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Le Mans Series 2007
Round 5. Silverstone 1000 Kilometers. September 14th - 16th 2007

If the morning's skies were bright and sunny, the mood in the paddock was sombre. The news, at that time unconfirmed, suggested that Colin McRae and his five-year-old son Johnny, together with two friends (one later shown to be one of Johnny's school mates) had been killed in a helicopter crash near the McRae's home in Lanarkshire.

Although best known for his remarkable exploits as a rally driver, McRae had also dabbled in sportscar racing. In 2004 he shared a Prodrive-prepared Ferrari 555 at Le Mans with Rickard Rydell and Darren Turner, and amply demonstrated his versatility by maintaining a good pace, coping with problems, and coming through to finish an excellent third in GT1.

He had also competed in the Porsche Carrera Cup and had close ties with the Bruichladdich Radical squad. Not only was he an owner of a Radical road car, and was soon to take delivery of a new one, he had also been a guest driver (and race leader before retirement with mechanical problems) in the Radical World Cup round at Donington Park in 2006. Although he was currently not racing, he had admitted earlier this year that a future in GT or sportscars was something he was considering. He was already in discussions regarding further appearances in the Radical series, and with his unquestionable abilities and declared ambition to race at Le Mans once again, speculation about his plans for 2008 had centred on a possible prototype drive. Sadly, we shall now never know if it would have been a transition to suit his remarkable talent.

As a tribute we include here a link to a YouTube video of Colin lapping Le Mans in the Care Racing Ferrari 555 Maranello in 2004. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Action on the track began at quarter-to-nine with a twenty-minute session of warm-up for the Le Mans Series teams . . . .


Like most things, RML has the official warm-up session down to a fine art. They know the drill, and everything tends to go according to plan. Saturday at Silverstone lived up to those expectations. Thomas Erdos was among the early group heading out onto the circuit and completed three untroubled laps, one a flyer that clocked 1:40.096, and would repeat his qualifying position of second in LMP2. The LNT Zytek would end the period as quickest once again, managing to get to within almost a second of the car's qualifying best of the previous day.

With Tommy's laps completed, he returned to the pitlane to execute a flawless driver-change and simulated pitstop with Mike Newton, who roared away from the garage to rejoin the others circulating on track. A similar trio of laps, and the session was over. Another simulated pitstop after the chequered flag completed RML's routine. "That was all normal warm-up procedure," confirmed Phil Barker. "We ran in standard race trim, with full tanks, and everything went fine. Mike's time was exceptional. To achieve a 43.4 in race set-up is very encouraging."

Mike himself appeared well chuffed, smiling broadly. "I took three or four cars on that lap," he pointed out. "I'm hoping to be able to do lots of laps today in the forty-four to forty-seven bracket, and if I can average a forty-five I'll be very happy."

Top LMP2 Times - Warm-up

Pos No. Overall Team Driver Car
3 Team LNT Kimber-Smith/Watts Zytek 07S
7 RML AD Group Erdos/Newton MG Lola EX264
8 Binnie Motorsports Binnie/Timpany/Buncombe Lola B05/40 Zytek
13 Horag Racing Lienhard/Theys/Van de Poele Lola B05/40 Judd
14 Embassy Racing Hughes/Manning/Cunningham Radical SR9 AER
16 Quifel ASM Amaral/de Castro/Burgueno Lola B05/40 AER
17 Bruichladdich Moseley/Greaves Radical SR9 AER
18 Barazi Epsilon Vergers/Ojeh/Barazi Zytek 07S
20 Saulnier Racing Nicolet/Filhol/Jouanny Courage LC75 AER
23 Pierre Bruneau Rostan/Bruneau/Pullan Pillbeam MP93 Judd
25 Ranieri Randaccio Randaccio/Lavaggi Lucchini McLaren

With warm-up completed, the track action could get under way. The first race was a forty-five minute round of the Radical World Cup, followed at 10:15 by a half-hour Renault 207 Spider Cup.

At 10:30 the Le Mans Series drivers were invited to attend the official Autograph Session, staged alongside the ACO's scrutineering truck opposite Race Control. Despite the £25 entry fee, a sizeable number of spectators had arrived, and a lengthy queue soon developed.

Mike and Tommy took up their place beneath the awning, between their rivals from Quifel ASM and the Spyker Squadron GT2 squad, including Peter Dumbrek.

The team was pleased to welcome several members of the website forum this weekend, and "Nobby" is seen here collecting a signed herocard from Mike and Tommy. Nobby and a fair number of other members were given a guided tour of the garage by RML's new PR and marketing executive, Dan Shires. Dan joined RML a few weeks ago, and Silverstone has been his first opportunity to see the Le Mans Series team in action. He will be working with Michell Seaman, who took over the RML Events portfolio earlier this season.

With the race starting a little earlier at Silverstone than usual, the drivers started drifting away from the session at about eleven, and by half-past the grid was already filling up with cars, mechanics, photographers and guests.

At 46 it was one of the largest fields assembled at Silverstone this season, with the cars taking up their positions forward of the Grand Prix grid, and well ahead of the start-finish line. It emphasised the impressive standard of Tommy's qualifying lap that the red, white and blue MG took up a slot on the third row, with only the two works Peugeots, the Charouz Lola and RML's Zytek in front. Only one car had dropped out ahead of the race; the #26 Lucchini having been withdrawn with chassis damage.

Just before the hour the grid was cleared and the cars started to move off on the parade lap. Tommy was quickly on the radio to say that the track conditions had deteriorated significantly since the morning warm-up, probably as a result of the two support races. In fact, so slippery had the surface become that one of the Peugeots, and Stefan Mucke in the Charouz Lola, both directly ahead of Tommy, spun out on this slow-moving lap.

Both recovered, although Mucke had skipped out across the grass. This added to the problems he was already having aboard the LMP1 Lola, where a late-braking maneuver in qualifying had flat-spotted his tyres. Required to start on the same set, he'd soon be making an early pitstop for a new set of boots.

The Race

Race Start Hour 2 Hour 3 Hour 4 Hour 5 Hour 6-Finish

Race coverage is created "live" during the event, and then driver quotes and additional observations are added later. This can lead to some inconsistency with tenses, for which we apologise.

Race Start

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

12:02, and an incident-free run across the line saw the Silverstone 1000 kilometres off to a clean start. Tommy elects for discretion at the start of a six-hour race and allows one or two of the LMP1 runners, formerly behind him on the grid, to ease through, and then tucks into tenth place behind the #17 Pescarolo. Miguel de Castro in the Quifel ASM Lola is eleventh. Leading the class, however, right from the start, is Danny Watts in the LNT "works" Zytek. Not only does he successfully hold fourth as the leading pack guns for the lights, but he retains a grip on the tail of Stephan Mucke in the Charouz Lola in third - the German no doubt suffering some pretty severe vibrations, thanks to the state of his tyres.

End of Lap 1
Thomas Erdos settled into a comfortable tenth place, already a healthy thirty metres clear of the #40 Lola. Watts is all over the Charouz car, Mucke having had a less than copybook start after that excursion across the grass on the parade lap. "I was actually slipping about all over the place," admitted Erdos afterwards. "I didn't want to lose the car, but there were just such exceptional low levels of grip, especially from the back, and I didn't feel confident enough to push any harder." Appearances can be deceptive, then!

End of Lap 2
The leading Peugeots had already pulled out an impressive lead, with the #7 car significantly ahead of the sister car. Third, just, was Mucke in the Charouz car, with hardly a hair's breadth between the rear of the Lola and the French-blue nose of the #46 Zytek. Tommy and de Castro remained tenth and eleventh overall. The Bruichladdich Radical had had a troubled start, having been tapped (reputedly) by the Binnie Lola on the opening lap, and having slumped from a possible third in class, all the way down to plumb last. Tim Greaves started a gallant fight-back though the field.

Having worked up to pace over the first laps, Tommy was now closing on the #17 Pescarolo ahead of him, but the #40 ASM Lola was tagging along. Danny Watts was trying his hardest to take third overall, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get the legs of the Charouz Lola down the straights.

The leaders were now getting in amongst the tail-enders, and the build-up of traffic was starting to disrupt the flow of those dicing for position. Watts lost his rhythm somewhat, and dropped away from Mucke, and Tommy also lost ground on the #17 Pescarolo, allowing the Quifel Lola to close. "Actually, it felt like I was losing boost out of second gear corners," he explained later. "I didn't feel that my pace was especially good, and the ASM car certainly seemed to have more than me!"

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Gaps oscillated from corner to corner as the faster cars attempted to dice with each other and overtake the slower runners. Tommy closed once again on the #17, and the #40 dropped back.

At the end of the eighth lap, the Charouz Lola headed. Watts is through into third, leading LMP2 by twenty seconds or more. The leading Peugeot is now so far clear of the rest that it has almost cleared the pitlane straight before the second 908 arrives at the start line. Tim Greaves, struggling to recover ground in the Bruichladdich Radical, is lapped by the leader. Tommy is evidently being held up by the #17 Pescarolo, but cannot make more of the MG's nimble pace through the stadium complex, when the LMP1 car can stretch away so easily from Copse through to Stowe.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC12:20
Tommy moved ahead of the #17, and so did De Castro in the ASM Lola. Moments later, (Lap 10) Erdos elected not to defend the position too fiercely when the Spaniard moved to push through. "I wasn't going to make a fight of it," he conceded. "It was still very early in the race, so I let him by." This took the #40 up into second in LMP2, and Erdos slotted in behind, and both cars started to close down on Tom Chilton in the #10 LMP1 Zytek.

A most bizarre situation has arisen. The advertising hoarding clipped to the gantry that crosses the track between Copse and Maggots has broken free, and elements of the cladding are in danger of falling across the track. The safety car is deployed while the marshals and circuit staff can remove the loose material.

The order at this stage is: Peugeot #7 leads from the #8 Peugeot, with the #36 LNT Zytek still third. Fourth is the #16 Pescarolo, with the #9 Creation fifth. Sixth place is held by the #12 Courage, followed by the #10 LMP1 Zytek, and the #40 Quifel ASM Lola 8th. Tommy, ninth overall, is third in LMP2.

Various cars are taking this as an opportunity to make early pitstops for fuel. Their strategy is probably simply to get out of sequence with the other cars near their garage in the pitlane, where space is at a premium. One such is the #35 Saulnier Courage. Another is the LNT Zytek, but this is not a straightforward stop, and the car is dragged backwards into the box for further attention - alternator and battery problems being the cause. There are ten cars between the safety car and the leading Peugeot.

The loss of the Zytek means that the ASM Lola now leads LMP2 from Tommy, second in the MG.

The LNT Zytek remains in the pits, and has now lost several laps. The ten cars between the safety car and the leading Peugeot are released.

The race resumes at the end of the 18th lap. Coming through Luffield, De Castro weaves heavily from side to side, with Tommy right behind him The rule is that cars cannot overtake before they've crossed the start line, but some have been known to do so before now! Tommy is well behaved, as ever, but remains tight on the blue Lola's tail as they charge down the pitlane straight.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

The traffic is all very tightly packed now, so the faster cars are left with a lot of traffic to contend with. Tommy is dicing with Tom Chilton in the #10 Arena Zytek. Although an LMP1 car, around parts of the Silverstone circuit, there's little to choose between the two. The white Zytek eventually gets through, and then settles in between Tommy and the ASM Lola just ahead (below).

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Chilton soon passes De Castro as well, and then Tommy closes back on the ASM car.

Tommy has just been passed by Stephan Mucke in the Charouz Lola, so now has another LMP1 car between himself and De Castro.

Mucke passes De Castro as well, but in the process Chilton suffers, and drops back behind Tommy again. It's all action here on the borders of the top-ten! Perhaps having sustained a little damage, Chilton falls back for a while. The #7 Peugeot continues to lead from the #8, with the #16 Pescarolo third and the #12 Courage fourth.

With the safety car period some way behind them now the order is starting to sort itself out nicely, and with cars moving a little further apart, there is room to move and overtake. Mucke has disappeared into the distance, and Tommy is just half a second behind De Castro, first and second in LMP2.

Trawling through traffic, the #9 Creation gets ahead of Tommy and slots into the gap between the MG and the ASM Lola. A pattern appears to be developing! Tommy is 3.5 seconds behind De Castro, but more than five seconds clear of Warren Hughes, now chasing in the Embassy Radical.

The Creation has passed De Castro, and is pulling away, leaving Tommy a clear view of the Lola once again. He's closing in.

Hour 2

With two or three laps left until the first pitstop, the #17 Pescarolo has joined the fun-and-games around the LMP2 leaders. Danny Watts, two laps behind, is also sharing a similar length of track, and it makes for entertaining viewing.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Tommy into the pitlane. It's a characteristically quick pitstop, and in much less than a minute, he's refuelled and back out on track again. Impressive stuff from the RML pit crew.

Most of the front-runners in LMP2 make pitstops around the same time. The #35 Saulnier car, which stopped during the earlier Safety Car period, stays out longer than anyone else, and thereby becomes, if only for a short while, the LMP2 leader. Tommy resumes some 14 seconds behind De Castro.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

"Pick it up Tommy," comes the encouragement from Phil Barker over the radio. "You've taken five seconds out of him in the last six laps. Great work!"

The gap to De Castro, ahead of Tommy, is 12.5 seconds, but he enjoys a lead of 26 seconds over Hughes in third.

53 laps into the race and Tommy holds second in LMP2, 10th overall, and running about 5 seconds behind the class-leading Quifel ASM Lola; Miguel de Castro having driven the #40 car from the start. Third is Warren Hughes in the Embassy Radical, 12th overall but half a minute in arrears.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Problem for the Oreca Saleen, currently in second place within GT1, which has the rear bodywork flapping in the breeze, and in danger of ripping clear. Meanwhile Tommy has closed to within 2.6 seconds of De Castro, and is gaining by a second a lap.

Tommy now right down on de Castro's tail, but is then balked by one of the GT2 Porsches through Stowe, and has to resume the process of catching up again. Then, before he can do anything about it, he is punted up the rear by the #51 Aston amid the traffic through Priory, and sustains a puncture. "I'd just passed him, and he must have pulled back in behind me a little too quickly. Maybe his front splitter sliced into the tyre, but it blew up so suddenly." The left hand "legal panel" was damaged, either by the contact, or quite possibly the tyre itself. The team examined during the pitstop and while repairs were being done they attended to a couple of other issues as well. "It was an unscheduled stop," said Adam Wiseberg, "but we could have adapted our race strategy to fit. At that stage of the race it wasn't a significant loss."

Tommy heads back out again. Position unclear at the moment.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Tommy has rejoined in 14th place overall, fifth in LMP2. De Castro now leads the class comfortably, from Warren Hughes in the Embassy Radical, Eric van de Poele in the Horag Lola, and then Juan Barazi in the Barazi Epsilon Zytek. These are now all ahead of the RML MG.

Hour 3

Miguel de Castro starts the third hour with a pirouette, and then on the next lap, has a coming-together with the #79 Porsche and one of the #98 GPC Ferraris between Priory and Stowe at 12:05. De Castro gets going again, but has been delayed. He also has some flapping bodywork, and may be called in for that too. He elects to pit instead, and the team repair the damaged louvre.

Phil confirms to Tommy over the radio that he is now 22 seconds behind Vergers, now at the wheel of the Barazi Zytek, and 23 seconds behind Darren Manning, in the Embassy Radical and now leading LMP2, but the two cars are nose-to-tail. The delay for the #40, to have the louvres above the front wheels refitted, has caused the ASM car to drop well back. One louvre (the front left) has been flapping for over half an hour.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC2:13
There's a close tussle now developing between the Embassy Radical and the Barazi Zytek, with Vergers trying everything he knows to get up alongside the Manning's black Radical. They're lapping in the mid-44s, while Tommy, some twenty seconds in arrears on track, is two seconds a lap quicker.
There's a similar nail-biting battle going on in GT1 between the Larbre DB9R and Darren Turner in the Team Modena Aston. Turner gets through at Stowe, and after Club, begins pulling away.

Darren Manning - the Darren in the Radical - loses the LMP2 lead to Michael Vergers at Stowe, the Dutchman being totally ruthless as he scythes by and then dives into the GT2 traffic ahead of him, getting a gaggle of Porsches into the mix and thereby making sure of his position.

Tommy is now holding third in LMP2, about 15 seconds behind Manning. Tommy takes five seconds out of that deficit in a single lap.

Tommy though into second, passing Manning, who is falling back rapidly, perhaps with a problem? Vergers continues to lead, having an advantage of around 15 seconds over Tommy, but Manning is almost out of sight behind him on the track. Lienhard is fourth in the Horag car, the Saulnier Courage is fifth, and Miguel Amaral lies sixth in the ASM Lola.

Vergers sets a new fastest lap for the Barazi Zytek; 1:40.865

Tommy comments on the fact that the wind is gusting very strongly through Stowe and Club, just as a Porsche gets beached at Brooklands. There's a possibility of a safety car, but the extraction crew pull the car clear with a tractor unit, and all seems fair for racing.

Collision between the ASM Lola and the Bruichladdich Radical. Tommy passes and considers a safety car might be necessary, but after a few moments the two are extracted and rejoin.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC2:49
Tommy into the pits for his second scheduled stop. The team refuel the MG while Tommy clambers out and Mike steps aboard. The Brazilian admits to feeling tired, and is having a few problems with his lower back. He sets off to see the physio.

With fuelling complete three fresh tyres are fitted to the front and right-rear, but repairs are needed to the so-called "legal panel" behind the left-rear wheel, so this one has to be left off while the crew set to work.

This suffered from the contact with the #51 Aston at Priory, and after a hasty repair at the last pitstop, has since come loose. Under the regulations it must be intact, so there is no option but to replace it.

When this was last attempted earlier this season it required the car to be drawn back into the garage and the entire rear undertray was replaced. Since then the team has devised a far quicker way of replacing this vulnerable panel, and within five minutes a new unit had been fitted, and at 2:55, Mike headed back off down the pitlane.

Tommy explains that he's been encountering a few problems with the "throttle jacker". This is an element of the car's electronics that automatically blips the throttle between downshifts to smooth out gearchanges. "It has made downshifting a little slower than usual, and it's especially evident through the second-gear corners. It means the turbo isn't spinning fast enough when we exit the corner, and we're losing a bit of power. It's not drastic, but it does mean we're not quite as quick as we could be."

Amaral has begun a recovery for the ASM Lola, and shortly after the MG's pitstop, moves through into third after passing Lienhard. Vergers pits from the class lead just before the hour.

Hour 4

After some confusion with the timing screens, it is now evident that the MG has lost much ground as a result of the need to repair the legal panel. Mike is now running eighth in LMP2, some distance behind the #35 Saulnier Courage, but running a few seconds per lap quicker.

Michael Vergers in the Barazi Zytek continues to lead the class, 8th overall, with Darren Manning second in the Embassy Radical. Third is the ASM Lola, followed by Tom Kimber-Smith in the fast-recovering LNT Zytek. Fifth is the Binnie Lola #31, followed by Filhol in the #35 Courage.

Mike is 33 seconds behind Filhol, but catching two or three seconds a lap.

Problem for second-placed Peugeot 908 #8, with a puncture and two-thirds of a lap to cover before the pitlane. The third-placed Charouz is closing.

Photo: Peter May / DSC

The Charouz Lola is denied third by a problem of its own, allowing the #16 Pescarolo to take the place, but Jan Charouz, driving his own car, takes third.

Major "off" for the #50 Larbre Aston, as it buries itself deeply into a gravel trap. Creation #9 has had to pit for repairs after driving over the tyre carcass lost by the #8 Peugeot. At about the same time, Mike Newton loses seventh to Didier Theys in the Horag Lola #27, but shortly afterwards the #35 makes its next pitstop and falls back. Having got out of sequence by pitting during the earlier Safety Car period, the silver Courage sometimes creates a confusing order within LMP2. Mike is therefore still seventh.

Jacob Greaves, Tim's son, spins off in the #21 Radical at Brooklands, and promptly pits for a check up, refuel and driver-change. The Barazi Zytek has also pitted from the LMP2 lead. It is a scheduled stop, and Karim Ojeh takes over from Michael Vergers. Darren Manning leads for Embassy.

The #12 Courage ends up in the gravel on the exit of Luffield. The officials are clearly considering a safety car.

Safety Car is confirmed, but takes a moment to be sent out. There is also debris on the track at Woodcote. Mike heads for the pitlane - he gets there well ahead of the train of cars already caught by the safety car.

Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Mike leaves the pitlane with the order to "Push, push, push!" from Phil, who wants him to catch the rear of the train. He gets out just ahead of the safety car, so can recover the lap. Back in the pitlane, a whole host of cars are also making pitstops. This may work out well for Mike, who looks to have picked up some positions as a result. It was a quick call from Phil Barker, and it may have paid off, but only just! "As Mike came to the end of the pitlane the lights changed to red just as he passed them, it was that close!" said Adam Wiseberg. "The car was just over the line." Mike was aware of the situation. "The front wheels were just across the line as I saw the lights change out of the corner of my eye. I couldn't have stopped, and if I had, then I'd have been stopped in the pitlane, beyond the lights, which is a definite no-no." Getting out ahead of the safety car effectively saved the team a lap. "That was one of the rare occasions when a safety car actually worked in our favour," smiled Wiseberg.

The #7 Peugeot continues to lead overall, with the Charouz Lola second, the #16 Pescarolo third. The Rollcentre Pescarolo has found fourth place, just ahead on the puncture-delayed #8 Peugeot. The #9 Creation lies sixth, and rounds off the leading LMP1 pack.

Heading LMP2, and seventh overall, is the #32 Barazi Zytek. Manning has pitted under the safety car and handed over the Embassy Radical to Warren Hughes. Tom Kimber-Smith holds ninth for the #36 LNT Zytek, just ahead of the Chilton brothers in the #10 Arena Zytek. 11th overall is Burgeno in the #40, with Bill Binnie 12th, and then Mike Newton, thirteenth overall and sixth in LMP2.

Hour 5

The race gets back under way. There is a manic rush for the smallest gap, as cars that were once several seconds or more apart, can now see their next targets just ahead, but have slower cars in between. Mike loses one position to Didier Theys in the #27 Horag Lola, but the position is shown immediately on the timing screens, suggesting that Theys has overtaken before the duo crossed the line. Technically, this is not permitted under the safety car regulations. Either way, Mike is back down to seventh.

Photo: Peter May / DSC

Mike is catching Bill Binnie rapidly. The American has already succumbed to Theys, and having had a five-second advantage of Mike, has seen that disappear completely. They are almost nose-to-tail. "See where he's weak, where he's strong, Mike," says Phil over the radio. "Be patient!" Mike makes a run for Binnie through Abbey, but it goes wrong. "Somehow, I got a boxful of neutrals," he clarified later. "All I could see was a bunch of zeroes on the dash, and I had trouble selecting a gear. Technically, that can't happen - not when the car's moving - and it took me a moment to find a gear again. I was just coasting, and that cost me time. I just had to start reeling him in all over again."

Karim Ojeh leads the class from Warren Hughes, but Hughes is lapping as much as six seconds a lap quicker than the Barazi driver. The LMP2 lead my eventually change, but the gap is over a minute at the present!

Mike's attempts at getting by Bill Binnie are being repeatedly thwarted. "I was really pushing through the Maggots-Becketts complex, but I came round and was unsighted by a GT2 Porsche, and there was a huge chunk of debris that had been clipped onto the racing line. I had nowhere to go but straight over it. It had me airborne, and by the time I'd put my teeth back in, I'd lost Binnie . . . again." He backs off a little and Phil tells him not to worry, because Tommy can always get him later!

Having lost ground as a result of his aborted pass, MIke is now closing back again on Binnie, and has halved the gap to four seconds. Within a lap he's narrowed that still further to 3.6 seconds. He is concerned about the possibility of damage to the car, however, after unspecified contact. "It feels OK," he says, "but I drove straight over that debris."

The #19 Chamberlain Synergy LMP1 Lola (19th overall) is off once . . . then then again three minutes later.

Mike pits to hand back to Tommy Erdos, and the team perform an exemplary pitstop to see the Brazilian back out again before 4:50. Mike, however, is in a bad way, having been suffering from severe cramp in his upper left leg, and this gets markedly worse as he climbs from the car. It is several minutes before he can stand. He's also been suffering with wind . . . which has been exceptionally blustery, particularly at the end of Hangar Straight and through Stowe, he says. "Never a dull moment," he laughs. "It was particularly exciting when I was airborne. It may even have been our own legal panel that I drove over - the original one we lost before Tommy's pitstop. I just gritted my teeth and stared at the sky. The car jumped out of gear when I landed, so I Iost even more ground to the Binnie car than I might otherwise have done."

Out on track, Tommy is some 70 seconds behind Binnie, although the #31 has yet to pit, but his next target is Eric van de Poele in the #27 Horag Lola.

Photo: David Lord / DSC

Gap to Binnie has dropped to 63 seconds. Tommy is also catching the #27 by six to ten seconds almost every lap! Then the Horag car pits, and comes out again just ahead of Tommy on the track, by about 15 seconds.

Hour 6

Tommy is six seconds behind Eric van de Poele now, but closing fast. Binnie, just ahead of the #27 car, has yet to stop. Ojeh spins at Stowe, and Hughes narrows the gap to half a minute.

The gap between Tommy and Van de Poele has narrowed further, and stands at just 3.9 seconds.

The #31 Binnie Motorsports Lola makes its final pitstop, and Tommy has made up enough time in the interim to ensure that the MG has swept past the end of the pitlane by the time the Binnie car rejoins. There are 20 laps left to go, it is calculated.

Photo: David Lord / DSC

Marc Lieb in the #77 Felbermayr Porsche is struggling back to the pitlane with only three wheels on his wagon.

Problems for the Embassy Radical, as it pulls off the track. No indication yet as to why. Tommy is seven one-hundredths of a second behind Van de Poele as they cross the line at the start of the next lap.

As the press room watches enthralled in the battle for second overall, with Emanuel Collard fighting through to get ahead of Stephan Mucke in the Charouz Lola, Tommy serenely sails by Eric van de Poele. "We'd been having a great scarp," said Erdos later. "Eric's a very fair driver, but he's also very quick. He has a habit of speeding up again whenever you get close, like he's always got something in reserve. He does it all the time! You catch up, and he just pushes harder. He pulls away a bit, but you can see he's right on the limit. He's a former F1 driver, and I thoroughly enjoy racing against him. He's hard but fair, and very clean. I have no problems with that - he just makes you work hard for every foot of track. I eventually got by him down Hangar Straight and into Stowe."

It later transpires that Eric's radio had not been working correctly, and although the team on the pit wall was giving him instructions and advice on his position, Eric couldn't hear them. He hadn't been aware that Tommy was so close until he arrived on his tail!

The MG is back in the points, potentially anyway, with the #25 now lying 12th overall, and occupying 5th in LMP2. The next target is the Embassy Radical, which is currently in the pits, having limped back there after its incident. Still moving, however, is Miguel Burgeno in the ASM Lola, who has already benefited from Warren's malaise, and is into third place.

Photo: David Lord / DSC

The Embassy Radical is still in the pits, and Tommy thunders by to begin his 173rd lap. He has already extended his advantage over Van de Poele to nine seconds. Eleven laps left for the leading Peugeots, plural, as the #8 has fought its way back up to second, and just taken the position from Collard.

Stephan Mucke pulls off the track at Becketts. He gets going again, but very slowly. There appears to be damage to the steering, and he cannot control the Lola. Tommy has an advantage of 6.4 seconds over Eric van de Poele, but little chance of catching Burgeno unless the Portuguese car encounters problems.

Six laps to go, and six seconds advantage. It is important that Tommy stays ahead of the #27 Lola, for the sake of the championship, but Van de Poele is pushing as hard as he can. Back in the pitlane, Warren Hughes finally gets the Embassy Radical back out and into the race, albeit in 20th position overall.

The #8 Peugeot, from second overall, pits, and then is hauled backwards into the garage. Tommy's lead over the #27 Lola has narrowed to less than three seconds, as Van de Poele tries everything he knows to keep their championship hopes alive. Finishing behind the MG means there's no possibility of their winning the title. Tommy responds, and by the end of the next lap has reclaimed more than six seconds to re-establish the lead at more than nine . "I wasn't going to push any harder than I needed to," was Tommy's response. "I just made sure I kept the gap under control, but I was having to work hard to stay focused on the job. I could sense by the tone of Phil's voice over the radio that he was just a little concerned when Eric started to close again, but I had everything under control, I promise! I was actually feeling tired by the end, after that long first stint, and my body was starting to feel it a bit. Three hours at Le Mans is one thing, but three hours around Silverstone is something else. There's just no time to relax."

Photo: David Lord / DSC

Three laps remaining, and the gap is fluctuating lap-by-lap, with the last count being just over five seconds.

The Binnie Lola and the #36 Zytek, have had a major head-to-head, and they're both stranded on the kerbs. The LNT Zytek was lying second in LMP2. Will it hold the position?

The chequered flag waves, with LMP1 victory going to the #7 Peugeot, and the Barazi Zytek claiming top honour is LMP2. Tommy crosses the line fourth, just off the podium, but with valuable points, thanks to the hard work by the pit crew to execute such a speedy repair to that rear three-quarters. Heartbreak for the Horag team, as Eric van de Poele heads into the pitlane on the penultimate lap with a slow puncture. With the leader starting his final lap, the pitlane closed, and the red and white Lola was trapped, unable to take the flag, and therefore unclassified in the results. If Eric's radio had been working, he'd have heard the team telling him to stay out and make the best of it. Cruel bad luck.

LMP2 Results

Pos No. O/all Team Driver Car
Best Lap
5 Barazi Epsilon Vergers/Ojeh/Barazi Zytek 07S
7 Team LNT Kimber-Smith/Watts Zytek 07S
8 Quifel ASM Amaral/de Castro/Burgueno Lola B05/40 AER
9 RML AD Group Erdos/Newton MG Lola EX264
10 Binnie Motorsports Binnie/Timpany/Buncombe Lola B05/40 Zytek
11 Saulnier Racing Nicolet/Filhol/Jouanny Courage LC75 AER
14 Bruichladdich Moseley/Greaves Radical SR9 AER
16 Embassy Racing Hughes/Manning Radical SR9 AER
      Not classified:        
N/C Horag Racing Lienhard/Theys/Van de Poele Lola B05/40 Judd
N/C Pierre Bruneau Rostan/Bruneau/Pullan Pillbeam MP93 Judd
DNS Ranieri Randaccio Randaccio/Lavaggi Lucchini McLaren

"The puncture, and having to replace the legal panel, cost us the race," shrugged Phil Barker. "We had to fit a completely new component, and that took nearly six minutes, and the rest is history." A quick check of the final times suggests that the three laps this accounted for would have placed the MG on the top step of the podium, and the title beyond reach. "Mike and Tommy both drove brilliantly, and MIke responded to the situation and did everything I asked of him. I had to keep badgering him a bit, but he dug deep and got the job done. Tommy and Eric had a good battle there at the end, but without Mike's efforts, Tommy would never have been close enough to take the #27 Lola at the end. All in all, that was a good recovery, and we claimed a good number of points. The boys should be pleased with that." It could all have been a lot closer, though. "I nearly had a heart attack when Bill Binnie and the LNT Zytek had that coming-together right at the end!" laughed Barker. If the ASM Lola had passed them both, they'd have secured a significant haul of extra points.

"The team had a lot of issues to deal with today, and they performed brilliantly," said Mike Newton. "The car kept running strongly all the way to the end, and that keeps us in the running for the title."

"We had some problems, and we overcame them in typical RML-AD Group fashion," said Adam Wiseberg. "We ended up with a far better result than we might have thought was possible a couple of hours into the race. As usual, sterling performances from both our drivers."

Having failed to take the flag, the #27 Horag Lola earned no points from Silverstone, and can no longer challenge for the championship.

The result means that the ASM trio of drivers only narrow the gap on Mike and Tommy by one point. The RML duo lead the race for the LMP2 title by six points, with one race left. The final round at the Interlagos circuit in Brazil is proving to be a less popular event than the ACO might have hoped, and over recent weeks a number of teams have announced that they will not be attending. Of the ten or eleven regular LMP2 entries, the attendance of roughly half is in question. In theory, only the ASM drivers can now catch Mike and Tommy, but they'd need to score five points more than the RML pair to do so. Mike enlarged on the dilemma. "Not only that, but if less than six cars go to Brazil, then only half points will be awarded, and that will mean a maximum on offer of just five for a win. Since we have a six-point lead, we could not be beaten." Memories probably went back to Istanbul in 2005, when Mike and Tommy would have won the title if the "outsider" running in a strong second towards the end of the race hadn't unexpectedly retired.

The team faces the prospects of a race in Brazil with mixed thoughts. One person, perhaps above all others, feels this particularly strongly. Thomas Erdos has never competed professionally in his homeland, and would dearly love to do so. "It's a difficult subject for me," he admitted. "I have very mixed feelings. I've never raced in Brazil and this would be my first race in front of a "home" crowd. Even so, I have every confidence in the team I work for, and I know they'll do the right thing. It will be what's best for us as a whole team and also for next season. There are issues with travelling to Brazil, and against those concerns, it's important that we look to the future too. If not going to Brazil, whatever the effect on the championship, means that we stand a better chance of being prepared for 2008, then so be it. If we can't go there to win, then I don't think we should go, it's as simple as that."

The reference to "issues" is perhaps a reference to the widely held belief that matters in Brazil are not as secure as they might be. "Tommy has the advantage of knowing what they'd be saying to us when we were in the process of being robbed, or whatever," suggested Mike with a smile.

What will actually happen with regards to the Interlagos event should become clearer in the days ahead.

For full results of all races and events being staged at the Silverstone 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 Silverstone Gallery.

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