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

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMCRML’s weekend continued to go from strength to strength, with an excellent final period of Free Practice late-morning being followed by a first pole of the year for Thomas Erdos in the afternoon’s qualifying session.

The third practice session came sensibly late in the morning, at 11:40, and ensured that everyone was as ready as they’d ever be for another hour of fine-tuning and personal improvement. With such excellent progress having come in the event’s second period on Friday afternoon, RML had a slightly different agenda for Saturday morning. There remained just a few issues relating to set-up and balance to be addressed, and to that end, Thomas Erdos went out for the first twenty minutes.

Third Practice

The Brazilian wasn’t out to set quick times – not yet anyway – and he concentrated instead on establishing that the MG’s balance had achieved that slight improvement over the evening before that he’d been striving for. Before he could do that, however, there was the slight irritation of a wobbly mirror to attend to, but with that fixed, he was able to go out for a trio of laps before feeling well satisfied with the car’s composure, and handed over to Mike Newton.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Last night the two drivers had settled down to watch an enthralling video. This wasn’t a Hollywood blockbuster, but it did have its moments. This was the in-car CCTV footage from all of Friday’s practice sessions, and it proved to be enlightening stuff. Between them, they highlighted about half-a-dozen areas where Tommy felt that Mike could find a few extra tenths – here and there a quicker line, a later braking point or a better exit. Now, in the harsh light of day, Mike’s ability to put theory into practice was about to be put to the test.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

To his enormous credit, the hard work paid off. Mike’s best time was a 1:50.992, 14th fastest in LMP2 (out of some thirty drivers) and would have been good enough for seventh-fastest in LMP2 for the session. What was more, he didn’t do just one lap in that bracket, but a whole succession of them, time after time. “I was very pleased with that,” he said, beaming broadly. “Everything that wasn’t right yesterday came together today. We looked at the data, picked out four or five elements where there was room for improvement, and I went out there and ticked them off one by one.” He had every right to feel proud. His time was more than two seconds faster than he’d ever managed before, and he’d proved to himself, and everyone in the team, that it wasn’t a fluke.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

“Our focus this time was on improving the chassis a little, but mainly to give Michael as much time in the car as we could,” explained Phil Barker. “Looking at the split times from yesterday, we had a rough idea what he was capable of achieving, but by examining the data and the video, he transformed his lap, and dramatically improved his times, not only over yesterday, but compared with last year as well.”

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Thomas Erdos was especially pleased. “That was a fabulous effort by Mike,” he said. “He not only managed to find all that extra time, but he did it consistently. To my mind, that’s perhaps the greatest achievement we’ve had so far this weekend.”

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC


The entire team was in buoyant mood as the time for qualifying approached. The twenty-minute session began at three o’clock, and Tommy was among the leading group as the cars headed out onto the circuit.

The weather had held fair, much against the forecasts, and the track conditions were probably the best they’d been all weekend. This was reflected in some pretty rapid times, right from the opening few minutes.

First to cross the line in LMP2 was Bruce Jouanny in the #32 Saulnier Courage, and for a few seconds he held fastest in class, but that changed markedly the instant the red-white and blue MG swept across the start-finish line at the end of Tommy’s first flying lap. His time; 1:47.407 didn’t quite match his best from Friday, but it was enough to move him on to third fastest overall.

Next through was Stuart Moseley in the Bruichladdich Radical, second quickest in P2 on 1:48.079, but that paled when Erdos came through for his second flyer. A new best of 1:45.492 was sufficient to take the MG to fastest overall!

Photo: David Stephens, Studio 21

He was still on a charge as he started his third lap, and was making his intentions very obvious as he flashed his headlights at anyone who threatened to get in his way – LMP1 cars included. “He’s on a quickie!” said Phil Barker over the radio in response to a query from Mike Newton. “I can’t disturb him now.” He was indeed, but no matter how much a driver flashes his headlights, some others simply won’t make room, and soon enough, he encountered traffic. While Moseley improved with a 1:46.953, moving to fifth overall, and Stefan Mucke went fastest for LMP1 with a 1:44.562, Tommy’s third lap was a disappointing 1:45.961.

The long-anticipated challenge from Michael Vergers in the Barazi Zytek #32 finally came at this point, with the Dutchman posting 1:46.172 to go second in P2, third overall, and seven-tenths behind Tommy’s best lap. “Try for one more lap,” suggested Phil Barker. “We’ll watch your first sector and see how it goes.” It didn’t go brilliantly, and unable to find the gap in the traffic that he needed, Tommy returned to the pitlane.

To begin with he remained strapped into the cockpit, just outside the team garage. He was content to sit there and watch the times, knowing that a fresh set of tyres was sitting in the heaters ready to be fitted at a moment’s notice. Marc Gene went fastest overall in the #7 Peugeot LMP1 with an impressive 1:42.139, and Vergers also managed an improvement, clocking 1:45.828 and drawing slightly closer to the MG’s time. “Let me try . . . let me try a little harder,” said Tommy, but for the time being, Phil didn’t take up the offer.

Hayanari Shimoda moved into third overall in the Arena LMP1 Zytek on 1:45.189, and Pedro Lamy found second with 1:42.148 for the #8 Peugeot, and all these P1 times were having an effect on the MG’s standing overall. It had dropped to fifth, but the important fact was that it still stood clear of Vergers in the #32 Zytek. Would Phil be tempted to send Tommy out for one more try? Time was running out.

Vergers was still pushing, but he seemed to be having troubles in the first sector, where his time was no match for Erdos. Having left it late to change tyres, the Barazi driver was pushing harder and harder on his existing set, and on his next lap, found some extra pace through the final sector to hit 1:45.539, less than a tenth off Tommy’s time.

If Tommy went out now, he’d have time for only one flying lap. Vergers too had that time, but on old tyres, could he improve? Emanuel Collard could in the LMP1 Pescarolo, slotting into fifth with a 1:45.117 that demoted Tommy to sixth. It was time to be realistic. “If we do get pole it’s a bonus,” said Phil Barker, “but we’re here for the six-hours. You can stay out on there (in the pitlane), but if you don’t want to go out (on the track), that’s fine. If we hold pole, that’s a bonus, if Vergers gets it, all credit to him.”

With that, the MG was hauled back into the box. At almost the same time, Michael Vergers was burbling down the pitlane to park up outside the Barazi garage, where he clambered out, his best not quite good enough this time. That left Stuart Moseley holding third in LMP2 on 1:46.953, with the ASM Lola fourth (de Castro taking responsibility for qualifying) on 1:47.242 after a last-lap improvement.

Within the final minute a string of quick laps from P1 cars demoted Tommy and the MG to 8th, including good times from Cochet, Collard and Gounon, but that no longer mattered. What did matter was that Thomas Erdos and the RML MG Lola had secured their first pole of the year. It felt good, very good indeed.

“I’m very, very pleased with that,” said Adam Wiseberg. “That’s a great result, and the guys have done a remarkable job to get the car to where it is now. As always, Tommy has driven a tremendous lap and given us all a boost. I believed that pole was a possibility today, having studied the potential of the other teams over the past two days, but it still feels very good when it actually happens. We now know we have a car with the pace to beat the opposition.”

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Tommy felt that he “could have gone a little bit quicker. We knew we had a good car after that second session on Friday, but there was always the unknown of what the others were going to be able to do today, especially the Zytek. I was happy to sit out the last few minutes in the pitlane, knowing that there was a little more in reserve if I needed it. Luckily, I didn’t have to try.” The tactic had been to establish a high target for the others to chase, as early in the session as possible. That had worked perfectly. “We needed to put (our rivals) into the position where they had to push hard, and they did exactly that. Now we can go forward into the race knowing that we’re in good shape, with plenty of life left in the tyres.”

He remains acutely aware of the Zytek’s potential, however. “That car is widely perceived to be the leading chassis in LMP2, so it makes it even sweeter to get pole today on that basis. The team just gave me a great car today.”

Adam Wiseberg concluded with some thought about Mike. “It would be remiss of me not to mention the huge strides that Mike has made this year, and particularly this week. He’s a very analytical driver, and he has made great use of our company’s in-car CCTV recording technology in order to study exactly where he can make improvements. Between them, he and Tommy have studied all the footage from the past two days, compared their techniques and lines, and worked on the finer points. It has clearly paid off.”

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

The team retired from the circuit for a well-earned rest ahead of morning warm-up tomorrow, scheduled for 08:30, and then the mid-day race start.

Top Ten in LMP2

Pos No. Overall Team Driver Car
8 RML AD Group Erdos/Newton MG Lola EX264
9 Barazi Epsilon Vergers/Ojeh/Barazi Zytek 07S
12 Bruichladdich Moseley/Greaves Radical SR9 AER
15 Quifel ASM Amaral/de Castro/Burgueno Lola B05/40 AER
LMP1 Embassy Racing Hughes/Cunningham Radical SR9 AER
LMP2 Binnie Motorsports Binnie/Timpany/Buncombe Lola B05/40 Zytek
LMP1 Kruse Motorsport Burgess/de Pourtales/Siedler Pescarolo C60 Judd
LMP1 Saulnier Racing Nicolet/Filhol/Jouanny Courage LC75 AER
LMP1 Horag Racing Lienhard/Theys/Van der Poele Lola B05/40 Judd
LMP2 Pierre Bruneau Rostan/Bruneau/Pullan Pillbeam MP93 Judd

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.

There are high resolution images posted in the Nurburgring Gallery.

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