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Le Mans Series 2008
Round 1. Catalunya 1000 Kilometres. April 5th-6th 2008
Race Press Release. Issued April 7th 2008

RML AD Group ‘Delighted’ by Fourth Place

In a strange twist, the current LMP2 champions were “delighted” to finish in just fourth place after six gruelling hours of motor racing in the Le Mans Series 1000 Kilometres of Catalunya in Barcelona yesterday.

Having won two out of five races last year, and successfully taken the Le Mans Series title, Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos might have been expected to feel disappointed to finish fourth in the new season’s opening race, but far from it. After struggled for pace throughout two days of practice and qualifying, and carrying a significant power deficit forwards into the race itself, their hopes for a good result had not been high. In the end, excellent teamwork, strategy and characteristic RML reliability saw them through to a five-point tally that exceeded expectations.

“We didn’t have the pace, but we had the reliability,” said Phil Barker, Team Manager for RML. “To score five points is a great start to the season, under the circumstances.” Thomas Erdos, who took the start for RML, admitted it had been “a very hard race. I drove my heart out today, but we were giving away so much of a deficit to almost everyone else in our class that we just have to be grateful for a good set of points at the finish. It’s a credit to the chassis and the Michelin tyres that Mike and I were able to set anything like respectable times.”

Right from the moment that the lights turned green it was evident that the MG Lola EX265’s engine was down on power. Two days of practice had already revealed engine management issues, but this was never more apparent than when the moment came to start racing. “I pushed the pedal to the floor, and not a lot happened!” said Erdos. A slight exaggeration perhaps, but it was apparent to everyone viewing the race that the svelte MG was not as fast as it should be. “The straight-line speed was very disappointing,” agreed Mike Newton, co-driver of the MG. “We were having to brake so late into the corners, just to keep ahead – and that was against the GT cars!”

Photo: David Downes / DSC

Fortunately, for what the car lacked in pace it more than made up for in handling and mechanical grip. Through the tight and twisty sections the MG was without peer. “Over the winter, we’ve done two major developments on the car,” explained Newton. “The engine is something everyone knows about, but we kept quiet about the chassis, and that detailed work has certainly proved its worth today.” Everyone concerned was keen to give credit to the RML personnel who had worked so hard to build a reliable, confidence-creating car. “What we did today was make sure we’d produced a car that would go the distance,” said Phil Barker. “The guys put it together really well, and the drivers were able to secure some very valuable points.”

The team, in association with engine specialists AER, has made great strides forwards in the few weeks since the official test at Paul Ricard in March, when two engines failed. “It’s a very new unit, and to be reliable first time out is a big plus for us,” said Thomas Erdos after Barcelona. “I’m really chuffed with the result, but we do need to go a bit quicker!” The opportunity to achieve that will come on April 27th in three weeks’ time, when Round 2 takes place at Monza in Italy.

There are high resolution images posted in the Barcelona Gallery.

Access to full details of the weekend's event can be found via the Barcelona title page.