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Le Mans Series 2007
Round 3. Nurburgring 1000 Kilometers. June 29th - July 1st 2007

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

Warm Up

Sunday morning’s twenty-minute warm-up started at 08:30, beneath grey clouds but across a dry track. RML took a habitual view to the occasion, using it simply as an opportunity to bed in brakes, scrub in some tyres, and give their two drivers some track-time and pitstop practice.

Erdos was first out in the MG, taking up a position in the queue that offered an interesting comparison between the four classes in the Le Mans Series (see below). To his left, one of the leading GT1 contenders. To his right, one of the Felbermeyr Porsches, while on the inside, the #8 Peugeot 980.

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMC

Erdos completed three quick laps. His quickest was timed at 1:48.563, and confirmed later as fastest in LMP2 by roughly two seconds over the ASM Lola.

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMCThe Horag Lola showed a relatively quick time after a less flattering qualifying session yesterday, and 1:50.891 being good enough for third.Half-way through, Erdos came trundling back down the pitlane to the garage, where Mike Newton was waiting to take his place (left). The drivers swapped positions, Jason helping with the belts, while the car was refuelled. With the hoses withdrawn and Jakey’s whistle blown, the tyres were quickly changed, allowing Mike a quick exit.

With just under ten minutes remaining, Mike had time for a further four laps before the chequered flag, and then the team repeated the driver-change and pitstop exercise, simply for the experience of doing so. A brief glance at his stopwatch, and an almost imperceptible nod, confirmed that, once again, the RML guys were on top form. Speed in the pitlane is every bit as important as pace on track. Overtaking a car on the circuit can be difficult, at the best of times, but save fine seconds in the pitlane, and that’s a position gained without risk.

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMC“I’ve been putting down a few markers,” declared Mike Newton, having done a series of one fifty-twos. “If that’s the kind of pace Mike can maintain through the race, we’re in good shape,” said Erdos. The “markers”, on the other hand, were to establish some kind of pecking order when it came to holding lines and making presence felt against some of the more aggressive GT1 drivers. “If they learn at an early stage that I won’t give way, and I will hold my line, then we’ll have less trouble in the race,” was his theory.

The problem comes when the LMP2 cars meet a GT1 car on the straight. The Astons and Corvettes are every bit as quick as the MG, or most of the other LMP2 prototypes, along the straights, but can’t keep up with them through the corners. That can make it difficult for P2 drivers to pass the GT1 leaders except by leaving their braking later, and then holding a strong line through the twisty bits. With his point made – quite forcibly on a couple of occasions, Mike was now looking forward to the race.

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMC

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMCA quick de-brief with Phil Barker, followed by a chance to meet up with some of the AD Group guests in the Smoking Dog hospitality, and then Mike and Tommy were off to the ACO scrutineering truck just outside Race Control. There they joined virtually all the other Le Mans Series drivers to take part in the official “Autograph Session”.

Hundreds of spectators of all ages filed along the extended line of desks to have posters, programmes and, in the case of RML, the team’s exclusive A4 HeroCards, signed by the drivers. Between them, Mike and Tommy autographed nearly 500 cards, and were quite relived to get away for an early lunch shortly before eleven.

Just as they were leaving, however, they met up with an old friend, and couldn't resist the photo-opportunity. Monsieur Bibendum has been around in one guise or another for about eighty years or so, but he's still looking pretty good for his age.

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMC

By then the hectic schedule had already seen the main straight cleared and the number girls start to take up their positions on the grid. Not long afterwards, the first cars started to make their way round to their positions. The MG EX264 was among that leading group, and by half-past, the grid was almost full. The Nurburgring 1000 Kilometres was about to begin.

Race Start and First Hour

Race started at 11:57

The Nurburgring 1000 Kilometres was supposed to begin at the slightly strange time of 11:55. In the end, it was a minute or two late, but it was a clean and relatively trouble-free start, although Tommy's opening lap was made a little easier by another poor start from the #32 Barazi Zytek. This time the car's owner Juan Barazi himself was at the wheel, and slipped a handful of positions even before Turn One. That allowed Stuart Moseley through onto the MG's tail, and as they streamed through the Mercedes Arena complex, that was how the first few corners panned out.

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMC

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMCBy the end of lap one (right), Tommy had a few yards on Moseley, with the Rollcentre Pescarolo running third in this hard-fought mini-battle. Barazi had lost about half-a-dozen places, and had slotted in behind the #40 ASM Lola.

Over the course of the next few laps, Tommy extended his lead steadily in LMP2, with Barbosa in the Pescarolo taking Moseley into Turn One at the start on the third lap, and then starting to close on the MG. As a pair, however, they were pretty evenly matched, and the gap to Moseley increased steadily behind them. Out at the very front, the two Peugeot 908s were romping away into the distance, and within five minutes were already well in among the tail-enders.

The duel between Tommy and Barbosa in the LMP1 Pescarolo wasn't exactly balanced, but the Brazilian managed to fend off the Portuguese for four or five laps. Once he was reassured that his lead over the chasing Radical was more than seven seconds, he was happy to ease to one side and let the prototype through. It was ten-past twelve.

For the next ten minutes or so the race within LMP2 stood relatively balanced, with Erdos easing away relentlessly from Moseley in the Radical. The Bruichladdich driver may have been distracted somewhat by the on-going challenge behind him from Bob Berridge in the #19 Chamberlain Synergy LMP1 Lola, and at 12:25 the yellow car finally found the opening and swept through.

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMC

Tommy leads LMP2 by almost 15 seconds, but is under challenge for position from the #17 LMP1 Pescarolo. It isn't slowing him down, however, and he is pulling away from Moseley in the Radical at a rate of one, or sometimes two seconds each lap. The battle for second, however, is hotting up, with de Castro closing steadily on the orange Radical.

The MG leads LMP2 by 20 seconds. A little further back, Warren Hughes is making life difficult for Juan Barazi in the #32 Zytek, and the two are nose-to-tail through the Mercedes Arena section, although the Zytek seems quicker on the less-twisty sections. The #83 Ferrari (Johnny Mowlem) pulls off in the Mercedes Arena, the first confirmed retirement.

Tommy's lead has extended further, and he's now 29 seconds ahead of Moseley, who has de Castro right on his tail in the ASM machine. Such is the MG's pace, however, that Thomas Erdos laps the Binnie Lola at 12:50 - a sweet moment, perhaps, after losing the LMP2 Le Mans crown to the blue Lola just two week ago.

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMC

Tommy heads into the pitlane for the first scheduled pitstop. He's been complaining about a touch of oversteer, but Phil tells him that "if you think you're struggling, you should see the others!" Stuart Moseley continues, and takes the lead, but the ASM Lola also makes for the pits. Tommy is stationary for less then a minute, and is swiftly back into the race.

Warren Hughes finally gets ahead of Juan Barazi, and thereby moves forwards into fourth place in LMP2. Moseley then makes his first pitstop in the Bruichladdich Radical, but emerges once again behind de Castro in the ASM Lola, so has lost class second on the exchange.

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMCHour 2

Waren Hughes, now fourth in the Embassy Radical, is pulling clear of Barazi. Tommy has concerns about trailing bodywork from the #83 Chad Racing GT2 Panoz. The car pits on the next lap for repairs.

The confusion caused by the varying pitstops has finally unravelled, and it has become clear that RML's efficient crew has found several extra seconds, thanks wholly to their speedy work in the pitlane. Tommy now has a lead of 46 seconds over de Castro, now second in the #4 Lola. Moseley holds fourth.

The lead continues to lengthen minute by minute. At five-past it was 46 seconds. By quarter-past it was 54 seconds, with Moseley right behind de Castro, and 17 seconds ahead of Hughes.

Tommy reports an accident at the Ford Hairpin between the LMP1 Creation #9 and one of the GT cars. He anticipates a safety car, but the marshals get the cars cleared away quickly, and it proves unnecessary. The margin over de Castro has extended to 65 seconds. The MG lies 9th overall.

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMC

Thomas Erdos is just over half-way through his second stint and leads LMP2 by 68 seconds from Miguel de Castro in the #40 Quifel ASM Lola, with Stuart Moseley third in the Bruichladdich Radical and Warren Hughes an excellent fourth in the similar Embassy Racing SR9.

Peugeot leads overall, with the #8 car (Pedro Lamy at the wheel) heading Nic Minassian in the #7 by one lap. Third is the #13 Courage (Gounon) and Cochet fourth in the #12 car. Ortelli leads GT1 in the #55 Oreca Saleen, while taking the honours (for now) in GT2 is the #96 Ferrari of Rob Bell.

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMC13:47
Tommy's lead continues to grow steadily, and the MG is now 77 seconds clear of second-placed Miguel de Castro. The #7 Peugeot has been back into the garage again, with a repeat of whatever problem has already cost it a lap on the leader.

With several of the LMP1 cars already into their next series of pitstops, the MG has started to move up the overall order, and now stands 6th. Tommy's advantage over de Castro has also extended, and now stands at 79 seconds.

The ASM Lola occupies 10th overall, and spearheads a strong mid-field showing from the LMP2 field, with Moseley 11th, Hughes 12th and Didier Theys in the Horag Lola 14th, sandwiching the #10 Arena Zytek LMP1, with Tom Chilton in charge.

Tommy prepares for his in-lap, and to hand over to Mike Newton, with the advice that he'll be fine, provided he stays on the clean line. After his training session on Friday, he shouldn't find that too much of a problem.

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMC

Tommy into the pitlane from a very impressive third overall. The driver-change and refuel is covered live on television, and goes smoothly, with Newton quickly back out on track without a hitch. De Castro pits on the next lap, handing over to Miguel Amaral. It will take a few laps for the situation to become clear, but the MG appears to have rejoined in 6th position overall, still leading LMP2. At Magny Cours, the Formula 1 grid is just forming up in preparation for the start of the French Grand Prix.

Hour 3

As the race enters its third hour, the RML MG Lola EX264 retains a strong hold on the LMP2 lead, currently 7th overall, from Stuart Moseley, who has yet to make his second pitstop. The #40 ASM Lola lies third.

Moseley pits the Bruichladdich Radical #21 from second in LMP2. The car instantly drops four or five places down the order. The Rollcentre Pescarolo has been pulled back into the garage for repairs . . . and so too has the Radical. The orange and yellow engine cover has been removed and the car eased backwards into the garage.

Confirmation over the radio to Mike that he has a lead of 96 seconds over Amaral, now back up to second in the ASM Lola #40. The Bruichladdich car remains in the box, and has dropped to 16th overall. Mike Newton's pace is impressive, and he is currently one of the quickest drivers in LMP2, by a significant amount, although Amaral is matching the MG's speed lap for lap.

Photo by David Stephens

Mike is adding roughly a second onto the MG's lead with every lap, and has Amaral about 18 seconds in front of him on the track, although nearly a lap in arrears on the timing screens. The Bruichladdich Radical remains in the garage, and has fallen to 26th overall, and will soon be passed by the leading GT2 cars, headed by Rob Bell, still in the Virgo Motorsport Ferrari 430.

An unscheduled pitstop for Amaral in the #40 Lola lets Neil Cunningham, driving second stint in the Embassy Racing Radical through into second place in LMP2. It was a brief stop - reason unknown - and the Lola is soon back in the action, but right on Cunningham's tail.

The battle for second in LMP2 is developing into a close-fought needle-match, with the blue Lola all over the rear wing of the Kiwi's Radical.

Mike is having a challenging time getting through the traffic, and he is being partnered by the Kruse Courage at the moment, both cars finding it difficult to get through the GT1 leaders - the fourth-placed #50 Aston Martin eventually succumbing to the pressure and spinning out directly in front of them. Neil Cunningham, meanwhile, appears to have managed to eke out a small advantage over Amaral.

Photo by David Stephens

The RML MG Lola's lead in LMP2 has stabilised at around the 75 second mark, although in the overall standings the two are eighth and ninth. The leading GT1 Oreca Saleen is coasting smokily around the circuit - not easy to determine if that is engine or tyres. Confirm, it's a rear left puncture, and the car makes it back to the pitlane for a replacement.

The #85 Spyker GT2 has stopped beside Turn One, the driver, Jarek Janis, is out, and the car is well ablaze. The marshals have rushed to douse the flames. The engine let-go down the main pit-straight. The car was lying ninth in GT2.

Mike's lead is now 51 seconds, although it's unclear where the MG has lost the time, as Mike has been lapping very close to Cunningham's best. Overall, the #8 Peugeot now enjoys a lead of almost two laps over the sister-car, with Moreau third in the #13 Courage. Ojeh has just taken over the #32 Barazi Zytek, and the Gulf-coloured car is now 12th overall, fourth in LMP2. The #55 Oreca Saleen lost the GT1 lead as a result of the puncture, and the #59 Team Modena Aston Martin DB9R but now heads the class. The #96 Virgo Ferrari 430 continues to lead GT2, now with Allan Simonsen at the wheel, with the #77 Felbermayr Porsche second.

The #21 Bruichladdich Radical is racing again, but lost about 15 laps with a starternator problem. The Embassy car pits for fuel, but Cunningham stays in the car. Amaral moves through into second in class.

Photo by David StephensHour 4

Mike heads down the pitlane for his first scheduled pitstop for fuel. The MG pits from 7th overall, leading P2. Almost simultaneously, Amaral brings the ASM Lola in for fuel as well.

The pitstop situation has finally unravelled, and it is now clear that Mike retained his lead comfortably during the process, and is now 58 seconds ahead of Amaral, who moved ahead of Cunningham during the stops.

The situation in LMP2 has settled down into a steady rhythm. Mike Newton leads the class by half a lap from Miguel Amaral in the ASM Lola, with Neil Cunningham third in the Embassy Radical #45. Karim Ojeh holds fourth for Barazi Epsilon. The four cars are ninth through twelfth overall. The #19 Chamberlain Lola has spun off and Peter Owen appears unable to re-start the car.

Owen finally gets the #19 back on track. Mike's lead over Amaral in the #40 Lola is 47 seconds. The two Radicals are circulating as a duet, although there's about fifteen laps between them. Cunningham is just ahead on the rack, and holding third in class.

The margin on Amaral has slackened to just 43 seconds, but the greater concern is actually the #32 Zytek. Although only fourth in class, the Barazi team has yet to let Michael Vergers, their fastest driver, loose in the car, and he may be able to make up ground when his stint begins shortly.

A series of much quicker laps from Mike Newton has stabilised the situation, at least with regard to Amaral in the ASM Lola. The gap there remains a healthy 41 seconds.

Photo by David Stephens

Karim Ojeh pits in the #32 Zytek, and hands over to Michael Vergers. The Dutchman promptly does the car's fastest last two sectors on his out-lap.

Hour 5

Michael Vergers marks the beginning of the fifth hour with a new fastest lap for the #32 Zytek; 1:50.562.

Mike pits from the LMP2 lead and hands over the MG to Thomas Erdos. It's another great pitstop - quick, efficient and without drama. Moments later, matters are very different when Neil Cunningham brings in the #45 Radical, and hands back to Warren Hughes. No sooner is Hughes into the cockpit than there's a flash fire from under the engine cover. The pitlane marshals appear to have it quickly under control, and Warren doesn't even bother to get out of the car. It stays on the apron while the team endeavour to find the cause. Moments later, the Radical is passed fit for purpose and Warren heads back out again.

Photo by David Stephens

The delay has allowed Vergers an easy passage through to third. Amaral has also pitted in the meanwhile, and handed over the ASM Lola to Angel Burgueno. The #40 is now second again, but by only two seconds from Vergers. Both are roughly 50 seconds behind Tommy.

Cochet in the #12 Courage, running a very respectable sixth overall, careers backwards into the tyre wall on the far side of the circuit. There's heavy damage, but he gets it going again, and brings it crabwise back to the pits. A lengthy repair is in prospect.

Vergers moves ahead of Burgueno into class second, tenth overall. The gap between the Zytek and Thomas Erdos in the MG is now 49 seconds.

Through all this drama, the Horag Lola #27 has pursued an untroubled path through to fourth in LMP2, 13th overall, and Eric van de Poele is setting good times in the red and white car to fend off Hughes in the black Radical. All look likely to pass Cochet in the stricken Courage, which is sliding relentlessly down the timing screen.

Confirmation comes that Tommy is redressing the balance on Vergers, and has extended the gap to plus 53 seconds. His current pace is almost two seconds a lap faster than the Zytek, although it does fluctuate with traffic.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning at this stage that the weather has cleared during the course of the race to such an extent that the track is now considered "hot". The skies are largely blue, and while a smattering of cloud remains, the immediate threat of rain, which seemed imminent at midday, has now passed.

A quick round-up reveals the #8 Peugeot still leading from the #7 by two laps, with the #16 Pescarolo (currently Emanuel Collard in the cockpit) third, but two laps behind. Fourth is Jean-Marc Gounon in the #13 Courage, with Creation fifth, the Charouz Lola sixth. Tommy is then seventh in the leading LMP2 MG, followed some fifty seconds later by Vergers and Burgueno.

In GT1, the tables have turned once again, and pace "will out" in the form of Stephan Ortelli in the Oreca Saleen, a lap clear of the Modena DB9, and then the first of the Corvettes, the #72 Luc Alphand car. The faultless run from Virgo continues in GT2, with the Bell/Simonsen Ferrari heading the pack from the #77 Porsche.

Tommy completes the MG's 143rd lap.

The race appears to have settled down into a routine, and there are few significant changes taking place - certainly within LMP2. Tommy continues to enjoy a lead of roughly forty-five to fifty seconds over Michael Vergers, although Burgueno is falling back behind the Zytek. They have all passed the Arena LMP1 Zytek, although what has caused the #10 to slip back this way is unclear, as the car's pace with Shimoda at the wheel seems perfectly respectable now. The #27 Lola has maintained its stealth-like progress, with van de Poele easing away from Warren Hughes, Embassy's effort now seeming to have overcome its moment of drama.

A little further back. Chris Buncombe is now in the Binnie Lola, and setting the car's best pace of the race so far, although fifty-three's aren't class-leading lap times. The #31 is fifteenth overall, seventh in MP2, just behind the #35 Saulnier Courage - another unspectacular yet competent run from the silver car.

Vergers pits the #32 just before the hour. It's a routine stop for fuel, but can the Zytek complete another hour?

Hour 6 to the Flag

Tommy pits from 6th overall, leading LMP2, and low on fuel. The ASM Lola is in the pits from second, having also held off the stop for as long as possible, with Vergers third. Tommy's stop involves a full clear-out of the radiator intakes - a standard practice this far into a lengthy race, so that debris and waste rubber granules can be cleared from the mesh and minimise any reduction in cooling efficiency.

Photo by David Stephens

Hughes pits in the Embassy Radical - routine.

With all pitstops completed, the picture becomes clearer once again. Tommy's lead over Vergers has increased to 53 seconds, thanks again to the fast-working RML pit crew. The MG lies 7th overall once more, with Vergers 9th behind the #10 LMP1 Zytek. The #40 Lola retains third (10th overall) and has the #14 Racing for Holland Dome between its tail and the Horag Lola's nose, albeit with half-a-lap separating each.

Incident between Tommy and the Rollcentre Pescarolo, with Tommy caught out when Stuart Hall in the LMP1 car appeared to bog-down on the exit of the first corner. The damage to the Rollcentre car (right rear) was sufficient to bring it into the pitlane for repairs at the end of the lap, but for the time being, Tommy has continued without stopping. He confirms that the car feels fine. Phil advises him that there's approximately 20 laps remaining.

The #13 Courage goes off heavily into the gravel just after the Ford Hairpin. The car is beached and imobile. Tommy eases by into 6th place overall.

Tommy's advantageb over Vergers, having been pretty constant for over half an hour, has suddenly grown again to 53 seconds - almost certainly due to traffic. Many of the prototype drivers have been commenting on the difficulty being experienced working through the slower cars, and in some cases, the poor standard of driving being exhibited by a select but inconvenient few.

Ten laps to go, and the gap has increased to 55 seconds.

Five laps to go! Peugeot #8 leads by two laps from the #8. Tommy's margin over Vergers is 53 seconds.

Three laps . . . plus 56

A near-faultless run byb the works Peugeots secured an untroubled one-two finish for the 908s, with Sarrazin taking the chequered flag by two laps from MInassian in the #7.

Photo by Marcus Potts / CMC

Victory for RML in LMP2, as Tommy crosses the line 6th overall (above, with a shake of his fist).

Photo by David Stephens

All fifteen LMP2 cars finished, and the first five without problems of any significant kind. Fifteen prototypes crossed the line ahead of the leading GT1 car, and this was a race that RML won on pace alone. It felt particularly good!

Additional track photos this page courtesy of David Stephens (Studio 21)

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

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