LOLA SPORTSCARS KICK START 2008 SEASON AT RICARD TEST Six Lola Le Mans Prototype sportscars were in action at the LMS Paul Ricard test in the South of France on Sunday and Monday of this week (2&3 March). All eyes were firmly fixed on Lola's ...
LOLA SPORTSCARS KICK START 2008 SEASON AT RICARD TEST
Six Lola Le Mans Prototype sportscars were in action at the LMS Paul Ricard test in the South of France on Sunday and Monday of this week (2&3 March). All eyes were firmly fixed on Lola's all-new LMP1 and LMP2 Coupes, which included a track debut for the Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola LMP2 entry. The Hugh Hayden led Speedy Sebah team enjoyed a good initial shakedown test in the South of France with Andrea Belicchi, Xavier Pompidou, Robbie Kerr and Steve Zacchia all driving the Judd powered Lola.
This was the very first LMP2 Coupe to hit the racetrack and despite the car build having only been completed late last week the Lola B08/80 impressed Belicchi, who said: "The Lola was very easy to drive, there's a lot of assistance for the driver and the downforce is beautiful. My first feeling is that it's a very nice car." The Speedy Sebah team are set to name their driver line up in the coming weeks and will undertake a more detailed test at Magny Cours shortly.
The LMP2 Coupe's bigger brother, the Lola B08/60 LMP1 powered by an Aston Martin engine completed more useful laps at Paul Ricard in the hands of the Charouz Racing System team, who set the fifth fastest time of the test despite not going for an out and out quick time. Stefan Mucke was delighted with the way the team's test went and commented: "I like the car more and more. It was considerably better on all sides compared to the recent Snetterton test. Additionally, we took a further step forward here in Le Castellet. Our lap times are not important. The main thing is thorough preparation for the races."
The other Charouz entry is being run for the US based Cytosport operation, which had a useful test with all three drivers, Greg Pickett, Klaus Graf and Jan Lammers getting a lot of laps under their belts. Klaus Graf thoroughly enjoyed his first trip to the Paul Ricard track in a Lola and spoke about the changes between his US Lola-AER package and the new Lola-Judd, ex Charouz car:
"You can't compare the two Lola's and the two engines (AER and Judd) because we run so much downforce in the ALMS," pointed out Graf. "The Judd is more linear than the AER: you have to be more precise with the turbo engine, but both engines are great."
The RML team were forced to halt their test on Sunday due to a mechanical problem. Andy Wallace and Tommy Erdos completed over 45 laps in the morning but were reduced to just eleven on Sunday afternoon because of more problems. The defending LMP2 champions will be hoping to go for a double title success this year in their familiar red, white and blue LMP2 racer.
The Chamberlain-Synergy team announced at Paul Ricard that Amanda Stretton will be joining her husband Bob Berridge and 2005 LMP2 champion driver Gareth Evans in the yellow Lola LMP1 car this season for both the LMS races and the Le Mans 24 Hours. Sadly, Evans was forced to miss the test due to ill health. Berridge was delighted with progress made in his Lola-AER LMP1 and ran well during the night session. "We are two seconds quicker than last year," said Berridge. "I can run consistently as fast now as I could manage on one banzai lap here last year. The car has run like clockwork, as usual, and it's very fast in a straight line. I'm passing LMP1s past the pits, before the first corner and we're faster than anything else, including Audis in a straight line."
The Quifel-ASM Lola LMP2 car had recently tested at Estoril and ran throughout both days with new drivers Guy Smith and Olivier Pla. Smith was back in a Lola LMP2 for the first time since Istanbul in 2005 when he qualified the very same car a sensational 5th overall. The Dunlop shod Lola finished the test just 0.6 seconds off the best Porsche Spyder time in the LMP2 class.
The first race of the 2008 Le Mans Series is at Barcelona on 6 April, when at least six Lola sportscars will be on the entry list in both LMP1 and LMP2 classes. 2008 marks the 50th anniversary year for Lola. During the last half a century the marque has manufactured almost 4000 competitive cars, recording more race and championship wins than any other racing car manufacturer in the world, including victories for famous models like the T70, T332 and T292. In recent years Lola has taken four consecutive LMP2 titles at the Le Mans 24 Hours between 2004 and 2007. The Huntingdon based constructor was also the first to have both an LMP1 and LMP2 design to hit the track for the coming sportscar season.