Mans Series 2009
Round 1. Catalunya 1000 Kilometres. April 3rd-5th 2009
schedule for the Le Mans Series weekends has changed for
2009, with the number of free practice sessions reduced
from three to two, but the length of each has been increased
from an hour to 90 minutes. In a move intended to trim some
of the cost to teams, the original intention had been to
cut the number of active days from three to two by compressing
all the practice and qualifying periods into a single day.
However, the logistics of doing this for the first race
of the year have proved too challenging, and a compromise
has been chosen that does lend a more relaxed atmosphere
just one afternoon session, there was more time for the
teams to prepare their cars, and then an extended run between
four-twenty and five-forty in the afternoon.
the past week this region of Catalunya has been subjected
to some pretty dire weather, with heavy rain that has left
the soil damp and the area around the circuit prone to early
morning mist. Another down-side is an all-pervading aroma
of raw sewage, which detracts somewhat from the excellent
food being served to the team by the staff at The Smoking
Dog. The track itself is also very "green",
and quick times were not expected for some while.
service is resumed, as Thomas Erdos takes the RML Lola Mazda
out onto track at the start of the first practice session
of 2009. The format is much the same as it always is, with
the Brazilian under instruction to complete a short series
of six shake-down laps and, if he thinks the car is ripe
and ready, hand over to Mike Newton for the next stint.
That's the usual plan anyway, but this Friday at Barcelona
is going to be a little different.
moments of getting up to racing speed, he's on the radio
complaining about a severe vibration. The steering wheel
is holding steady, but the whole car is shuddering so violently
that he's finding it hard to focus. "It was a very
severe vibration," he stated later. "My vision
was so blurred that I could hardly make out the track in
front of me."
telemetry suggests there's nothing fundamentally wrong with
the Lola, so he presses on for several more laps, and having
been among the first out, briefly holds top slot in LMP2.
In the cockpit, however, the situation is worsening, and
he's eventually forced to pit just before the first red
flag of the weekend.
action suspended, the team took their time in checking over
the car and, finding nothing obviously at fault, fitted
a new set of wheels and tyres ready for the re-start. When
the session resumed Erdos was back out again and reporting
back that the vibration was better than it had been, but
was still in evidence.
replaced one set of wheels and found the vibration still
causing problems, it might have been logical to assume that
the fault lay with the car itself. However, the third set
of tyres proved that there was nothing wrong with the Lola.
This time the vibration disappeared completely, and later
examination confirmed that an imbalance in all four tyres
had been the problem with the first set, and then two imbalanced
tyres on the second. On the one hand, good to discover a
relatively minor root cause to the problem, but on the other,
half the session lost striving to find a problem that ought
never have arisen.
established that all was hunkydory with the Lola, Tommy
handed over to Mike, who began his first stint of the year
at ten-past five. Six steady laps later, and he was routinely
back into the pits. Red flags for the Bruichladdich Radical
and the Pegasus Courage disrupted the next ten minutes,
but there was just enough time at then end for Tommy to
complete a final run of four flying laps.
"The last run felt a lot sharper," said Tommy.
"The vibration had gone, and the engine was pulling
strongly. It felt so much better!" Mike was less happy,
although his own run had gone without a hitch. As CEO of
AD Group, he shares his responsibilities fairly equally
between duties in the cockpit, and proving, developing and
managing the car's on-board CCTV and video recording equipment.
The vibration had not been helpful, and the images captured
by the cockpit camera reflected the juddering that drivers,
car and equipment had been subjected to during the ninety-minute
session. The images below depict the rear-view camera.
was a very bitsy session," suggested Phil Barker, the
Team Manager at RML. "We had to contend with a string
of niggly problems that were not of our making, and we ended
up spending most of the time just trying to put things right.
It appears that two sets of tyres were not balanced properly.
We're using exactly the same wheels that we used last year,
so the cause of the problem isn't immediately obvious. The
net result of that, and the succession of red flags, was
that we lost too much track time today. We'll just have
to hope that tomorrow goes better.
RML had been tackling their gremlins, the rest of the LMP2
field had been tackling theirs. Fastest in class, the Quifel
ASM Zytek was already making good the pre-season predictions
that they'd be front runners in 2009. A fastest lap by Olivier
Pla of 1:37.241 was significantly better than anyone else
could manage, but still fell short of the quickest time
at this stage last year, which had been a 1:34.008 from
Jos Verstappen in the Van Merksteijn Porsche.
out of the box, at their first event, was the #29 Racing
Box Lola Mazda, while third for the Speedy Sebah Lola was
true to form. For Tommy to claim fourth fastest after such
a troubled ninety minutes was actually cause for some optimism.
Times - Session 1
second Free Practice session is scheduled for 10:45 am tomorrow.
are high resolution images posted in the