In Lola's 50th year seven entries all had an eventful first half of the Le Mans 24 Hours Lola sportscars had an action packed first 12 hours at the 76th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours. In sunny, but relatively cool conditions, the seven Lola ...
In Lola's 50th year seven entries all had an eventful first half of the Le Mans 24 Hours Lola sportscars had an action packed first 12 hours at the 76th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours. In sunny, but relatively cool conditions, the seven Lola entries took the start of the world's toughest endurance race at 15.00 hrs local time, on Saturday 14 June.
It was in the second hour that the drama began for two of the Huntingdon built sportscars. Greg Pickett driving the Charouz/Cytosport run Lola B07/10-Judd collided with the RML Lola-MG LMP2 car driven by Tommy Erdos at the first Mulsanne Chicane, damaging the two times LMP2 champions and necessitating a lengthy pit stop for repairs. Pickett's Lola had minor damage but continued, although they soon experienced another spin in the hands of Klaus Graf. However, the Muscle Milk sponsored Lola ran well inside the top 20. Sadly the car was retired just before midnight after suffering an engine failure whilst behind the safety car.
The Charouz Racing System Lola-Aston Martin took its impressive qualifying performance in to the race with Stefan Mucke lapping quickly in the opening hour. Holding 6th place in the opening stages, the German handed over to Jan Charouz who suffered the misfortune of an accident early in his first stint at the Dunlop chicane. The young Czech Republic driver managed to get the badly damaged Lola B08/60 Coupe to the pits where it lost significant time during repairs. Some terrific work by the Charouz team ensured that a tenacious fight back took place and by the half distance the Lola LMP1 Coupe was back in the top ten of LMP1 and 13th overall.
Undoubtedly the star of the Lola show was the Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola B08/80 LMP2. At the midway point the all-new Lola B08/80 Judd was in a comfortable 3rd place in LMP2 with a relatively trouble free first half of the race. A puncture and a loose drinks bottle in the cockpit was its only delay until 2.30am, when Xavier Pompidou pitted with an electrical issue that affected the gear shifting. Approximately 10 laps were lost but Pompidou returned to the track in 5th place in class.
Quifel-ASM was one place ahead of the Speedy Sebah Lola in 4th place in LMP2. Guy Smith had started the race in the AER 2 litre turbo Lola B05/40 and was running well in 6th place but soon lost time after being hit by one of the Corvette GT1 cars at Arnage. After further unscheduled pit stops the Portuguese entered Lola moved up the order well and by 03.00 hrs it was homing in on the 3rd placed Pescarolo of Pierre Ragues.
After the incident with the Charouz (Cytosport) Lola in the first hour, the RML entered Lola-MG suffered another accident at just before 10pm. Mike Newton left the circuit at the entrance to the ultra fast Porsche Curves, with the car jumping the gravel trap and severely damaging the front and under-body of the red, white and blue car. Another sterling effort by the Wellinborough based RML team saw Andy Wallace return to the track but the team chose to withdraw after the car became unstable at high speeds, due to damage inflicted in the accidents suffered earlier in the day. Chamberlain Synergy started the race superbly with Bob Berridge lapping quickly before a puncture forced the first of several unscheduled pit stops. When Amanda Stretton took over the car, a suspected mechanical failure saw her hit the barriers on the entry to Tertre Rouge and inflict serious suspension damage on the AER powered yellow Lola. Swift repairs by the Chamberlain Synergy crew meant that the team rejoined the fray, but when engine problems persisted, the team chose to withdraw before a terminal failure occurred.
Kruse Schiller suffered heartbreak at approximately 01.30 hrs when a suspected transmission problem stranded Jean De Pourtales on the Mulsanne. A true Herculean' effort by the Kruse team and Lola engineers got the car race ready following Hideki Noda's massive qualifying accident. Prior to this retirement, Allan Simonson had shown he could be a future LMP star by setting some impressive times in the Mazda powered Lola. As the 12 hours passed at Le Mans, the long forecast showers appeared to be just minutes away.