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Le Mans 24 Hours 2008
Le Mans Qualifying - June 12th 2008

RML Looking Comfortable for Le Mans 24 Hours

The RML MG Lola EX265 will line up sixth in class for Saturday’s start to the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours, with Thomas Erdos setting a time of 3:40.027 on very second-hand rubber and a full race set-up. “We did that time with old tyres – really old tyres – and a full tank of fuel. Given a chance on qualifiers, I think we could easily have dipped into the low thirty-sevens,” said Erdos. “Clearly, the grid position we will occupy doesn’t reflect the true pace of the car, but it places us in a strong position, knowing that we’re quick enough to cope with all the cars around us.”

An accident during the first of Wednesday’s two qualifying sessions had cost the team dearly in terms of track-time, and with a priority to ensure that all three drivers achieved their regulatory minimums, the team’s serious attempt at a fast lap had to be postponed until Thursday. Having set his time of 3:40, Erdos had been preparing for a run on qualifying rubber, with a suitable fuel load, when the session was red flagged and then terminated early.

“Going for a qualifying run after the break would have compromised our second session plan,” explained Adam Wiseberg, Motorsport Director for AD Group. “However, we’re confident in the knowledge that there is much more pace in the car than we’ve demonstrated today. Allowing Tommy to have a run on qualifying tyres might have achieved a more representative time, but we now know that we’re in excellent shape for the race.”

Phil Barker, RML’s Team Manager, was happy with the situation. “We didn’t get the chance to run on soft tyres, but we’re not concerned about that. Even if we’d found three or four more seconds, which certainly looked on the cards, it would not have changed our strategy for the race. It was more important to give the other two drivers more time in the car, and they tell us we’ve created a well-balanced car that’s easy to drive. In the long term scheme of things, that’s more important.”

There is recognition that the MG Lola, which claimed pole at Le Mans in 2006, is no longer the swiftest car in the LMP2 category, but it enjoys a well-proven record for reliability and as an inspiring driver’s car. In a twenty-four hour race, these qualities generously compensate for any lack of outright pace. “I know that I’m comfortable with the car, and the longer I stayed out there, the more confident I felt,” said Mike Newton, who set the fastest lap he has ever recorded round the Le Mans circuit on Thursday evening. 2008 will be his sixth Le Mans start.

Sharing the car with Le Mans Series regulars Erdos and Newton is Andy Wallace. This same driver combination won the LMP2 class at Le Mans in 2006, and is now looking for a third win for RML in four years. “We’re more-or-less where we expected to be,” suggested Wallace, “and we’re quite happy with that. I was particularly pleased to string together a lengthy run of fast race-pace laps in the final hour, carrying out fuel and gearbox tests that complete the data collection process that we’d had planned for these sessions.”

Ray Mallock, founder of RML, was in confident mood. “Apart from missing out on the qualifying run because of the red flag, everything has gone to plan today. That’s been very satisfying, and I believe we’re in a strong position now for the race.”

The team’s next duty is to lead out the drivers’ parade through the centre of Le Mans on Friday evening, where RML’s trio will spearhead a tribute to Lola, celebrating 50 years of race car construction in 2008, and also as a mark of respect to the late David Leslie, who not only owned and raced Lola cars, but was also an RML driver for many years. “This is a great tribute to David,” said Thomas Erdos, “and I’m both humbled and delighted to be part of this acknowledgment to what he did for motorsport, and to Lola’s immense heritage as a sportscar manufacturer. It’s a great honour to lead out the parade.” The Grande Parade begins at 6:00pm on Friday evening.

Please visit the high resolution gallery for images from Le Mans 2008