Spa: RML race report

RML's sportscar team today completed their second 24 hour race of the year in the FIA GT Proximus Spa 24 Hours with the Saleen S7R of Graham Nash Motorsport. The team's regular drivers Tommy Erdos and Mike Newton were joined by Michael Mallock...

RML's sportscar team today completed their second 24 hour race of the year in the FIA GT Proximus Spa 24 Hours with the Saleen S7R of Graham Nash Motorsport. The team's regular drivers Tommy Erdos and Mike Newton were joined by Michael Mallock and Phil Bennett at the wheel of the No.8 Saleen and all four drivers drove a clean race to cross the line 9th in class.

With Tommy being the only driver to set a timed lap on a dry track in Thursday's qualifying sessions before rain fell heavily it was his time of 2m19.48s that gave the No.8 Saleen a 10th position grid slot. Behind the wheel at the start of the race Tommy drove a flying first lap to climb up to 6th position. The team started the race with wet tyres which proved a good choice initially and Tommy made his way through the field up to 3rd position. The track was now drying however and he began to lose places as those competitors shod with intermediates gained an advantage. He completed a clean stint before pitting to hand over to Mike from 7th position.

Mike rejoined with the Saleen now running on slick tyres and he drove a very competitive clean stint in 9th place. He pitted for Michael to take over who also completed a trouble free stint. Michael commented "The car is running really well, it feels good and I just concentrated on keeping a consistent pace, there's a long way to go yet". He pitted for Phil to take over from 9th position.

Phil was the first driver to complete a double stint and he was behind the wheel as darkness fell. He too kept out of trouble and drove consistently, now in 8th position, before Tommy was back behind the wheel for the second time.

The night hours were free from drama for the team and Phil and Michael completed a double stint each. All four drivers drove during the dark hours and consistently kept the Saleen out of trouble and within the top 10 runners on track.

As the race progressed into Sunday morning the team had now completed two thirds of the distance trouble free. However their luck was about to change when Phil experienced what he thought was a misfire at just after 11am. He pitted for the team to investigate and a valve train rocker failure was found to be the problem. The team leapt into action and quickly replaced the rocker to get Phil back on track. One position had been lost and Phil ran in 9th to the end of his stint before handing the car back to Tommy.

As noon approached rain began to fall with Tommy at the wheel. He stayed on track on slick tyres and ran to his scheduled stop, only to experience the same symptoms as Phil as he neared the end of his last lap. The team again were quick to investigate and the valve train rocker failure had reoccurred. A replacement was fitted and Michael then rejoined the race in 12th position and completed his stint with no recurrent problems.

The closing hours of the race were now underway and rain began to fall heavily as Tommy took to the track to complete the final hour's running. Without enough time to make considerable gains on his nearest class rival he drove conservatively in the persistent rain that was now falling to cross the line 9th in class.

Tommy Erdos commented "It's been a good race, the car ran well and it was good to be behind the wheel of the Saleen again. We had a really good race in terms of it being incident free and we never had an unscheduled stop. The team did a great job to get the car ready in one week for this race"

Mike Newton commented "I'm very pleased to have an almost trouble free run after only having the car for a week. It was strange adjusting to the car initially after the Prototype but it was OK once you got into the race. We had such a reliable package and despite the engine problem had no unscheduled stops. It is very satisfying to finish another 24 hour race this year".

Phil Bennett commented "I have really enjoyed it and the car was great. The team were great to work with and made me feel welcome. It's a shame we had the engine problems as apart from that the car ran faultlessly".

Michael Mallock "It was a good race, my first 24 hour that I have finished and it feels great. I'm really pleased to be involved with and driving for the RML team again and they did a fantastic job. I am grateful to everyone involved for giving me the opportunity to drive".

Phil Barker, RML Team Manager commented "It was an amazing race, one of the very few that ran to plan. We had a couple of engine problems this morning that were soon remedied and we then pushed on to the chequered flag. The drivers and pit crew performed exceptionally well and that has enabled the team to enjoy the thrills of finishing their second 24 hour race of the year".

-rml-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Mike Newton , Phil Bennett , Michael Mallock