lot of vibrations from the car, which were attributable to the damaged rear diffuser. Neither driver is aware of any forcible contact from another car - not sufficient to cause such damage, although Mike recalls contact very early in his first stint when a GT2 car followed the MG too deeply into a corner and outbraked itself, using the back of the #25 as a buffer. However, the damage to the diffuser only became evident much later in his second stint. "The car was still driveable but there as a lot of buffeting down the straight, and the aerodynamics were not good."

Tommy rejoins 21st overall, eighth in LMP2 and a lap adrift of the the #20 Pilbeam.

The #7 Peugeot is moving slowly past the pits, having encountered a problem too late to make the pitlane entry. It completes a lethargic lap and then pits, where the car is quickly withdrawn into the garage and out of sight. It is revealed to be a clutch failure.

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMC

The #15 Cherouz Lola is black-flagged for having a section of front right louvre flapping in the breeze. This is exactly the eventuality that might have befallen the #25 if Jason hadn't replaced the damaged panel during Mike's pitstop.

Tommy is up to 18th overall from 21st, and seventh in LMP2, having overtaken the Pilbeam.

Car #92 into the gravel at Turn 11. The #27 Horag Lola is into the pits and the engine cover is off. It is pulled back into the garage.

Phil is very pleased with Tommy's pace. He's doing 1:29s or thereabouts, and making up ground, although the task is now monumental.

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMC

The #59 Aston Martin, with Christian Fittipaldi at the wheel, is punted into a spin by the #40 ASM Lola.

Tommy passes Eric van de Poele in the #27 Horag Lola, which remains stationery in the garage. This nets him 6th in LMP2, 17th overall.

Tommy complains of a misfire. It worsens. "It could be just a loose lead, but it's really bad now," he says. He brings the car into the pits straight away - it's 6:20. The team remove the engine cover, check all the electronics and leads, then send him out again at 6:25.

"Did we loose the position?" asks Tommy. "Yes," replies Phil, "but the guy we lost it to has just spun off into the gravel !" Actually, it's a bit more than that. The Pilbeam had gone head-first into the wall, and sustained substantial damage. It is definitely out of the race. Tommy is back in P6 with just over an hour to go.

Hour 6

Can the MG go to the flag without another stop? Perhaps. It currently lies 17th overall, holding sixth in class. It's not where the team hoped to end the day, but any points could prove invaluable as rest of the season unfolds.

The Del Bello Courage, #24, pits from the lead of LMP2 and is pulled up on the apron. After a few moment, the crew pull the car back into the garage, where it remains for some time.

The order in LMP2 is . . .
1st #35 Saulnier Courage, 7th overall
2nd #21 Bruichladdich Radical, 8th overall
3rd #40 ASM Lola, 9th overall
4th #24 Del Bello Racing, 11th overall

5 th #44 Kruse Pescarolo, 15th overall
6th #25 RML MG Lola EX264, 17th overall

The #16 is hit by the #15 Cherouz Lola, and sustains rear bodywork damage. It looks remarkably like a blown engine, with all the smoke, but it is merely (?) carbon fibre fouling the rubber. It has to complete an entire lap before being able to pit for repairs.

The #76 Imsa Performance Porsche, which has been leading GT2 for some time, ploughs straight on into a tyre wall. The damage looks major, and the car is unlikely to continue.
Tommy sees the incident, and considers the possibility of a pace car. In the end, the marshals clear the car away swiftly, and no Safety Car is required.

The #35 Saulnier Courage incurs a Stop & Go penalty, for reasons as yet unknown. (Later confirmed as unnecessary contact with one of the Luc Alphand Corvettes.) It has recently completed a pitstop, and thereby lost the lead to the #21 Bruichladdich Radical - or that is what seems to be the case at first glance, but next moment the #40 ASM Lola is confirmed as the new LMP2 leader.

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMC

Tommy lies in 16th position overall, sixth in LMP2, but the gap to Burgess in the Kruse Pescarolo #44 is roughly three whole laps, so nothing short of a disaster . . . for the other competitors . . . can give the MG a better result.

The race will not "go the distance", and the chequered flag is expected at half-past.

Tommy comes down the pitlane for a final splash-and-dash of fuel. He is stationery for about five seconds, no more. Meanwhile, at the end of the main straight, the #15 Cherouz Lola is attempting to force the Rollcentre Pescarolo into the pit wall ! It's a disgraceful display of driving from Stefan Mucke, who is defending the position (second overall) with a no-holds barred attitude. Barbosa hangs back for a while, but is then back on the chase again moments later.

There's a Spyker with a blown engine. It's the #85. It goes into the gravel shortly later, spinning on its own oil.

Later on the same lap, Barbosa is off into the gravel. He was chasing the #15 into a corner when a GT2 Porsche got between the two. Barbosa went wide, caught the "marbles", and lost grip. Running wide he went over the kerbs and into the gravel. Maybe has a puncture? Definitely rear-end damage. He pits, but when he comes back out the bodywork is still fouling the wheel. It turns out the suspension is damaged.

Confusion in the press room, as the overall leader now being shown as Mucke in the #15 Cherouz Lola, but it must be an error. Pedro Lamy leads overall in the #8 Peugeot 908, surely? The 908 is still circulating well, and hasn't been passed, but for some reason his laps are not registering.

The error is confirmed when the timing screens go blank!

Pedro Lamy crosses the line to win the race for Peugeot!

Tommy takes the flag just ahead of the winning Peugeot, but continues for another lap just to make sure.


1st #40 ASM Lola, 7th overall
2nd #35 Saulnier Courage, 8th overall
3rd #21 Bruichladdich Radical, 9th overall
4th #24 Del Bello Racing, 11th overall
5th #44 Kruse Pescarolo, 15th overall
6th #25 RML MG Lola EX264, 16th overall


Class Team Drivers Car
LMP1 Team Peugeot Total Lamy / Sarrazin Peugeot 908 Hdi FAP
LMP1 Charouz Racing Charouz / Mucke / Yoong Lola B07/17 Judd
LMP1 Swiss Spirit Deletraz / Fassler / Alexander Lola B07/10 Audi
LMP1 Rollcentre Racing Barbosa / Short / Hall Pescarolo C60 Judd
LMP1 Pescarolo Sport Bouillion / Dumas Pescarolo C60 Judd
LMP1 Pescarolo Sport Primat / Tinsau Pescarolo C60 Judd
LMP2 Quifel ASM De Castro / Amaral / Burgueno Lola B05/40 AER
LMP2 Saulnier Racing Nicolet / Filhol / Jouanny Courage LC75 AER
LMP2 Bruichladdich Radical Liddell / Greaves / Moseley Radical SR9 AER
GT1 Team Oreca Ortelli / Ayari Saleen S7-R

A gallery of high resolution images from Valencia can be viewed here.

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