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Le Mans Series 2007
Round 4. Spa 1000 Kilometers. August 17th - 19th 2007

Photo: Marcus Potts/CMCWarm-up

After two days of really rather pleasant Ardennes conditions, Sunday dawned dull and overcast. The rain held off for the day's first activity; the Le Mans Series warm-up at 8:00am, but within minutes of the end twenty minutes later a light drizzle had started to fall. Forecasts for the day suggest "significant rain" by mid-afternoon. That could have implications for the length of the race, with dry-weather calculations suggesting that the Peugeots could possibly complete their 1000 kilometres in well under six hours. Indeed at a possible race-pace of 2:05 or thereabouts, around five hours is even possible. If it rains their pace will slow, but even then, it seems unlikely that the race will go to time.

As far as RML was concerned, warm-up provided no dramas, and Tommy and Mike took advantage of the session to practice driver changes and confirm that the car's set-up was to their liking. It must have been, since Tommy posted the morning's quickest LMP2 time, with 2:09.319 being good enough for fifth overall.

After three flying laps, Tommy handed over to Mike, who completed the second half of the period before they rounded off with a simulated pitstop and driver change.

Photo: Marcus Potts/CMC

Top LMP2 Times - Warm-up

Pos No. Overall Team Driver Car
5 RML AD Group Erdos/Newton MG Lola EX264
7 Quifel ASM Amaral/de Castro/Burgueno Lola B05/40 AER
11 Embassy Racing Hughes/Manning Radical SR9 AER
14 Kruse Motorsport Burgess/de Pourtales/Siedler Pescarolo C60 Judd
15 Binnie Motorsports Binnie/Timpany/Buncombe Lola B05/40 Zytek
16 Barazi Epsilon Vergers/Ojeh/Barazi Zytek 07S
17 Bruichladdich Moseley/Greaves Radical SR9 AER
19 Pierre Bruneau Rostan/Bruneau/Pullan Pillbeam MP93 Judd
26 Ranieri Randaccio Randaccio/Collini Lucchini McLaren
48 Horag Racing Lienhard/Theys/Van de Poele Lola B05/40 Judd
no time
49 Saulnier Racing Nicolet/Filhol/Jouanny Courage LC75 AER
no time

At 10:15 the drivers gathered for the now-traditional autograph session, staged as usual around the ACO's scrutineering truck. Mike and Tommy found themselves sandwiched between the Peugeot squad on one side, with pole-setter Nic Minassian a focal point for the gathering crowds, and the Spyker Squadron on the other.

It proved to be a busy half-hour, with a sizeable crowd attracted to the circuit by the promise of some exciting racing and the generosity of Renault. The "World Series by Renault", seen as a Formula 1 feeder championship, is one of a broad spectrum of support races that also include Classic Endurance, Porsche Carrera Cup, Radical World Cup and Peugeot 207 Spyder Cup. Ahead of the event, Renault has reputedly given away several thousand free tickets for the weekend, so good attendance is assured.

The Race

Race Start Hour 2 Hour 3 Hour 4 Hour 5 Finish

The Spa 1000 Kilometres starts at 12:30 local time.

Race Start

Much of the following account was posted "live" during the course of the race, and as a result the tenses used may vary as account written during the event itself is mixed with additional material added later. More photographs will be inserted shortly.

With a final wish of "Good luck everybody" over the radio, Thomas Erdos moved away from the grid to take up his position for the parade lap, the cars streaming round La Source and down the hill towards Eau Rouge at just on 12:30. Stirring music was played out around the circuit's public address system as nearly fifty cars threaded round the track behind the pace car.

The lap completed, the pace car peeled off at the exit of the new "Bus Stop" chicane. Marc Gene, taking the start for the pole-sitting Peugeot #7, controlled the pack on the run towards La Source, then powered across the line, followed by Pedro Lamy in the #8. Stefan Mucke in the Charouz Lola was the unlucky recipient of an over-exuberant start from Cochet in the #12 Courage, who thumped the Lola heavily up the rear, leaving Mucke with a long and difficult run back to the pitlane.

Tommy, watching from a few places further back, managed to avoid the incident. "My start felt pretty good," he said, "but I could see an incident developing ahead of me, so I tucked through on the inside and was away, no problems." He moved forwards into 8th, and followed the recovering #12 Courage and Rollcentre Pescarolo through Eau Rouge and up the hill along Raidillon and towards Les Combes. Juan Barazi, taking first stint in the #32 Zytek, made a hesitant beginning, and had lost three or four places even before the pack headed out into the countryside.

Warren Hughes took full advantage of the Barazi's slower pace and eased into second, followed by De Castro in the ASM Lola.

Tommy has pulled out a significant lead in LMP2, and now heads Warren by 4.6 seconds. "I took the first few laps a little cautiously," said Erdos. "I just wanted to make sure the car was OK and not overdo things right at the start. I aimed to maintain a good pace and keep out of trouble." He and Warren were soon dicing in amongst the tail-enders, with the leading Peugeots lapping the slowest cars after only three laps.

Twenty minutes into the race and Tommy leads the class by 7.3 seconds. "After a while I knew that a gap was developing between me and Warren, and the team kept me informed so I knew how much I needed to push." The ASM Lola, with Miguel de Castro taking the first stint, was falling steadily away from the leading pair.

Chris Buncombe in the #31 Binnie Motorsport Lola gets ahead of Stuart Moseley in the Bruichladdich Radical for fourth place in LMP2. The Barazi Zytek continues to fall even further adrift.

The margin over Hughes in second has narrowed slightly to 6.6 seconds as the two class-leading LMP2 prototypes thread their way through the GT2 traffic. Stuart Moseley appears to have some kind of a problem, as he is now falling into the clutches of the #27 Horag Lola in sixth.

Positions in LMP2 at 1:00 (half an hour) are: Tommy Erdos leading by seven seconds over Warren Hughes in the Embassy Radical, second. The ASM Lola is third, a couple of seconds behind Hughes, with the Binnie Lola fourth, Bruichladdich Radical fifth and Horag Lola sixth. Juan Barazi, meanwhile, is now in danger of being passed by the Pillbeam.

Gap between Tommy and Warren has recovered to over nine seconds.

Plus twelve seconds to Warren Hughes now. The Barazi Zytek has damage to the rear, having been caught earlier by Bob Berridge in the Chamberlain Synergy LMP1 Lola at La Source, and will have to pit for repairs.

The gap between Tommy and Warren has grown again, and now stands at 10.3 seconds. The leading Peugeot 908 #8 is running close behind the MG, and looks likely to lap the LMP2 leader within the next few minutes.

Warren Hughes is now under increasing pressure from De Castro in the Quifel ASM Lola. The blue and grey car is just a second behind the Radical.

Tommy crosses the line fourteen seconds ahead of Hughes, but the Embassy Radical is one of the first to make a fuel stop, heading into the pitlane and allowing the #40 ASM Lola through into second.

Thomas Erdos pits on the next lap to complete his opening stint. He takes on fuel but remains in the cockpit for a second hour. The crew check the radiator intakes for debris, and then the Brazilian is waved away after a smooth, trouble-free and efficient pitstop. "Pitlane clear! Go, go, go!" He rejoins the circuit well ahead of Warren, having maintained, or perhaps even extended his advantage.

Photo: Marcus Potts /  CMCMoments later, on the opposite side of the circuit, the Pillbeam, with Marc Rostan at the wheel, is tipped into a spin by one of the GT2 Ferraris. He narrowly misses the tyre wall, recovers, and resumes.

De Castro pits on the next lap, and then comes back out again mid-way between Thomas Erdos and Warren Hughes, suggesting a good and speedy pitstop from the Portuguese crew, effectively passing the Embassy car "in the pitlane".

Second Hour

The gap between Erdos and De Castro stands at 9.8 seconds. The #7 Peugeot, which has been running in a close second, has been hauled into the garage with a wheel bearing problem.

The Racing Box Saleen #61 heads out to begin a new lap with smoke and flames billowing from under the engine cover. The fire goes out, but the driver continues around the entire circuit, leaving a trail of oil behind it all the way. Tommy is warned over the radio to be aware of the problem.

Gap between Erdos, leading LMP2, and the chasing ASM Lola is 14.5 seconds.

Problem for De Castro as the ASM Lola sustains a puncture soon after starting another lap. He has to complete the lap with a deflated right-rear tyre, and loses second as a result.

Photo: Marcus Potts

Warren Hughes has regained second, but is 27 seconds behind Tommy Erdos.

The situation in LMP2 is: Thomas Erdos leads Warren Hughes by 28 seconds, with Chris Buncombe third in the #31 Binnie Lola, the ASM Lola fourth, and Stuart Moseley holding fifth in the Bruichladdich Radical. The Barazi Zytek has dropped almost two laps back after having to pit for repairs. Tommy has the car ahead of him on track, and is catching the Gulf-sponsored car steadily.

Gap to Hughes has grown again, and now stands as 33 seconds.

Tommy leads Warren Hughes by 37 seconds. Mike is advised that he'll be taking over in eight laps' time.

Warren falls further adrift, and is now 42 seconds in arrears.

There has been an incident at Virage. Warren Hughes has had problems in the Embassy Radical.
Chris Buncombe in the Binnie Lola was fllowing closely, and at first there is some suggestion that they may have touched, but it is subsequently explained that the Radical has suffered a stuck throttle. Warren skips through the gravel, but is helped back onto the track by the marshals and returns to the pitlane for repairs.

The gap between Erdos, leading LMP2, and Buncombe, now in second, is 46 seconds. Tommy is holding a strong fifth position overall, with the Binnie Lola seventh, Stuart Moseley in the Bruichladdic Radical third in LMP2, and eighth overall, followed by Van de Poele in the Horag Lola fourth and ninth.

The Pillbeam has had another off, and the Embassy Radical is still in the pits, having slumped to 17th overall.

Having avised over the radio on the previous lap that the low-fuel warning light was flickering, Tommy makes his second pitstop exactly on schedule. This time he clambers swiftly out of the car and hands over to Mike Newton. The team complete the re-fuel, then fit four fresh tyres, and within moments the CEO of AD Group is roaring gloriously out along the pitlane and taking the MG back onto the track.

Third Hour

Mike settles into his race, 6th overall, and still leading LMP2, such was the advantage Tommy brought out of his opening double-stint. Timpany is now in the Binnie Lola, seventh overall, and Tim Greaves has swapped with Stuart Moseley in the Bruichladdich car, eighth overall, but under pressure from De Castro in the Quifel ASM Lola #40..

Mike Newton continues to lead the LMP2 class from Allan Timpany in the #41 Binnie Motorsports Lola, with De Castro in the Quifel ASM Lola third. Warren Hughes, after suffering a disconcerting throttle problem that lead to his off into the barriers at Virage (Turn 8) remains in the garage, effectively ending Embassy's promising start.

Binnie Lola enters the pits from second place, and is drawn back into the garage - reason unknown at present. The Bruichladdich Radical thereby moves on into second place in LMP2. Mike, leading the class, is sixth overall and 87 seconds ahead of Tim Greaves, who's taken over the Radical from Stuart Moseley.

Mike completes his 60th lap. The Binnie Lola rejoins, but not before the Horag Lola #27 moves through to take third.

There is now rain falling lightly on certain sections of the track. Not sufficient yet to herald a change to wet-weather tyres, but cloud cover is thick and more rain is expected.

Mike Newton stands 6th overall, leading LMP2 by just over 90 seconds from Tim Greaves in the Bruichladdich Radical, with Lienhard third in the #27 Horag Lola. MIke is lapping consistently in the 2:15 or 2:16 bracket, and maintaining the margin over Greaves.

The Kruse Courage goes off at Stavelot, just as the Lavaggi finally joins the race after two and a half hours of racing. Reputedly, V8 engine specialist Graham Nash, who ran MIke Newton's Saleen S7Rs a few years ago, was visiting Spa this weekend, and was called in to assist with the car's Ford engine. It is, at least, running. The drizzle has eased.

3:15 Safety Car
The safety car has been called out to give marshals around the track time to clear the circuit of debris. Mike is one of several cars to elect to take this opportunity for a pitstop, and he does so at 3:16. It is a smooth and trouble-free visit, and he's rapidly back out on track again.

Tim Greaves pits Bruichladdich Radical during the safety car period as well, from second in LMP2. Lienhard moves forward into second, but then also makes a pitstop. Mike has been waved by the Safety Car, and is attempting to catch up with the forward train of cars.

Reports of further rain as Mike joins the end of the queue.

3:27 Racing Resumes
With rain now falling around some lengths of the track, the green flags are waved at the startline, and racing resumes. Some have been caught out by the changing conditions, and one of the Spykers spins off.

Although the race back back under way, it is still hard to tell exactly what the gaps are between cars. Mike has moved up to 4th overall, and leads LMP2 from Amaral in the Quifel ASM Lola by a lap and 25 seconds. Didier Theys is running third in class (7th overall) but more than two laps adrift of the lead.

Fourth Hour

Major incident at the exit of Virage between the Kruse Courage and the Chad Racing #84 Panoz. The Panoz struggles back to the pitlane, but the Kruse car appears to be badly damaged. Several other cars are lucky not to be caught.

3:37 Safety Car
Once again, the safety car is deployed. Mike has Amaral right behind him in the queue, although a lap down in the race.

Photo: David Lord / DSC

3:49 Racing Resumes
With orders from Phil Barker to "defend your position", Mike takes the restart.

Horag Lola is tipped into a spin while trying to pass a tail-ender GT2 Porsche, the #79, and the #21 Bruichladdich Radical has pulled off at Virage, Turn 8.

Mike is hit by the Team Modena #59 Aston Martin at La Source. The Aston simply cut in to the side of the MG as MIke was negotiating the corner. The Aston spun as a result, but both cars have continued. Mike has radioed in to suggest that there does not appear to be any serious damage, but will monitor the situation.

MIke is now on the tail of the Horag Lola, but a good two laps ahead already. Spotters confirm that there is some visible damage to the left hand side of the MG. Tommy is getting ready for the driver change. Mike is running 4th overall, leading LMP2 by more than a lap over Amaral in the ASM Lola, with Ojeh now third in the Barazi Zytek.

Manager of Team Modena has been called to Race Control to account for the actions of his driver, in this case ex-Formula 1 "ace" Christian Fittipaldi. In the RML garage, preparations are being made to make good any damage to the MG when it comes in next time around, planned to coincide with a driver change to Thomas Erdos. A new side pod may be required, and cooling radiators will be assessed for damage.

Confirmation that the Bruichladdich Radical is out of the race with engine problems. Timing screens suggest that Mike's advantage over the Amaral Lola is 1:52.

Photo: David Lord / DSC

Further incidents around the track, as the Creation spins with what appears to be a puncture, but there's much more serious happenings out at Stavelot, where the #76, from third in GT2, has gone off heavily into the tyre wall. Not certain if the two are unrelated

4:13 Safety Car

Mike into the pits. Rapid refuel and driver change while the crew check the car for damage. Nothing significant is found. Tommy safely in the car, and away after a pitstop only a few seconds longer than usual. He exits the pitlane just as the safety car negotiates the Bus Stop chicane, and with its lights still flashing. That means at least another lap before racing resumes, and the possibility that Tommy can catch up with the tail end of the queue.

Fifth Hour

The safety car continues to circulate at a very slow pace, allowing Tommy to rejoin the end of the queue. He has Vergers behind him, but the Dutchman is two laps in arrears. He is only 17 seconds behind Tinseau, third overall in the #17 Pescarolo Sport LMP1.

4:39 Racing Resumes
Reports of rain at the top of the circuit.

Tommy is tracking Vergers, who is ahead of him on track but several laps behind him in the race. Both are running significantly faster than Tinseau in the LMP1 Pescarolo.

Heavy rain starts at the top of the circuit, and then spreads down to the pit straight as well. This precipitates a fantastic battle for the lead in GT2 between Pompidou and Simonsen. Pompidou takes the lead at the bus stop, and Simonsen pits for a change of tyres.

Rain easing on the pit straight. Tommy content to stay on slicks for now. He has a lap's advantage on Burgeno. MIke Newton, making the most of his experience as a pilot, believes that the rain will not last long.

The rain has indeed stopped. Tommy is now pressing on, and has closed significantly on Tinseau again. Those that came in for wets are now re-pitting to refit slicks.

Stop-go penalty awarded to #31 Binnie Motorsports Lola - reason unknown. Tommy is one lap and 16 seconds ahead of Burgeno, second in the class, with Vergers third and Theys fourth. Binnie Lola was fifth, and likely to hold that despite the enforced pitlane visit.

Under race conditions, Tommy has closed to within 14 seconds of Tinseau and is generally lapping quicker, making allowances for traffic. The Embassy Radical has rejoined the race, but is in 35th position overall, forty laps behind the class leaders.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Tommy continues to press on, posting some very impressive times and consistently running as quickest in the class. Setting 2:11.031 on his 117th lap was one of his quickest yet, and he continues to pull away from Burgeno in second.

5:26 Safety Car
The #85 Spyker spins off wildly at Eau Rouge, and buries itself inn the tyre wall at the top. The safety car is immediately deployed. Phil Barker calls Tommy in straight away for a pitstop, which was almost due anyway. He enters the pitlane at the end of his next lap (5:27) and moves smoothly though a refuel. Confirmed that there are 19 laps remaining to the end of the race.

Sixth Hour

Heavy rain again in some areas of the circuit, but under the safety car no pressure as yet to pit for wet tyres. During the various pitstops, Tommy has moved through into third position, and currently has more than 40 seconds on Tinseau, now fourth in the LMP1 Pescarolo.

Jarek Janis, driver in the Spyker, is now out of the car and has been collected by an ambulance to ferry him to the circuit medical centre for a check-up. His condition is currently unknown.

Tommy is waved through. Having been just ahead of the leader, he can make up half a lap or so before the restart, and re-establish his lead over the #17 Pescarolo. The lights had gone out, and a restart was expected, but then the lights came back on again, so the safety car will complete at least on further lap.

The lights do go off, and the screens announce a restart is imminent.

5:54 Racing Resumes
Thirteen laps to the flag. Tommy has generous lead in LMP2, but there's a tight battle enfolding between Burgeno and Vergers for second. It begins on the run down to Eau Rouge, and continues on then run up towards Les Combes, where Mucke in the LMP1 Charouz Lola gets in between them. Tommy has a good lead over Tinseau for third overall.

Vergers clips the back of Burgueno's Lola in an ambitious overtaking attempt at Virage, and damages the front left-hand wheel of the Barazi Zytek. It appears that the Zytek's suspension has broken. He is attempting to bring the car back to the pitlane, but it looks an almost impossible task. There may also be damage to the ASM Lola too.

Standings currently show Tommy third overall, leading LMP2 from Angel Burgueno in the Quifel ASM Lola second, fifth overall. Between them is Tinseau in the #17 Pescarolo, but having just made another pitstop the LMP1 car may lose yet another place.

Vergers pulls over to the side of the track in the Barazi Zytek. This means third place for the Binnie Motorsports Lola. Warren Hughes, languishing in 34th place, has just set the Embassy Radical's fastest lap of the race at 2:10.636.

Bill Binnie, in his own car, hits the #35 Saulnier Courage into the Bus Stop. The Courage spins, but without serious damage. Binnie is currently fourth and the #35 fifth, but with two laps between them, so they were not fighting for position.

Five laps to the finish.

Tommy takes the chequered flag to win LMP2, but also in an awesome third position overall
. This is an impressive showing from the LMP2 category, with three cars in the top ten and RML's MG Lola EX264 on the overall podium for the first time.

LMP2 Race Results

Pos No. Overall Team Driver Car
Best time
3 RML AD Group Erdos/Newton MG Lola EX264
5 Quifel ASM Amaral/de Castro/Burgueno Lola B05/40 AER
7 Horag Racing Lienhard/Theys/Van de Poele Lola B05/40 Judd
11 Saulnier Racing Nicolet/Filhol/Jouanny Courage LC75 AER
14 Binnie Motorsports Binnie/Timpany/Buncombe Lola B05/40 Zytek
31 Embassy Racing Hughes/Manning Radical SR9 AER
NC Ranieri Randaccio Randaccio/Collini Lucchini McLaren
DNF Barazi Epsilon Vergers/Ojeh/Barazi Zytek 07S
DNF Bruichladdich Moseley/Greaves Radical SR9 AER
DNF Kruse Motorsport Burgess/de Pourtales/Siedler Pescarolo C60 Judd
DNF Pierre Bruneau Rostan/Bruneau/Pullan Pillbeam MP93 Judd

For full results of all races and events being staged at the Spa this weekend, please visit this link, where it is possible to download PDF files for all sessions. Live timing is also on offer via this link.

There are high resolution images posted in the Spa Gallery.

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