Catalunya: Lola weekend summary

ALL-NEW LOLA COUPES STUN SPORTSCAR WORLD AT BARCELONA The new Lola LMP Coupes made stunning debuts at the Barcelona Le Mans Series race on Sunday with each of the Huntingdon built LMP cars securing podium positions. The Charouz Racing System...

ALL-NEW LOLA COUPES STUN SPORTSCAR WORLD AT BARCELONA

The new Lola LMP Coupes made stunning debuts at the Barcelona Le Mans Series race on Sunday with each of the Huntingdon built LMP cars securing podium positions.

The Charouz Racing System Lola B08/60, powered by Aston Martin, rocked the sportscar world with its pace during both qualifying and the race where it competed with the Audi and Peugeot diesel powered cars. Qualifying in fourth place, Stefan Mucke soon surged through to third position overall in the early exchanges after overtaking Minassian's Peugeot. The German driver then proceeded to hold on to the leading pair of Pedro Lamy's Peugeot and the Audi R10 of Allan McNish. The Michelin shod Lola then drove a trouble free and impressively quick six hour race with Mucke's team mate, Jan Charouz, also doing a superb job at the wheel to clinch third place overall.

The only incident during the event for the Charouz team was when Mucke made brief contact with the GT Ferrari of Rob Bell at the quick final right hand corner on to the pit straight. However, the Lola showed it was strong as well as fast and continued untroubled, eventually setting its fastest lap of the race at 1m35.531s. This time was just over two tenths of a second slower than the second placed Audi R10 diesel.

"Simply fantastic, I do not think that other words are needed," said Stefan Mucke. "It is unbelievable how everything worked. Our team was good even during our debut season but we have moved forward. I did not have any single problem during the race, the Lola was working faultlessly. I can not wait for the next race at Monza!"

The Speedy Racing Team Sebah squad were just as impressive in LMP2 with Xavier Pompidou starting their first ever LMP2 event from second on the grid. The Judd engined Lola, which comfortably double stinted its Michelin tyres throughout the race, led the class at the midway stage. However a small delay after an incident with the Team Modena Aston Martin GT1 car and a separate brief clash with the Lamy/Sarrazin Peugeot meant that the Van Merksteijn Porsche eventually took the spoils.

With a fastest race lap identical to the Porsche driven by former Grand Prix star Jos Verstappen the Lola B08/80 LMP2 showed some searing pace despite having just two days of serious testing under its belt. Andrea Belicchi and Steve Zacchia joined Pompidou on the driving strength and the latter of this trio was enthused by his new Lola mount, saying: "Compared to cars I have driven recently this is fantastic, the levels of grip, and the speed through the corners, are wonderful. I'm just now beginning to explore the real limits."

Speaking of the success in the race, Lola Executive Chairman, Martin Birrane said: "My sincere congratulations to Charouz Racing System and Speedy Racing team Sebah on their excellent debut performances at Barcelona yesterday. By happy co-incidence the Charouz Lola Coupe was the 50th sportscar to be sold during my ownership, so that is a nice story for us as we celebrate our 50th year as a constructor. The results were a testament to our long-term vision in global sportscar racing and to the top class technical capabilities at our base in Huntingdon, UK."

"It was an enormous boost to find the V12 Aston Martin engine mated so well to the Lola B08/60 Coupe chassis. To be mixing it among the manufacturer cars already bodes very well for the rest of the season. Looking further ahead the effects of a potential diesel engined Lola Coupe on the sportscar grid can be imagined and we sincerely hope that this can become a reality sooner rather than later."

REIGNING CHAMPIONS SCORE POINTS FOR TITLE DEFENCE

The reigning champions in LMP2, RML scored points with a 4th place in class as Mike Newton and Tommy Erdos recovered from a problematic practice session. The MG powered Lola has had significant updates added to its powerplant over the winter and the team expects continued improvements at the next race in Monza on April 27th.

Chamberlain Synergy returned to the LMS for their fourth consecutive season in a Lola with Bob Berridge and Gareth Evans finishing 9th in the LMP1 class. Driving the AER powered Lola, the team were forced to pit to repair a legalising panel but managed to do this in just under a minute. The Hugh Chamberlain led team took the chequered flag despite driver Evans battling illness during the race as well as further delays caused by gear selection problems.

Quifel-ASM showed their pace all weekend with former GP2 front runner Olivier Pla making an impact in his first sportscar race. The Portuguese team started the race well but lost time due to accident damage to their rear tie-rod which necessitated a replacement. However, Pla and team mate Miguel Amaral completed the race and finished 9th in class.

Kruse-Schiller Motorsport arrived at Barcelona with very little testing time achieved in their ex Fernandez Racing Lola B07/40-Mazda. Hideki Noda started the race for the popular German team but persistent water leaks ensured that he and his team mate Jean De Pourtales were forced to retire from the race in the fourth hour of the six hour enduro.

All of Lola's sportscar entrants will be back in action at Monza in three weeks time. With more running time gained from the opening race of the season the new Lola Coupes expect to be quicker on the flat out sweeps of the famous Italian Grand Prix venue.

-credit: lola

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Series European Le Mans
Drivers Jos Verstappen , Allan McNish , Pedro Lamy , Hideki Noda , Xavier Pompidou , Mike Newton , Olivier Pla , Bob Berridge , Miguel Amaral , Gareth Evans , Steve Zacchia , Martin Birrane , Stefan Mücke , Jan Charouz , Andrea Belicchi