Mans Series 2008
Round 1. Catalunya 1000 Kilometres. April 5th-6th 2008
was a good start to the day for RML, with Tommy confirming
that the MG was nearer to form by setting a time that was
marginally quicker than he’d managed in qualifying,
despite a race set-up and full tanks. It did end in a slightly
unusual manner, by RML standards, with Mike taking an enforced
tumble into the gravel, and then having to abandon the habitual
driver-change simulation in favour of clearing the undertray
of gravel – but more on that later.
day began under a thin overcast of cloud and a slight chill
adding bite to the air. After the warmth of yesterday, and
the anticipated heat of midday today, it was refreshingly
welcome, although such thoughts seem slightly unfair in
the light of four inches of snow blanketing the UK.
was among the first group to head out onto the track, and
was soon into a rhythm that demonstrated the finer fettle
of the MG. From a 1:45.656, he steadily trimmed away the
loose edges, and ended up clocking a very respectable 1:38.469
– comfortably quicker than he’d gone in qualifying,
and an “easy lap” he reported later.
done, the call came over the radio to “Pit this lap
please Tommy,” from Phil Barker, to which came the
clipped response of “In this lap, in this lap,”
from the driver. The team carried out the first of what
were planned as two simulated driver changes, and Mike headed
out with the MG fourth quickest in P2, behind the #34 and
#27 Porsches and #33 Speedy Sebah Lola.
first lap was a 1:44.063, and he followed this with a 1:43.016
– his fastest lap of the weekend so far. On track,
Mike was chasing Fredy Lienhard in the #27 Horag Porsche
RS Spyder, and had been steadily catching him for two or
three laps. Finally he came up on the Porsche’s tail,
and they swept through turns one-two-and three smoothly,
with the MG steadily drawing closer still.
down into Turn 4, Lienhard suddenly pulled up. “He
braked very early, and very hard,” said Mike, shrugging
his shoulders in anticipation of what came next. “It
caught me out, and I stamped on the brakes. I’d have
been into the back of him had I not.” The rear end
of the MG snapped away violently, and pitched Mike backwards
into the gravel trap. He completed a full 360 and then sat
there for a few moments, gathering his thoughts, before
confirming that the engine would restart OK. Dragged out
backwards by the recovery crew, he blipped the XP-21 into
life, and headed cross-country for the tarmac. It was a
lengthy trek to the exit of Turn 5, where he was finally
able to rejoin the track.
bit of gravel to clear up when he gets back,” suggests
Phil over the radio. “Shake as much of that gravel
out of it as you can, Mike,” he added.
Weaving his way through 6 and 7, Mike made
his way leisurely back to the pitlane, loosening as much
of the car’s new collection of gravel before he arrived.
The session was over by now, and it was a slightly sheepish
Mike Newton that clambered out of the car, the planned driver
change practice abandoned.
With a quick time in the bag, and both drivers
showing improved pace, it was a jovial Phil Barker who welcomed
his drivers back for a quick de-brief ahead of the official
Autograph Session. “Mike thought he was here for a
holiday!” joked Phil Barker. “He headed off
for the beach!”
was pleased to have found better pace from the MG, and improved
on his qualifying pace. “That wasn’t difficult,”
he grinned. As for the race? “There are a lot of people
out there with good pace, and we will just try to do what
we always do best – have a clean race and hope our
experience pays dividends."
LMP2 Times - Warm Up
coverage is created "live" starting from approximately
one-hour into the event, and then driver quotes and additional
observations are added later. This can lead to some inconsistency
with tenses, for which we apologise.
conditions had warmed up considerably during the course
of the morning, and a hot, dry and bright afternoon was
in prospect. From the shade of the pit straight, where the
massive grandstand dominates the surrounding countryside,
the cars streamed off round the circuit for the parade lap.
The Audi pace car, lights flashing, lead the way, taking
about three minutes to complete the four-and-a-half kilometre
circuit. Peeling away into the pitlane, the leaders were
released, and the echo of thousands of horsepower reverberated
through the packed grandstand. Yes, possibly for the first
time in the series history, a good crowd has turned out
today to watch 48 of the world's finest sportscars in action.
was a remarkably clean start, all the way through the field.
Widespread concern, voiced before the race, that having
such a huge and evenly-matched grid hurtling down a long
straight and into a series of tight turns was a recipe for
mayhem, but it never materialised., A few puffs of tyre
smoke here and there betrayed some unsteady nerves, but
on the whole sanity prevailed, and everyone got through
the first lap unscathed. Perhaps they were saving up their
lapses for later. "The configuration on the final chicane
means that the leaders were already racing by the time we
get to the second element," was Tommy's explanation.
"Everyone was very spread out on the run down to that
first corner, and that lead to an uneventful first lap,
for everyone, including me."
found himself almost isolated as he headed down towards
Turn One. "I put my foot to the floor, and nothing
happened!" Well, that's not strictly true, but compared
to the kind of acceleration he'd grown accustomed to last
season, the reaction from behind his left shoulder seemed
distinctly feeble. "I made up no places at all. By
the time I came down the main straight, everyone else had
gone and left me. It made my progress through the first
few corners very easy, but equally, very strange."
More used to being able to claim a few extra positions,
Tommy found himself just trying to keep ahead of the cars
behind him. "The start is a drag race, to all intents
and purposes. We're just not very strong in that department."
first challenge was to get by the Kruze Lola Mazda #44,
and he managed that just three laps into the race. His next
target was Warren Hughes in the #45 Embassy WF01 Zytek.
It took him about ten minutes, but he steadily narrowed
the gap on the black car. Amazingly, within that time, the
leaders have already caught and started lapping the tail-enders.
Tommy closed right up on the tail of the #45 Embassy Zytek
coming through Turns 1 and 2 when one of the GT2 Ferrari
430's wandered across in front of Warren. That allowing
Tommy to close right down on his former team-mate, only
to find himself baulked in the same way a few turns later.
A little further back, the Larbre Saleen, which started
from the back of the grid after an engine swap, was scything
through the GT field and would be in contention before much
There's a great scrap for the overall lead. The "blue"
Peugeot, #8 with Pedro Lamy driving, had the early running,
but the second "red" car, and Allan McNish in
the #1 Audi, have been trading second place on a regular
basis. The Lola Aston Martin continues to be the most impressive
of the petrol-engined cars, and holds fourth, although Mucke
had been up as high as third earlier. The revised liveries
for the two 908s makes distinguishing between the pair far
The positions in LMP2 are: The #34 Porsche leads the pack,
followed by the #31, with the #33 Speedy Sebah closed Lola
an impressive third. Verstappen in the Dutch team's leading
Porsche had pulled out into a distinct lead right from the
start, but Elgaard began to reel him back in after a few
laps. The #27 Horag Porsche holds fourth, with the #32 Barazi
Zytek fifth and the #40 ASM Lola sixth. Warren Hughes in
the first of the Embassy Zyteks is seventh, followed closely
by Tommy in the #25 MG Lola. Behind him comes the #44 Kruse
Lola (although starting to encounter the cooling problems
that would ultimately lead to a series of enforced pitstops)
then the second Embassy car, the Saulnier LMP2 Pescarolo
#35, and finally (in terms of meaningful positions) the
#26 Bruichladdich Radical.
Tommy passes Warren for seventh in class. "Warren is
a good friend, and a good driver. It was huge satisfying
to get ahead of him. I just went round him on the outside
of Turn 1. I was pleased with that!" said Erdos later.
Tommy is now also closing on the #40 ASM Lola, and the margin
is just 4.6 seconds.
The gap is down to three seconds.
Tommy is about to be lapped by the leading Peugeot, #8.
He has seven more laps to his first pitstop.
Passing a GT2 Ferrari, the car cuts in across Tommy's rear,
and clips the side of the MG. "It was just a light
touch," he insisted later, but he still requested a
check-up for damage at the next pitstop. Meanwhile, Bob
Berridge manages to get ahead in the LMP1 Chamberlain Synergy
Warren gets back in front of Tommy, demoting the MG to 8th
in LMP2. "I got mugged!" said Erdos later. "On
the straights, Warren's car was maybe 20 mph faster than
me. I could beat him round the corners and under braking,
but as soon as we got onto the straights, he was able to
get ahead again. There's just too much of a deficit in the
car's performance for us to be able to make up so much ground
on mechanical grip alone."
The #27 Horag Porsche (left) experiences a massive
blow-out down the main straight, rubber shredding away from
the canvas and decimating the front-right body panels. “I
pulled out to go by a GT car," said Didier. "There
were a lot of marbles and perhaps a piece of carbon fibre
amongst it. It was a very big blow out.” Debris was
distributed widely across the track. Simultaneously, the
Bruichladdich Radical encountered the first of what would
be a regular series of spins for the re-liveried car, now
largely black and no longer the distinctive orange of 2007.
Suspecting an impending Safety Car period, Tommy heads for
Car - 12:27
managed to get out on track after a swift pitstop, during
which the car was checked for damage, immediately behind
the safety car. He confirms that there is still a lot of
debris on the track. He's also a little concerned by the
driving of the #34 Porsche, which is immediately behind
him on track, and seemingly intent on ramming the rear of
the MG! Thankfully, Tommy is soon waved by, and manages
to lose the Porsche in the process.
the hour, Tommy is seventh in class, 19th overall.
Resumes - 12:38
to the Brazilian's frustration - it's been that kind of
day - he is stuck behind a GT2 Porsche on the restart but
cannot overtake until they cross the start-finish line.
Even so, he has made up a place during the period, and now
the MG is running in P7 within the class.
Next target is the #35 Saulnier Racing LMP2 Pescarolo. The
team is running two Pescas this weekend, one in each of
the two prototype categories. The LMP2 car is running much
the better of the two!
Tommy suspects another Safety Car period may be in the offing,
after another major off, and the team prepares for an early
pitstop. In the end, the marshals clear the situation under
for Joey Foster in the #46 Embassy WF01, when he was pitched
off into the gravel by a sudden steering failure. He retired
the car there and then. The second car, Warren Hughes' #45,
was immediately called into the garage by Jonathan' France's
team, and investigated for the possibility of any similar
problems. If a design fault is suspected, then Warren's
race will also be over.
Finally, Tommy is able to close down on the #35, but it's
never easy going. The combination of heavy traffic, both
slower and faster than the MG, and the generally poor top
speed he's enduring down the straights, is making any overtaking
stop-go penalties for Verstappen in the #34 Porsche, totalling
some 30 seconds plus drive-through time. He is believed
to have carried out some indiscretion or other under yellow
flags. Caspar Elagaard's lead in the #31 Team Essex Porsche
is starting to look more meaningful, although a first driver
change to John Nielsen comes earlier than their rivals,
and the gap narrows.
two hours completed, and at 1:19 Tommy comes back down the
pitlane to complete his second stint. It's a characteristically
rapid pitstop, with the RML guys moving swiftly to station,
completing the refuel, and then setting-to on the tyre change.
With Mike strapped in, he made a couple of clunks in the
gearbox, found the one he wanted, and away he went, back
out on track and into sixth place in LMP2.
very frustrated Tommy Erdos reported briefly to the pitwall
before heading back into the team truck and a chance to
freshen up. "It just seems so very, very slow at the
moment," he said. Literally, we're being overtaken
by GT2 cars down the straights, and I have to lunge into
the corners to get anywhere. We seem to be losing more and
more power the further we get into the race, and it makes
it so frustrating, it's unbelievable." The problem
was evident right from the start, but despite being able
to catch most cars into the corners there's simply no power
to make those moves stick. "It's a losing battle,"
the hour, the official results list the MG as 14th overall,
6th in class, with Tommy still at the wheel.
Mike holding 13th position overall, fifth in LMP2 and lapping
in the low 1:44s.
The MG is circulating steadily, and not exactly losing ground.
Still holds P5 (position 5) in LMP2, some fifteen seconds
behind the #35 Saulnier Pescarolo, but a lap clear of the
Horag Porsche in sixth (15th overall) which is still playing
catch-up after the earlier incident. Mike's last lap was
three seconds slower than Ragues in the #35 car, but the
situation occasionally reverses.
Mike has been complaining of vibrations
from the tyres, but it's soon established that the culprit
is pick-up of loose rubber from the track. This distance
into the race it's often a problem, and it can only get
Mike into the pit lane for his first pitstop. The MG came
in from fifth in LMP2, still 13th overall. Smooth and unruffled,
the team complete the refuel and confirm that the tyres
are fine for another stint. Mike's heads back out, less
than two minutes since he left the track.
Mike is a comfortable three laps clear of the Horag Porsche,
which is making a scheduled visit to the the pits, and still
holds 13th overall, fifth in class. The #35 Saulnier Pescarolo
has eased away a little, while the class leader is currently
the Team Essex Porsche, "Big" John Nielsen at
the wheel. The former leader, car #34, has dropped to 8t
overall, second in LMP2, and the #33 Speedy Sebah Lola is
third (10th overall). Elsewhere in the class, both Embassy
Zyteks have had problems.The #46 was withdrawn after encountering
a serious steering failure, and with such a significant
safety risk possibly being aligned to a design fault, the
team wisely elected to withdrawn the second car. That brought
Warren Hughes' impressive early charge to a faltering halt,
and the #45 car remains in the garage.
Safety Car is listed as 48th overall,with a fastest lap
of 2:47.547, and is only four laps down on the #94 Spyker.
If we have any further incidents, there's a chance it can
make up a few places.
seriously, for a moment, the outright leader is the #7 Peugeot,
a lap clear of Mike Rockenfeller in the #2 Audi. The Charouz
Lola Aston Martin continues to show excellent form, and
leads the petrol-pack from third overall, a further lap
behind. Mike is in danger of catching the #1 Audi.
Bringing the third hour to a close,
Mike has maintained a steady trouble-free pace throughout
the second element of his first stint. His times are hardly
scintillating, but it's not his fault. Even on the television
monitors, the MG is visibly slow, and clearly has trouble
keeping pace with the GT cars down the straights. Through
the twistier sections, its another story, and the car's
inherent strength, it's mechanical grip and handling, have
allowed Mike to lap consistently in the mid-forties. I's
respectable pedaling, and he is fulfilling his role admirably.
He took over the car in fifth place, and that's where it
still stands, 13th overall.
the hour, and RML's MG is shown as 13th overall, fifth in
Van Merksteijn takes a spin in the #34 Porsche from second
in LMP2, but recovers, although is not maintaining the car's
earlier pace. Simultaneously, John Nielsen in the leading
#31 Tea Essex Porsche is shown what the Americans call a
"meatball" - the black flag with orange circle
that denotes a mechanical problem that, if not rectified
swiftly, will lead to disqualification. On the next lap
The LMP2 leader is hauled backwards into the garage to have
the left rear panel replaced.
Both leading LMP2 Porsches are in the pits. Mike warns the
team over the radio that his fuel light is now flickering.
The next scheduled pitstop is due, and Tommy is getting
ready for his next stint.
Change in the lead for LMP2. The Team Essex Porsche #31,
which is still in the garage undergoing repairs, is overtaken
by the Van Merksteijn Porsche #34. If the Essex Porsche
stays there much longer it is in danger of losing second
to the #33 Speedy Sebah Lola.
The Speedy Sebah Lola #33 moves into second, 8th overall.
It is promptly clouted, albeit gently, by the #95 Porsche
as it starts its 116th lap.
Mike into the pitlane. Team Essex Porsche rejoins. Tommy
into the car, and the team complete another exemplary pitstop.
"Great job everybody," says a grateful Erdos.
"Well done, well done," as he powers away towards
the racetrack. He's back in the race, and less tan a lap
behind Nielsen in the Team Essex Porsche, but the pitstop
has seen the MG slip down one position overall. It now stands
in 14th, although still holding fifth in LMP2.
Tommy is 39 seconds behind Nielsen in LMP2, but only 16
seconds adrift of the #4 Saulnier Pescarolo for thirteenth
Tommy closes to within 10 seconds of Faggionato in the Saulnier
Pescarolo. Out at the front of LMP2, temporary troubles
of varying magnitudes for both the leading Porsches, numbers
31 and 34, have allowed the #33 Speedy Sebah Lola to gain
ground, and with the #34 well down the order, a pitstop
for the #31 now gives the Lola the class lead.
The #8 Peugeot has a major "off" at Turn 4 after
contact with a GT2 Porsche, and is into the gravel. It is
already well down the order and running 16th, while the
sister car, #7, leads the race by just under a lap from
the #2 Audi. The stricken Pug is being hauled unceremoniously
out of the kitty litter by the recover crew. It's not a
Tommy begins his 125th lap, just four seconds now behind
the LMP1 Saulnier Courage. The #8 Peugeot regains the track,
but has now been passed by the leading GT1 car; the #72
Corvette. Two minutes later and the #5 Oreca Courage is
being introduced to the tyre wall at Turn 3.
Just 1.5 seconds between Tommy and the tail-end of the Saulnier
car. It's not for class, but it is for overall position.
The #73 Luc Alphand Corvette - not the leader, but the second
car - enters the pitlane with flailing rubber and much bodywork
damage. Tommy comments on the amount of debris generally
around the track.
#40 ASM Lola beached on the kerbs at Turn 12. Currently
out of contention in LMP2, 33rd overall. The condition of
the track is starting to cause problems, as cars lose grip
on the "marbles" and encounter debris from earlier
the hour, the official time sheets published by the race
organisers show Tommy running 14th overall, fifth in LMP2,
having completed 131 laps.
A very close call for Tommy as he finally closes down on
the #4 Saulnier Pescarolo, only for it to go off in a huge
cloud of tyre smoke at Turn 3. The MG was close behind at
the time, although there's no suggestion that the two made
contact. The net result is 13th place overall for the RML
MG Lola, and confirmation that Tommy is some 43 seconds
adrift of Nielsen in the #31 Porsche.
in LMP2 are: #33 Speedy Sebah Lola leads the class by three
seconds from the #34 Porsche, now with Verstappen at the
wheel. They are 6th and 7th overall respectively. Third
in class is the #35 Saulnier Pescarolo, 11th overall, but
with Nielsen just four seconds in arrears, chasing down
in the Team Essex Porsche. Tommy occupies fifth in class,
five laps clear of Jan Lammers in the recovering #27 Horag
The Speedy Sebah Lola pits from the lead, and Verstappen
moves through to take the position. Tinseau in the #17 LMP1
Pescarolo also moves ahead of the #33 Lola to take 6th overall.
Then McNish (#1 Audi) moves through to. The Lola rejoins
in 8th, but still second in LMP2.
Tommy instructed to "pit this lap". He acknowledges,
and advises that he is low on fuel. With a generous lead
over the next car in class, he requests fresh tyres for
the up-coming pitstop.
Tommy into the pitlane. Fuel and fresh tyres. He's quickly
back out again, with no places lost. Showing now as 12th
overall, after a lengthier pitstop for the #6 Team Oreca
Courage. Tommy is two laps behind the #35 Saulnier Pescarolo,
which has been passed for third by Nielsen in the Team Essex
#27 Horag Porsche into the pits for a scheduled stop, easing
some of the pressure on Tommy, although his lead was comfortable.
Less comfortable must be the Saulnier team, with Nielsen's
charge in the #31 Porsche RS Spyder eating out huge chunks
of the #35 car's advantage in third.
is confirmed as 215 laps in total, to reach the 1000 kilometres,
so some debate as to whether it will run the distance, or
the full six hours. The leader is currently on lap 161.
Tommy eases through into fourth place in LMP2. The reason
for the #35 car's sudden fall from third is not immediately
clear, although it had been losing ground to Nielsen in
the #31 Porsche for some time. Having had a lap's lead over
the MG, it is now 5.7 seconds in arrears.
Tommy now plus seven on the #35 Pescarolo, but traffic is
see-sawing the relative speeds, so it's harder to tell who
is truly the faster of the two. Tommy extends the advantage
to 10 seconds on the next lap.
timesheet states: RML #25 11th overall, 4th in LMP2.
Tommy reports that the fuel light is flickering again -
the stints go by a little quicker this year, with the reduction
in fuel tanks within LMP2. Last year the regulations stated
90 litres. This year, in an attempt to increase the differential
between LMP1 and LMP2, the capacity has been reduced to
80 litres. Last year the MG could run for almost an hour
on a full tank. This year it is noticeably less, and had
lead to a complete change in strategy for the LMP2 teams.
an LMP2 car could run for almost an hour on a full tank,
the six-hour race format split neatly into a five-stop strategy.
Now that the same cars can only run for about forty-five
minutes, at least six stops are needed, and possibly more.
“With the reduced fuel tank capacity we were expecting
to be able to complete the 1000 kilometres in six stops,
but in the end we had to add an extra splash-and-dash for
Mike, right towards the end,” said Phil Barker. Adam
Wiseberg then explained: "Two of Mike’s stints
are now only about an hour and a half, so it’s more
of a struggle trying to prevent Tommy running longer than
the maximum four hours he’s permitted in any one race.
Before the start we expected the race to run for about five
hours forty, but half way through we realised that the pace
the leaders were setting would mean that we’d be more
likely to run the full six hours, and that meant we had
to re-think our strategy." The earlier Safety Car hadn't
helped either, giving Tommy extra time in the car (using
less fuel at slower speeds) but without the benefit of his
pace. The team was now having to consider an extra stint
for Mike Newton to finish off the race.
Pit stop for the second-placed Speedy Sebah Lola. Current
situation in LMP2 is: Verstappen leading in the #34. The
rapid Xavier Pompidou second in the Sebah Lola. Third is
yesterday's Birthday Boy, Caspar Elgaard in the #31 Team
Essex Porsche. Tommy is fourth, one lap down on the Danish
Spyder, 11th overall. He is currently trying to find his
way through a gaggle of GT cars, including the third-placed
Tommy heading in for a fuel-only pitstop. The tanks are
running very low, so Phil advises him to switch on the secondary
pumps. He enters the pitlane.
The #35 Saulnier Pescarolo regains the position. Tommy rejoins
in 12th overall once again, but now fifth in LMP2, and half-a-minute
the next quarter hour or so, the gap remains static at roughly
35 seconds. Then it's time for Tommy's final pitstop - he
has nearly completed his maximum permitted four hours in
the car, so must swap with Mike.
Tommy into the pitlane for the anticipated additional driver
change and a quick splash of fuel. "The set routine
in the last few years has obviously had to change with the
adjustment of tank capacity," pointed out Mike Newton.
"It makes it very interesting now. You can’t
just pop off to the loo without checking when you’re
next due in the car!" Mike had also had to forgo his
usual post-stint glass of red wine and slice of chocolate
cake, knowing that he’d have to be back into the car
again to complete this final 20 minutes.
driver change was swiftly completed. The final gap when
Tommy came in was 31 seconds. Mike departs at 5:12, but
the Saulnier Pescarolo is also in the pits. "Barring
any disasters, this is it for the flag, OK!" says Phil
Mike heads through to take the place. The MG is now 11th
overall, and fourth in LMP2.
Ten positions: Peugeot leads by almost a lap from the #2
Audi. The Charouz Lola Aston Martin is third, with the first
of the works Pescarolos, #16, fourth. The second Audi #1
has recovered to fifth, Capello now driving, while he #17
Pescarolo is sixth. The leading LMP2 car; the #34 Van Merksteijn
car, is seventh, a lap ahead of Pompidou in the Speedy Sebah
Lola. That has three laps over Elgaard in the Team Essex
Porsche, third. Joao Barbosa rounds off the top ten for
Rollcentre with their LMP1 Pescarolo, roughly two laps ahead
Just ten minutes or so to go, and Mike holds on to fourth
from a charging Jan Lammers. Mike later admitted to having
driven very carefully during his last stint to avoid any
debris on the track. Having seen others suffer, he wanted
to be sure that the MG didn’t collect a puncture in
the final stages of the race. Jan Lammers had not been so
lucky in the #27 Horag Porsche and had needed to make an
extra stop for a replacement tyre that probably cost him
MG has roughly a lap in hand, but Lammers is typically lapping
a few seconds quicker than the MG. Pompidou makes his final
pitstop in the Speedy Sebah Lola.
organisers are claiming a crowd of 28,000 has attended this
opening round of the Le Mans Series here in Spain.
minutes remaining, and the leader is nearly on the distance!
It could go either way.
The leader takes the chequered flag on 215 laps. Amazingly,
it is also almost exactly on six hours. "Well done
everyone!" says Mike from the cockpit. "Excellent
Mike, thankyou," replies Phil. "On Schedule, and
really well done."
overall for the #7 Peugeot 908, followed closely by the
#2 Audi R10, and a debut podium for the all-new Lola Aston
Martin. The last time a Lola stood third overall was . .
. last season when the RML MG took third at Spa!
maiden European victory for the #34 Porsche RS Spyder, but
not perhaps the dominant run some had predicted. Second
place to the very stylish new Speedy Sebah Lola Coupé,
and third to the #31 Team Essex Porsche. RML will be happy
with fourth, under the circumstances, and having achieved
such a commendable result with a car that was so significantly
down on power must come as a confidence-boost so early in
the season. Once the new XP-21 engine is sorted, and can
take full advantage of the revised fuel formulation, then
the prospects for the rest of the year start to look much
For a team that had won the LMP2
category in 2007, and for a pair of drivers that currently
hold the individual title, finishing fourth might have seemed
a likely cause for disappointment, but smiles predominated
across the faces of most members of the RML squad after
Barker, Team Manger, looked brighter than he had in days.
“We didn’t have the pace, but we did have the
reliability. To score five points is a great start to the
year, under the circumstances. I’d just like to be
able to say it can only get better!” He was happy
to congratulate those who’d scored well first time
out. “The #34 car was in a class of its own, especially
with Jos Verstappen at the wheel. His Formula 1 pedigree
was obvious for everyone to see, and he’s still a
very quick driver. It was also an excellent result for the
Lola Coupé, with three exceptionally quick drivers.
What we did today was to make sure we’d put a reliable
car together, and the result proves that the guys did an
Erdos had looked far from happy on Saturday afternoon, but
twenty-four hours later the furrowed eyebrows had been replaced
by a broad smile. “It’s good points for us today,
and perhaps it would have been nice to make the podium,
but we simply didn’t have the speed. It was a very
hard race and I drove my heart out today, but we were just
giving away too much of a deficit to everyone in the class
– and I mean everyone. To achieve the times we did
is a credit to the chassis and the way the team put it together.
On the plus side, the engine got us to the flag. It’s
a new engine, and to be reliable first time out is another
positive aspect of the race for us. So, I’m really
chuffed with the result, but we do need to go a bit quicker!
Mike Newton felt that a podium might
have been “a bit cheeky perhaps, but fourth is the
top end of our expectations this weekend. The teamwork was
great, and it all became a case of just banging out the
laps. The straight-line speed of the engine was disappointing
and we were having to brake very late into the corners.
There was no way could we pass anyone down the straights
– and that included the GT2 cars!”
Adam Wiseberg, Motorsport Director
of AD Group, grinned as he admitted to being “very
pleased” with the result. “After the problems
we had all weekend, it’s great to finish fourth. The
car ran like clockwork, and we had the satisfaction of beating
all the cars we raced against last year. The only teams
to get the better of us today were this season’s newcomers.
I also feel that maybe the Porsche RS Spyders in LMP2 have
not had serious competition until now – not in the
States anyway – and whilst undeniably quicker than
we were today, I don’t feel they’re beyond reach.
Even so, the field is considerably stronger than it was
last year, and there are six or seven cars that can now
challenge for the win. In that context, to get fourth is
a fantastic achievement by Mike and Tommy and a credit to
from the lack of power from the engine, the only significant
problem to hamper the MG EX265 on its debut was a failing
wheel-speed sensor. This modest component relays information
to the engine management system, and via the telemetry,
to the team, and is responsible for some aspects of controlling
the car’s traction control system. Although far less
sophisticated than the technology now banned from Formula
1, the traction control capabilities employed in sportscar
racing can make the driver’s task a little easier.
During Sunday’s race, however, the reverse turned
out to be true, and once the system was disabled, roughly
half way through the race, the drivers actually found there
were benefits. “At first Mike thought he had a serious
misfire,” explained Tommy. “However as soon
as the traction control was switched off, the engine went
much better. It was more responsive, and while not having
the traction control meant it was harder work for us as
drivers, it did make the car a bit more competitive.”
are high resolution images posted in the Barcelona
full results of all races and events being staged at the
Barcelona weekend, please visit this
where it is possible to download PDF files for all sessions