Paul Ricard HTTT
- RML had electrical issue in qualifying
- Team replies to sandbagging claims
- Erdos to start last on the grid
RML AD Group Out of Time
RML AD Group HPD, Le Mans Series 2011. Qualifying, Round 1. Photo: David Stephens A challenging two days came to a head for RML AD Group in qualifying for Round 1 of the 2011 Le Mans Series on the Paul Ricard Circuit at Le Castellet, near Marseilles.
The team is investigating the cause now, and we'll know much more later
The team's HPD ARX-01d failed to set a time in qualifying for this weekend's Six Heures du Castellet after an intermittent electrical fault starved the engine of fuel. Brazilian Thomas Erdos was just starting his first flying lap when the problem arose, and despite his best efforts, was forced back to the pitlane. The engineers worked hard to trace the fault, but the session ended before the car could rejoin the track.
"We had an electrical issue and failed to set a time," said Phil Barker, Team Manager at RML with characteristic directness. "As a result we'll be starting from the back of the grid, and Tommy will have to work extra hard to battle his way through."
"I'd completed my out lap, and was early into my first proper lap when there was a low fuel pressure warning, and then the engine cut out. The team is investigating the cause now, and we'll know much more later," confirmed Thomas Erdos. "I've got the best team in the paddock behind me, and I'm sure they'll sort it out, and from that point of view, I'm remaining optimistic."
The team has been a focus of speculation following an unexpected lack of pace in the official pre-season testing at Le Castellet three weeks previously. That was compounded by three sessions of Free Practice this weekend during which the RML car, together with the similar Strakka Racing HPD, proved unable to match the pace of the other competitors in the class. This situation exists despite the fact that RML is the defending Le Mans Series LMP2 titleholder, and Strakka Racing won the class at Le Mans in 2010.
"The lack of pace is an issue," admits Ben Collins, co-driver of the RML HPD with Thomas Erdos and Mike Newton. "The HPD was the fastest car in the class last year, but as a result of the way the new regulations have been applied for 2010, it now has no pace at all. The balance of performance is totally out of kilter. We're heading into a race where we know we can overtake a GT car into a corner, but are then just as likely to lose the position again on the straight."
The team's frustration is not helped by suggestions that they are "sandbagging". "Despite rumours in blogs and on-line forums that we're running a high downforce setting in order to appear slower than we really are, that's simply not true," insists Mike Newton, CEO of AD Group. "Simple observation shows that the wing is at its lowest setting, and we cannot fit the lower downforce front aero kit except at Le Mans."
My thoughts are mainly with the guys in the team who have worked so hard over the last few weeks to prepare the car for this weekend.
The HPD chassis is homologated with two aerodynamic packages, and the lower-downforce set-up is only homologated by the ACO for use at Le Mans.
"My thoughts are mainly with the guys in the team who have worked so hard over the last few weeks to prepare the car for this weekend, and are working hard again today to resolve the electrical issue." added Ben. "They deserve so much better than this."
RML AD Group has competed in more rounds of the Le Mans Series than any other team currently contesting the Series, and Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos are the most enduring driver pairing since the first round of LMES at the Bugatti Circuit in 2003. Having won LMP2 in both the LMS and the Le Mans 24 Hours twice, and finished as runners-up in two other years, they are not easily deterred. The combined experience of the pitlane crew and team management will carry the squad through tomorrow's six-hour race, and the drivers remain optimistic for a good result.