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Le Mans Series 2009
Round 1. Catalunya 1000 Kilometres. April 3rd-5th 2009

Saturday Review

Sunday - Raceday

Two days of intense practice and qualifying come to a head late on Sunday morning with the start of Round 1 of the 2009 Le Mans Series, but the day starts earlier than that with official warm-up at nine. That's followed by some support races, a paddock walkabouts for the public, autograph sessions and, in the case of the RML drivers, introductions and briefings with the AD Group guests in hospitality.

Warm Up

Peter Hardman in the (perhaps unexpectedly) pole-sitting Strakka Racing Ginetta-Zytek LMP1 lead the stream of cars out onto the track for the twenty-minute warm-up session. Tommy wasn't far behind, nosing his way into the queue and then accelerating out onto the tarmac.

One of the GT2 Ferraris, fresh out of the pits, promptly beached into the gravel at Turn 2, bringing out the yellows, and then the reds. It was a brief pause, and then everyone was back out again. The team made a very minor adjustment to the car while Tommy waited, and then he was off again for a single lap. Having lost time through the red flag Tommy was prevented from setting a flying lap, and returned straight away to carry out a full driver-change with Mike, simulating a typical pitstop.

All went perfectly, and Mike was soon out there and mixing it with the rest. Then, with three minutes remaining, the team confirmed a second simulated driver change to round-off the session, with Tommy swapping back for MIke.

Lap times in warm-up are rarely meaningful and while Mike's time of 1:42.510 was the best of the session for the #25 Lola, it was hardly representative. The succession of interruptions due to yellow or red flags and popping in and out for driver changes wasn't conducive to fast times, but did establish a mind-set for the race ahead.

Quickest in LMP2 was Amaral in the ASM Zytek, with the #30 Lola second and #33 third. Fastest overall was the #16 Pescarolo, with Olivier Panis second in the #13 Oreca. There was then the novelty of a seeing Prost in third, Senna in fourth, and Mansell down in 35th place.

There was just time for a quick de-brief before Mike and Tommy headed out into the paddock to sign autographs and give out copies of the new team HeroCard.

LMP2 Times - Warm Up

Pos No. Overall Team Driver Car
15 Quifel ASM Amaral/Pla Ginetta Zytek GZ09S
16 Racing Box Ceccato/Francioni/Piccini Lola B08/86 Coupé
3 33 12 Speedy Sebah Belicchi/Pompidou/Zacchia Lola B08/80 Coupé
13 Racing Box Ceccato/Francioni/Piccini Lola B08/86 Coupé
14 RML AD Group Erdos/Newton Lola B08/86 Coupé
18 Kruse Schiller Marsh/Noda /Sini Lola B05/40
7 41 17 GAC Racing Team Ojeh/Gosselin/Peter Ginetta Zytek GZ07S
20 Oak Racing Ajlani/Lahaye Pescarolo Mazda
19 Bruichladdich Bruneau/Moseley/Greensall Radical SR9 AER
22 Oak Racing Nicolet/Hein Pescarolo Mazda
24 Pegasus Schell/Thirion Courage AER
39 Q8 Oils Hache Moncado/Cortez/Armetta Lucchini Judd
28 Ibanez Racing Ibanez/da Rocha/Cavailhes Courage AER
25 Ranieri Randaccio Randaccio/Giammaria Lucchini McLaren
21 WR Salini Salini/Salini/Gommendy WR Zytek

The Race

Race Start Hour 2 Hour 3

Race 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 in advance.

Race Start

The race gets under way, with the pole-setting Strakka Racing Ginetta Zytek, Peter Hardman taking the rolling start, appearing to slow before the line. The three cars behind pounce immediately, and the black car is swamped by a wave of orange and pale blue as the first of the Astons romps by, followed eagerly by the #13 red and silver Speedy Lola. The Zytek enters the first corner in fourth.

No such problems in LMP2, although Olivier Pla in the #40 Ginetta Zytek is through to the class lead as they barrel along the main straight. That sets the Racing Box Lola #29 into second, the #33 third and the #30 Lola fourth. Tommy is squeezed out on the left hand side through Turn 1, and the #41 Zytek forces the gap and takes fifth. There's a moment too when the WR Salini noses up on Tommy on the run into Turn 3, but the Brazilian slams the door shut, and the leading LMP2 pack heads away for the opening lap.

The race has quickly settled down into a series of individual tussles, with Tommy now latched onto the tail of the #41 Zytek. There seems no doubt that he could go quicker, if only he could get ahead. The top six in LMP are separated by only a matter of seconds, but the gaps are steadily lengthening all through the pack.

For now the three Aston Martin powered cars lead overall with the Strakka Racing Ginetta-Zytek fourth, but with less than a quarter-hour gone, the #16 Pescarolo moves ahead of Peter Hardman to demote the black car to fifth.

The order in LMP2 is #40 leading from #29 and #33, with the third #30 Lola in fourth. These are pretty evenly spaced, before a short gap to the #41, with Tommy right on his tail.

Tommy is still battling to get passed the #41 car, but no matter how hard he tries, and no matter where, the opening he needs is denied him. Meanwhile, the top four are pulling steadily clear.

The #40 leads LMP2 by a generous margin, maybe eight to ten seconds, over the #33, which has moved into second ahead of the #29. There's another lengthy gap to the #30, while Tommy continues to nibble away at the heels of the #41.

The #14 Audi R10, with Michael Krumm at the wheel, has gone off into the gravel with some damage, after contact with the Signature Plus Oreca Judd. Tommy misses his first chance to pit, but takes it on the next tour, and at 12:11 he's trundling down the pitlane for some fresh tyres and a top-up of fuel.

It's a quick pitstop, and he gets out just ahead of the safety car. Many other cars have pitted, and for some while it's hard to determine an order.

The #40 ASM Ginetta-Zytek leads LMP2 from 8th overall.


Hour 2 (12:30-13:30)

Tommy holds sixth in LMP2, but is closing fast on the Racing Box Lola in fifth. The full order in LMP2 is:

1 (9th overall) #40 Quifel ASM Ginetta-Zytek (Olivier Pla) 34 laps
2 (10th) #30 Racing Box Lola B09/86 (Thomas Biagi ) 33 laps
3 (12th) #35 Oak Racing Pescarolo - Mazda (Matthieu Lahaye) 33 laps
4. (13th) #41 GAC Racing Zytek 07S - Zytek (Philipp Peter) 33 laps
5. (15th) #29 Racing Box Lola B09/86 Coupé - (Filippo Francioni) 33 laps
6. (16th) #25 RML Lola Mazda B09/86 Coupé (Tommy Erdos) 33 laps
7. (17th) #26 Bruichladdich Bruneau Radical SR9 (Nigel Greensall) 32 laps

The RML Lola Mazda is now right under the tail of the Italian car, and challenging for the position.

Karim Ojeh in the #41 Zytek and the #35 Oak Racing Pescarolo are stranded on track requiring recovery.

Reporting from now on was uploaded "live", and coverage from first hour of the race was added subsequently.

The Oak Racing LMP2 Pescarolo which had spun across the track and lost power has now been recovered, so we expect the race to go green" again shortly. Tommy reports that the safety car is not yet letting anyone through, and the leader (#13) is currently behind Tommy, so a lot will have to be waved by before the race can resume.

Directly ahead of Tommy, on track, are two LMP2 prototypes, and they are "for position". Immediately ahead of the RML Lola is the #29 Racing Box Lola, with Francioni in the cockpit, and he's tailing Phillip Peter in the #41 Ginetta Zytek.

The leader is LMP2 remains the Olivier la in the #40 ASM Zytek, with a safety car's six seconds between him and Biagi in the #30 Racing Box Lola second.

Tommy is waved by the pace car. The #13 Speedy Lola Aston Martin currently leads overall. The organisers appear to have adopted a new system whereby the race restarts as soon as the safety car has collected the leader, irrespective of where anyone else is on the track.

The lights go green and we're racing again. Tommy is nose-to-tail on the cars ahead of him, with three seconds separating Peter, Francioni and Erdos.

Tommy moves ahead of Francioni, passing the Racing Box Lola and moving into fourth place.

LMP2 leader, the ASM Zytek #40, pits. It's a slow stop, and the car starts to fall down the order.

Tommy into the pitlane for a fuel-only pitstop. Phil confirms that the tyres from the last pitstop reveal that it's good to double-stint the Michelins. It's a brief pause only, and the RML Lola is back out again before 13:10.

Despite the pitstop, Tommy moves ahead of the #40 Zytek to take third in LMP2. He rejoins the track some distance behind Peter, who's still in the #41 Zytek and holding second. Amaral in the #40 rejoins, but now in a class fifth, 15th overall.

Overall, the 007 Aston Martin has now regained the lead, from the #16 Pescarolo and the 009 Aston. The #13 Lola has dropped to 7th after a pitstop.

Only thirty seconds cover the top five, and any error, or any pitstop, will result in many positions lost.

Tommy up to second in LMP2, now ahead of Peter, who's just made a standard pitstop. The Zytek returns to the track just six seconds behind the Lola.

Tommy appears to be easing clear of Peter, and has opened out the gap to nearly 12 seconds.

The LMP2 leader, the #30 Racing Box Lola, is into the pits for what appears to be a routine stop and driver change, with mateo Bobbi climbing into the cockpit.

Tommy heads past the pits and into the lead, gaining 15 seconds over Bobbi. It's a great way to round off the second hour.

Moments later Peter Kox in the leading GT1 Lamborghini nurfs the side of the #41 GAC Zytek. The prototype with Phillip Peter had just moved up into second, having also passed Bobbi. The Lambo appears to be damaged, but the #41 presses on

Hour 3 (13:30-14:30)

Order in LMP2 is now RML first by 30 seconds from the #41 Zytek, and then the #37 WR Salini, narrowly ahead of the first of the two Racing Box Lolas, Bobbi's #30 car in fourth.

Cavailhes in the Ibanez Courage is so distracted by the battle for the overall lead that he ploughs straight on at Turn 4 and buries the #28 in the deepest area of gravel. The leaders press on regardless, but there may be a safety car.

That battle is becoming more intense as Tinseau in the #16 Pescarolo narrows the gap on Charouz in the leading 007 Aston to less than half a second.

Tommy is maintaining his half-minute lead over the second-placed car, although this is now Bobbi in the #30 Lola. The #41 Ginetta-Zytek has fallen back to third.

Charouz pits from the lead, handing the position to Tinseau . . . . who has Tommy chasing him along the main straight.

Tommy has opened out his lead to forty seconds, but is aware that there's a scheduled pitstop coming up shortly. The RML Lola is holding 10th overall.

Exactly on the hour, Tommy enters the pitlane for a full driver change, refuel and fresh tyres. Apart from a TV cameraman getting in the way of the refuelling hose, it all goes well, and Mike is soon being strapped into the cockpit. Then, just as Mike's about to leave, the Ferrari in the pit alongside comes in to pit as well, but a small fire develops. The crew is fast to apply the extinguisher, but the cloud of white powder delays Mikes departure.

Mike back out onto the track, but is soon complaining of a misfire. He hasn't got half-way round the track before a cloud of smoke starts to envelop the rear of the car. He confirms the misfire is getting worse, but the team advises him to press on and try to get back to the garage. The telemetry reveals problems with the engine, but as yet undetermined.

Mike has pulled over to the side of the track. The car's race is over.

A full explanation for the engine failure is unlikely to be forthcoming until the unit can be fully dismantled and examined, but the previously suspected crankcase or piston failure remains the most likely. Comment from Thomas Erdos and Mike Newton to follow - see press release.

There are high resolution images posted in the Barcelona Gallery.

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