Mans Series 2011
Team RLR Finish Fifth in Season Opener
Issued April 5th 2011
Five for Team RLR at Le Castellet
Team RLR collected its best Le Mans Series result to date
as the Lancashire-based outfit claimed fifth place in the
LMP2 class at the Six Hours of Le Castellet today (Sunday).
Drivers Simon Phillips, Barry Gates and Rob Garofall enjoyed
a superb run over 174 laps to steer the Judd-powered MG
Lola EX265 to finish ninth overall from 34 starters at
the Circuit Paul Ricard in the south of France.
Team RLR travelled to the opening round of the 2011 Le
Mans Series season confident it had a reliable car and
driver package after constructive testing in pre-season.
However, with much talk in the paddock of the new 2011
regulations perhaps upsetting the balance of the field
too much, it remained to be seen how much the performance
breaks offered to the new cost-capped cars would affect
the outcome of the race.
was of particular concern to Team RLR as it fielded one
of only three non ‘cost-capped’ cars
in the LMP2 class, along with 2010 Le Mans 24hrs class
winners Strakka Racing HPD and defending Le Mans Series
LMP2 titleholders RML HPD.
Despite the concern about straight line speed, the first
qualifying session of the 2011 season on Saturday saw Rob
Garofall place the Dunlop shod MG Lola EX265 12th on the
grid of 34 entries.
Making it into the top third of the field proved to be
vital, as come the rolling start on Sunday confusion reigned
and a number of GT class runners collided after seeing
green lights when the safety car was still out at the head
of the pack.
Team RLR’s Simon Phillips,
behind the wheel of the MG Lola for the start of an LMS
race for the first time, was well ahead of the carnage
and escaped unscathed.
Phillips enjoyed a solid first stint and showed good consistency,
until his rhythm was disrupted near the end of his run
when he lost the power steering on the MG Lola. Despite
the strain of having to manhandle the prototype sports
car around the high speed circuit for half a dozen laps
he put in an outstanding shift to bring it back into the
box for Barry Gates seventh in class and in ninth overall.
After the team reset the systems on the car during the
driver change over the power steering problem was solved
for Gates returning to the fray. However, he had only just
hit the track and started settling into the MG Lola when
the engine unexpectedly cut out, costing him precious time
as he tried to fire it up. It did power up again though
and Gates went on to turn in arguably his best performance
in the MG Lola to date, posting a series of consistently
quick times and guiding the car to sixth in class and eighth
overall by the end of his stint.
Garofall took on the responsibility for closing out the
six hour race for Team RLR, and once again underlined
his value to the team. As well as being on the pace from
the off he also kept it tidy and managed traffic exceptionally
well, climbing to fifth in class while enjoying swapping
positions with RML’s Ben Collins (aka ‘The
Stig’) either side of pit stops. LMP1 cars moving
back up through the field after recovering from problems
earlier in the race meant Garofall was moved back into
ninth overall, but he ran to the end of the race on a very
light fuel load to claim a superb fifth place in the LMP2
class in Team RLR’s first competitive outing at Le
result exceeded the pre-race expectations of the team,
who had expected the long-straights of Circuit Paul Ricard
to prove troublesome by highlighting the MG Lola’s
relative lack of top end speed compared to the newer cost-capped
the solid start to the 2011 Le Mans Series season is
a major boost to Team RLR as it looks to establish itself
as a respected presence in the world’s premier
endurance racing series.
The next round of the championship takes place at the
famous Spa Francorchamps circuit in Belgium on May 5-7.
Nick Reynolds, Team RLR team principal, said:
"I’m absolutely delighted with that result. We expected
a tough start to the season but the whole team worked really
well together and we pretty much had trouble free weekend.
If we continue to make progress with developing the car’s
setup and finding some more power we’ll be fine for
the rest of the season.”
Barry Gates, Team RLR driver, said:
“I think everyone has done an excellent job this
weekend. The car lacked a little bit of power compared
to the some of the competition due to the regulations,
which I believe will be changed after this race. However,
fifth place in class and ninth overall from 34 starters
is a good performance I think. We had a couple of small
niggles but overall we had a very pleasing weekend and
start to the season. This was the circuit that we expected
to suit us least of all on the calendar, so we can hopefully
use this result as a platform to build on as we go forward.”
Rob Garofall, Team RLR driver, said:
“It was great to be out there with such high quality
opposition and come away with a good result which the whole
team can be proud of. We were the second of the ‘old’ LMP2
cars after Strakka, who are a very experienced team, so
it was a good job all round. It proves that all the hard
work that began at the tail end of last season and what
we did in testing over the winter break has been worth
it and now we are really here on merit. To finish where
we did gives us great reason for optimism for the rest
of the championship.”
Simon Phillips, Team RLR driver, said:
"I really enjoyed that, even though it was hard work after
the power steering went near the end of my stint! I didn’t
really see what happened at the start as it was all behind
me, I caught a glimpse of some dust and debris flying up
into the air, but I was concentrating on making a good
getaway myself. It’s a great circuit and the corners
are very fluid so you can really build up a good flow between
them. Everyone played their part in an excellent start
to the season so now we can look forward to going to Spa
high resolution images from the test, visit the Paul
Ricard Race Weekend Gallery.
To find out more about Team RLR and its Le Mans Series
campaign log on to: www.rlrmotorsport.com
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