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

Friday’s two periods of Free Practice could not have been more different for RML. The early session left neither RML driver feeling exactly effusive – although it ended well enough, apparently, with a first-rate lunch at the Smoking Dog - but the afternoon period was excellent. Having laboured to find a good set-up during the morning, prospects aboard the MG EX264 turned a corner during the afternoon, and Thomas Erdos ended the day as fastest in LMP2 and a remarkable fourth-quickest overall. This was more than enough to leave everyone in the garage smiling.

First Session

At least it was dry! That was something to be said for the opening period of Free Practice, although even that was in doubt at the beginning.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Tommy was given the first half-hour in the MG, and while he ended up fourth-fastest in LMP2 (on 1:50.059), it was not an easy session. “We had a set-up to begin with that just didn’t seem to suit the circuit,” he suggested afterwards. "Perhaps there was a bit too much downforce at the front, and not enough at the back. Over the course of the session, we made a series of adjustments to the set-up, and those changes achieved some improvement in the overall balance, but it was still not ideal.”

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Mike drove the second thirty-minutes, and encountered similar problems, as well as dense traffic. “I came out into the middle of a particularly heavy stream,” he said. “Then there was a car off in the first sector, and that spoiled my first four laps with yellow flags. The softer compound tyres we were using behaved much better, even if there was still a bit of rear-end jump. We made a few more changes, and the car was much more consistent after that.”

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Phil Barker was typically unfazed. “We’re just working towards a suitable balance for the car, and we’ve been trying a few things that are a little different to normal. That’s been useful, and we’ve gathered some very valuable information that means we’re happy to take things forward into the afternoon session. We’ll make some more changes after lunch and then see if we’re anywhere nearer by the end of the day.”

Second Session

The day’s second period of Free Practice got under way at ten-to-five, with the skies, if anything, even more gloomy than before, although the rain still managed to hold off to little more than a light drizzle.

Tommy was out promptly, and immediately confirmed that the car felt much better. This was reflected in his times, which improved steadily over the course of the first ten minutes or so, topping out with a best of 1:50.019. “He’s pulled his finger out!” wagged one of the engineers. Indeed, he had, but there was better to come yet.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

That quick lap had been his fourth of five, and with that batch completed, Tommy headed back down the pitlane so that a few additional tweaks could be made to the aerodynamics. It worked a treat. His next flying lap past the pits was an impressive 1:47.785, and comfortably fastest in LMP2 – at that stage by nearly two seconds, with Michael Vergers second up in the Barazi Epsilon Zytek on 1:49.042. It was also quick enough to place the MG fifth-quickest overall. “It feels like a completely different car now!” he enthused. “The grip levels from the tyres are very, very good, and the whole things is so much more balanced.”

For the best part of five minutes Tommy’s time stood alone at the head of P2, until Miguel de Castro brought the ASM Quifel Lola into play. His first effort was a 1:48.492, about eight tenths off Tommy’s quickest lap, but the Spaniard followed that with an even quicker 1:48.062 to close to within half a second.

Photo: David Stephens, Studio 21

In the meantime, Erdos had been in to the pits for yet more fine-tuning, and when he went out, the results were clear to see. A first flyer on the new set-up clocked 1:46.308 and pushed the MG into the top three overall. It would be Tommy’s last lap of the session. Meeting traffic at the start of his next tour cost him nearly four seconds even before the end of the second sector, so Phil called him in with instructions for Mike to take over for the remaining eighteen minutes.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Those minutes went largely to plan, with Mike completing one mid-stint pitstop for a splash of fuel, and then rounding off the session to the chequered flag. Nearing the end, one of the LMP1 cars moved narrowly ahead of Tommy’s best, but the MG ended the day fourth-fastest overall, and quickest in LMP2 by almost two seconds.

Photo: David Stephens, Studio 21

“I’m now much happier,” grinned Erdos. “We tested two different compounds of tyre this afternoon, and the car worked well on both. We just need to decide now which one we’ll use for the race.” The changes to the set-up had clearly worked well. “There’s still some trimming to do with the aerodynamics, but I’m very comfortable with where we are at this stage, but we still need to see what everyone else can do in qualifying. It’s all very nice to be able to do a quick lap, but it’s more important that we have a good set-up for the race.”

Photo: David Stephens, Studio 21

Phil Barker looked far more relaxed. “I always had faith in what we were going to do,” he said. “I’m pleased with the refinements we made at the end of the first session, and it’s got us back in the ballpark. We’ll look at the data and see if there’s scope for moving up another notch tomorrow.” As ever, his mind was largely on the race itself. “We may be comfortable with what we have now, but it’s still only free practice,” he added. There’s a lot more to come, not only from RML, but everyone else in the highly-competitive LMP2 field.

Top Times

Pos No. Class Team Driver Car
LMP1 Team Peugeot Total Gene/Minassian Peugeot 908 Hdi FAP
LMP1 Team Peugeot Total Lamy/Sarrazin Peugeot 908 Hdi FAP
LMP1 Charouz Racing Yoong/Mucke/Charouz Lola B07/17 Judd
LMP2 RML AD Group Erdos/Newton MG Lola EX264
LMP1 Pescarolo Sport Collard/Bouillion Pescarolo C60 Judd
LMP1 Courage Gounon/Moreau Courage LC70 AER
LMP1 Arena Motorsport Shimoda/Chilton Zytek 07S LMP1


LMP2 Quifel ASM Miguel De CASTRO Lola B05/40 AER
LMP1 Pescarolo Sport Primat/Tinseau Pescarolo C60 Judd


LMP1 Courage Frei/Cocket Lola B07/10 Audi
LMP1 Creation Sportif Campbell Walter/Ortiz/Nakano Creation CA07 Judd
LMP1 Rollcentre Racing Barbosa/Short/Hall Pescarolo C60 Judd
LMP1 Chamberlain Synergy Evans/Owen/Burridge Lola B06/10 AER
LMP2 Barazi Epsilon Vergers/Ojeh/Barazi Zytek 07S

For full results of all races and events being staged at the Nurburgring this weekend, please visit this link, where it is possible to download PDF files for all sessions

The third Free Practice session is scheduled for 11:40 tomorrow.
There are high resolution images posted in the Nurburgring Gallery.

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