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From the Archives - RML Team News
Daytona 2005. Issued February 12th 2005

So nearly there!

Twenty one hours and the counting stopped for Thomas Erdos, Mike Newton and the Synergy Racing Doran BMW. It had been, at times, a satisfying run for the two RML regulars and their co-driving team-mates; the two Frisselle brothers, but it all came to a premature end with transmission problems.

A relatively lowly starting position on the grid had been the team’s initial challenge, but three hours of steady running saw the red, white and blue Daytona prototype steadily gaining places, to be running just outside the top ten. Even to that stage, however, it hadn’t been a trouble-free run, but things were about to get steadily more difficult as the car encountered a succession of problems. “We had problems with drive-shafts, brakes and gearbox, which all combined to ensure we lost several laps, and that put us out of contention,” said Erdos. After that it was just a case of keeping going for as long as possible, and hoping that reliability would return. Sadly, it did not.

American Burt Frisselle had taken the race start, followed in the second stint by his younger brother Brian, with Thomas Erdos taking the third stint, and Mike Newton rounding off the quartet, before the sequence began again. “Our first delay came before even a quarter of the race had elapsed,” explained Tommy. “That dropped us to something like 42nd place. It was a problem with driveshafts.” Although the team recovered several of those places over the next couple of hours, a new problem, this time with brake pads, knocked them back again, followed by some on-track contact that necessitated a pitstop to check for damage and make some minor repairs.

Tommy’s first stint proved to be a lengthy one. “It was almost a double!” he said. A full course yellow, prompted by an accident to one of the other cars, was used as an opportunity to bring the Synergy DP back into the pitlane. “The team refuelled the car and fitted fresh tyres. I was allowed to stay in for another full stint.” Tyres were proving to be a challenge for all the teams, but Synergy had developed a strategy that appeared to be making their rubber last a little longer. “We’d found that the best way to use the tyres on the #8 Doran was to put the harder compound on the right and the softer on the left. We’d tried the soft compound on the right much earlier in the race, but they went off very quickly.” This seemed to suit the Daytona banking; a feature of what is normally an oval circuit adapted for sportscar racing by the use of infield sections, a system adopted by the Rockingham circuit in England. “We used those softer tyres on the left whenever we could, but we only had nine sets to last the whole meeting, so we were forced to use hard tyres all round sometimes.”

The team’s second major problem came in the middle of the night, during Tommy’s third stint at the wheel, and it gave him something rather special to deal with. “I lost all gears coming into Turn 1,” he explained. “The approach there is one of the fastest on the track. I tried to make the downshift, but nothing happened. I was suddenly free-wheeling towards the corner at over 180 miles an hour with no gears! I made the corner, but only just. I don’t know how I held it on the track. Eventually I was able to find fourth gear and limp back to the pits, but it was quite a moment!” It transpired that a circlip had popped loose in the gearbox and the engineers had to replace the whole gear cluster before the car, with Tommy still driving, could go racing again. “I completed my double stint, and that was the best part of the race for me. I found I was running in a “train" amongst the race leaders and, for just about the whole of that stint, I was able to set the same lap times as they were. It was very encouraging.” It didn’t last long, unfortunately. “It all looked to be going so well. I came in and refuelled, took on new rubber and headed back out again. Then, 20 to 30 minutes into the second part of that double stint, just as I was coming out of the Bus Stop chicane, the drive just disappeared. I had enough momentum to coast back to the pits, where the team diagnosed that the differential had packed up. That was the end of our race.”

To have been running so competitively at the beginning, and proven later in the race that their car, if not the fastest on the track, was still able to mix it with the best, was especially disheartening. “It was desperately disappointing for all the team,” admitted Tommy. “They’re such a good bunch, and Mike was having one of his best races ever.”

The duo is now back in the UK and preparing for the start of their next challenge; the Le Mans Endurance Series, with a first test coming up shortly in the all-new RML Lola prototype.

Daylight photos: Bob Chapman for AD Holdings. Night shot: