LOLA RECORD ITS BEST EVER FINISH IN THE LE MANS SERIES
On Sunday 14 September 2008, Lola sportscars ended the 2008 Le Mans Series in fine style at Silverstone with the Huntingdon-based constructor celebrating its best ever finish when the Charouz Lola-Aston Martin came home in 2nd place.
Silverstone saw the climax to a stunning debut season with the Lola B08/60 LMP1 Coupe for the Charouz Racing System team. Following a podium place at Barcelona in April and a superb 8th overall at the Le Mans 24 Hours in March, the V12 powered Lola fought with the newly crowned diesel powered Audi's during the Silverstone 1000kms, eventually finishing a creditable runner up in the 195 lap race, that was attended by over 50,000 people during the weekend. German driver Stefan Mucke, started the race and ran a close 4th in the early stages. The Lola-Aston Martin stayed in touch with the leading runners who soon fell away after hitting trouble due to various accidents. After the team cleverly took the opportunity to fill up with fuel during a safety car period, Jan Charouz took over and led the race for a time before losing out to one of the Audi R10's at the next pit stop, again conducted under a caution period. However, Charouz lapped competitively and remained right behind the title contender, showing the eye catching pace of the Lola that has consistently proved to be the only true challenger to the works Audi and Peugeot teams this season. Jan Charouz, who at just 21 has proved to be one of the up and coming young talents of the LMS, even survived some contact with a GT car.
"We not only confirmed the fact that we are fastest petrol car today but we also beat three turbo diesels as they made various mistakes," said a delighted Jan Charouz at the end of the race. "We put in consistent lap times and it was a very important result for us. One slower car damaged the bodywork when I was overtaking him but fortunately it was not a serious problem. It was one of the biggest races for me and I am very happy."
Lola also celebrated a podium position in the LMP2 class with the Quifel-ASM Lola B05/40-AER taking third position. Olivier Pla showed some searing pace in the Portuguese run Lola, starting the race and completing a memorable triple stint, running in contention with the podium positioned cars in the early stages. Miguel Amaral took over the driver responsibilities in the middle portion of the race and despite a collision with the Embassy run LMP2 car of IRL driver Darren Manning, he handed back over to Olivier Pla. The Frenchman came home in 4th place in class but the impressive Quifel-ASM team were elevated to 3rd place when the other Embassy car of Jonny Kane and Warren Hughes was penalised for exiting the pit lane on a red light. The podium marked another excellent result for Antonio Simoes team who now will look forward to the 2009 season and a fresh challenge in sportscars.
A highly creditable 4th place in LMP2 was the all-new RML MG-Lola LMP2 Coupe of Tommy Erdos and Mike Newton. After just a few hours of testing at Snetterton last week the familiar red, white and blue liveried sportscar used the race weekend as an extended test but were very happy with the way the car ran on its way to more points, ensuring that the reigning LMS champions finished equal 4th in the LMP2 points standings. Running without any significant technical problems all weekend, the MG-Lola will now enter an intense winter of testing to ensure that that it will be in prime position to re-capture the LMP2 title in 2009.
"Developing what is in effect a new car, does take time," said an excited Mike Newton over the weekend at Silverstone. "But we're gathering the data, and learning more and more, and that is what we will carry forward from this weekend. Preparing for next season was always our main objective behind being here."
Speedy Racing Team Sebah had a disappointing end to a race that had promised so much throughout the weekend. Proving to be the second quickest LMP2 entry during the race, the Lola B08/80 was placed a close second in class and a brilliant 5th overall at one stage until an accident took it out the 1000kms event. Xavier Pompidou qualified the Lola LMP2 Coupe third on the LMP2 grid and got a fantastic start to sit a comfortable 2nd in the opening two hours. However, in the third hour Pompidou tangled with the GT Lamborghini driven by Roman Rusinov and hit the wall at Woodcote Corner.
"I do not understand why he did not let me overtake him," said an angry Pompidou after the race. "I flashed the light for half a lap but he (Rusinov) was ignoring the blue flags, he touched me four times before we arrived on the straight lane. I am really disappointed and it is really a shame, as we were heading for a very good result."
Kruse Schiller scored their second consecutive finish at Silverstone and grabbed 2 points after being classified 7th in LMP2. Hideki Noda and Jean De Pourtales ran cleanly all race in the Mazda powered Lola B05/40 to add to their points tally gained at Spa in May. The German run team are also looking to race at the forthcoming Petit Le Mans and Laguna Seca races in the American Le Mans Series to ensure they have more miles under their belts before a full campaign in 2009.
2008 has seen Lola sportscars claim to be the fastest customer proposition on the grid in LMP1. In LMP2 the Speedy Racing Team Sebah Coupe has also been the only consistent threat to the Porsche Spyders. With Lola engineers now entering an intense period of improvements and updates at its Huntingdon based headquarters, both existing and new teams to Lola will now be looking forward to an even more successful 2009 racing season. The next sportscar action for Lola is at the Petit Le Mans 10 hour race at Road Atlanta on October 5. Another new LMP2 Coupe will be racing there with the BK Motorsport Mazda team in action.