RML's sportscar team bought the MG Lola EX257 home in 5th position in class today in the 4th and final round of the Le Mans Endurance Series at Spa, Belgium. With over 1000km of the challenging circuit complete Tommy Erdos, Mike Newton and Miguel Ramos all drove strong double stints in an incident filled race to secure the MG's best result this year.
Saturday's two qualifying sessions were carried out with changeable weather conditions and several red flags, but each of the teams three drivers improved their lap times to record the MG's highest grid position this year. In the closing stages of the second qualifying session Tommy set a time of 2:07:351, only 1.38 seconds behind the pole sitting Zytek, to secure 5th position on the grid.
Tommy took the start of the race and a good run off the line saw him immediately gain 4th position. The bigger capacity of the other LMP1 cars' engines proved superior on the run up the hill to Les Combes however and the MG soon dropped back to 6th. Gaining a place during the first safety car period Tommy ran in 5th position until the dramatic exit of the No. 8 Audi bought the safety car back out. Pitting slightly early the team gave him fresh tyres as a precaution as the track was now littered with debris.
The changeable weather continued and with rain now falling heavier Tommy was forced to pit for a second tyre change. Rejoining in 11th position on wet tyres he drove a competitive second stint and climbed his way through traffic. Gaining places consistently he bought the MG in from 4th position for Mike to take over.
Mike had soon climbed up to 3rd position where he lapped consistently throughout his first stint. Yet another safety car period enabled him to pit for fuel where he rejoined retaining 3rd place. He made his way through the traffic cautiously as there was still debris on the track before he began to pick up the pace. Running in a very strong 3rd position for 22 laps Mike maintained a consistent pace before another incident bought the safety car back out on track, this time enabling the 4th place Zytek to regain a lap and close up on the MG. Still struggling a little with straight-line speed the MG couldn't hold off the challenging Zytek and dropped back to 4th.
Pitting from 4th position Mike handed the car over to Miguel with just over 1½ hours of the race remaining. Miguel soon began to gather pace and lapped competitively in 4th position before a bad vibration forced him to pit with a suspected puncture. On fresh tyres he rejoined in 5th position before again climbing up to 4th.
He continued to lap competitively and gained a 28-second lead on his nearest rival. With his first pit stop falling before the planned race strategy Miguel began to back off the pace to conserve fuel. It wasn't enough for him to run to the finish however and with six minutes of the race remaining he was forced to pit for a 'splash and dash' fuel stop. Without a big enough time advantage however he lost two places on rejoining and crossed the line in 6th position overall.
Tommy Erdos commented "I had a very good start and managed to stay out of trouble in the opening laps. We were lacking in straight-line speed which was unfortunate because otherwise we were still in touch with the leaders and the car was very reliable".
Mike Newton commented "I had a very enjoyable race and although battling with traffic after each safety car I was pleased to maintain 3rd place for a full stint. This circuit is very challenging with all the elevation changes and it's great to drive the prototype here."
Miguel Ramos commented "The car felt very good and its disappointing not to finish in 4th place which we more than deserved. I had problems with radio contact throughout the race and was unlucky to have to pit so early. I have really enjoyed driving the MG this year and will hopefully continue with prototypes next year".
Phil Barker, Team Manager commented "The safety cars worked for and against us this weekend. The team worked well with the changing conditions and we had to continually change our race strategy. The unscheduled stop cost us 4th place which is disappointing as we were in a good position and the car was running very strongly".