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Wednesday Qualifying - Down to the Wire. June 13th 2007

RML Take it to the Wire on Day One

The current LMP2 champions endured a troubled first day of qualifying for the 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours, but Andy Wallace pulled out all the stops for the MG EX264’s one and only flying lap, right at the end of the day. His best of 3:49.217 was enough to draw the RML entry clear of the GT1 field and into sixth position in class.

From the outset Thomas Erdos had been aware of a steering imbalance, and brought the car back at the end of his very first lap. While others were enjoying the best of the daylight conditions, the Brazilian was forced to sit patiently in the cockpit as the team endeavoured to source the problem. Initially believing that a faulty damper was the culprit, efforts were made to address this, but time was slipping by. The situation was compounded by the unfortunate red-flag incident involving the #53 Lambourghini, followed by a sudden worsening in the weather. With the #25 lying next-to-last on the timing screens, the team entered the mid-session break with a genuine concern that the MG might be starting the 75th Le Mans 24 Hours from the back of the grid.

The team’s strategy changed for the second period, with the sole intent being to ensure that all three drivers fulfilled their three-lap “night” driving requirement. Thomas Erdos completed his trio, and was followed by Mike Newton. The MG EX264 performed faultlessly, and both drivers were setting times that were well in line with the best in LMP2, for the prevailing damp conditions. Andy Wallace stepped aboard as the track began to dry, and was offered slick tyres. His first lap went well, but part-way through his second, the steering issue revealed itself again. He pitted immediately. This time the nature of the malfunction had revealed the true cause, and the team affected a rapid repair.

With little more than five minutes remaining Andy headed back out on track. He had time enough for just one flying lap, and he made it count. At one stage he was two seconds up and looked set for a 3:47, before meeting a white-flagged car in the Porsche Curves. There was considerable relief in the RML garage when he crossed the line. “That was a tremendous lap,” enthused Adam Wiseberg, Motorsport Director for AD Holdings. “Andy had no real time in the car at all before that, but he pulled it out of the bag. It’s nice to know that, whatever happens tomorrow, we’re ahead of the GT1s. Hopefully that’s all our little niggles sorted out before the race.”

Andy’s co-drivers were equally relieved. “I’m happy that we found the problem,” said Thomas Erdos. “Now it’s fixed we only need a small dry window tomorrow and perhaps we can improve. What Andy did with a single flying lap was stunning. He really showed his class today.”

Mike Newton was pleased to have completed his night laps. “It was an evening of frustrating teething problems,” he said, “and I’m glad they’re all ironed out.”

Phil Barker identified the fault as being a “slight movement in the steering rack that we were able to find second time around. It’s a bitter-sweet taste, but I’m pleased to have found the problem today, and not taken it forward into the race.”

Top LMP2 Times (Wednesday)

Pos No. Overall Team Driver Car
15 Barazi Epsilon Adrian Fernandez Zytek 07S LMP1
17 Quifel ASM Miguel de Castro Lola B05/40 AER
18 Binnie Motorsports Allan Timpany Lola B05/40 Zytek
19 Bruichladdich Radical Robin Liddell Radical SR9
20 Barazi Epsilon Michael Vergers Zytek 07S LMP1
21 RML Andy Wallace MG Lola EX264
22 Saulnier Racing Bruce Jouanny Courage LC75
25 Pierre Bruneau Marc Rostan Pilbeam MP93
28 Kruse Motorsport Norbert Siedler Pescarolo C60 Judd
36 Noel Del Bello Vitaly Petrov Courage LC75
54 T2M Motorsport Yamagishi Dome Mader S101

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