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Race Report 01 - Still in the Hunt. June 16th 2007

RML Still in the Hunt

Despite a series of mishaps, the RML MG Lola EX264 is still in the race, thanks wholly to an extraordinary team effort from the pit crew.

At 18:55, during Andy Wallace’s first stint, the MG was pitched into the tyre wall at the beginning of the Porsche Curves. The exact cause has yet to be determined, but the impact was heavy, twisting the car around and effectively damaging all four corners. “The car just snapped away from me,” said Wallace. “There was absolutely nothing I could do. At first I thought we were out of the race, the damage looked so bad.” Hauled free of the gravel by the marshals, Andy was able to establish that the car might still be driveable. The engine fired up easily and he began the slow crawl back to the pitlane.

The journey took Andy 13 minutes. Unable to steer effectively, and with the engine temperature rising steadily, it was only thanks to his skill and mechanical understanding that the MG was brought back to the pitlane without further damage.

The car arrived outside the garage at 19:08, and the engineers and mechanics set-to straight away in affecting a full repair. All but two of the original body panels were beyond immediate use, including both sections of undertray, the sidepods, engine cover and main front panel. Over the course of the next 50 minutes the team rebuilt both front suspension assemblies completely, as well as checked, replaced or overhauled the cooling system, front brakes and a number of ancillary components. By half-past seven the car was coming back together again, and at 19:56 the engine could be restarted and the wheels once again touched the floor.

The teamwork displayed by the RML crew was exemplary. Although carried out at a remarkable speed, all the work was executed with characteristic thoroughness. Despite the noise of the race continuing outside, there was almost total silence within the garage: members of the crew working methodically through their tasks.

At eight o’clock exactly, just 65 minutes after Andy Wallace made contact with the tyre wall, Mike Newton was being strapped into the MG’s cockpit, the car had been refuelled, and he was heading back out onto the circuit. The delay had cost the #25 MG eighteen laps, and the car now stood “dead last”, as Ray Mallock observed.

Earlier in his stint, at about five o’clock, Andy had experienced a total loss of power from the MG’s AER turbocharged engine. Once again, his experience of 18 previous Le Mans races paid dividends. Able to identify the fault, he switched to an auxiliary crank trigger system, restarted the engine, and returned to the pitlane. A quick check revealed no further problems, and he was able to continue the race.

At one stage the #25 MG EX264 had been lying second in LMP2. It currently stands 9th, 46th overall, with Mike Newton having made up four positions.

A high resolution gallery is now posted.