RML lose title in closing minutes
In one of the cruelest and most extraordinary twists of fate, Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos were robbed of the Le Mans Series LMP2 championship title at the very last gasp. Six minutes short of a six-hour race, when the RML MG Lola EX264 they share was standing sixth overall, second in class, the AER turbocharged engine seized. This at the conclusion to a season when niggling bad luck has consistently plagued the team, with third-party incidents, punctures and freak mechanical failures repeatedly denying them the high-placed finishes their pace and performance so richly deserved.
Thomas Erdos, driving the final stint at Jarama in Spain, coasted the MG to a halt out on the circuit, head slumped in the cockpit, unable to grasp the immensity of what was happening behind him. Despite having covered a whole lap more of the 3.8 km circuit than the Kruse Motorsport Courage, which subsequently crossed the line in second place, the failure of the MG to take the chequered flag rendered the finish unclassified. With that, the championship lead of just three points that he and Mike Newton had carried through to this final round was insufficient to maintain their tenuous grasp on the title. Instead, the individual driver honours fall to the Iberian duo of Angel Burgueno and Miguel de Castro, class winners at Jarama today in the ASM Lola B05/40. The team title goes to the Barazi Epsilon squad and their Courage C65, fourth in class in Spain, 18 laps down on the MG's total of 220.
There is little consolation in the fact that RML ends the year as runner-up once again in the team table, although by doing so the squad secures its second automatic entry to the Le Mans 24 Hours for 2007. Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos, having missed out on the driver's title in 2005 by a single point, conclude their 2006 campaign by sharing third place.
As the team has tended to do all season, RML dominated the LMP2 category at Jarama. Fastest in every session of practice, Erdos then secured his sixth successive pole in qualifying. In the race itself, with so much at stake, the team elected to make a cautious start and take no undue risks. Even so, Erdos maintained a rapid pace throughout his opening double-stint and was able to hand over the MG to Mike Newton in fifth place overall, second in class. In a near-faultless middle stint, Newton maintained this calm, steady yet determined approach, returning the MG to his Brazilian co-driver in sixth position overall and easily retaining second in LMP2.
With a generous advantage over any third-placed rival, Erdos simply had to complete the final hour and a half. With ten minutes to go that result looked comfortably secure, with the MG running once again in sixth overall, second in class. Then, almost within sight of the flag, the first tell-tale signs of smoke from the rear of the car told the incredible story.
The whole team was devastated by the result, a mix of emotions ranged from abject disappointment to disbelief and anger.