Everything continued to go smoothly. At half past ten the hourly-update on Radio Le Mans gave the RML MG as having completed 257 laps, thirteen ahead of the ...
Everything continued to go smoothly. At half past ten the hourly-update on Radio Le Mans gave the RML MG as having completed 257 laps, thirteen ahead of the #27 Miracle Motorsports Courage - the equivalent of roughly fifty minutes on the track. It looked like a useful cushion. At 10:44 Tommy returned to the garage for his scheduled fuel stop, and was swiftly en route once again. Unfortunately it was a brief resumption, since the MG was back on the apron again fifteen minutes later with electrical problems. The alternator belt had broken, but the solution was a little more complicated than simply fitting a new one. The idler pulley that maintains the tension between the alternator and the drive pulley had seized solid, and although the belt had kept spinning over the top of it for some time, it had eventually worn through and disintegrated, leaving the car instantly short of power. Luckily the failure had been picked up very quickly on the telemetry, and the team had instructed Tommy to head for the pitlane straight away.
Tommy arrived on the dot of eleven o'clock, and the crew was instantly into action. Refuelled on the apron the MG was quickly hauled backwards into the garage. Once there, the full complement of personnel could turn a hand to finding and fixing the problem. With the engine cover removed the broken belt was easily spotted, and the faulty pulley identified as the culprit. The EX264 now carries two alternators, and the quickest fix was to swap the primary feed from the one attached to the seized pulley to the secondary alternator. While this was being done the supplementary headlamp pod was removed from the front of the car and the standard damper-cover fitted in its stead. At the same time some extra padding was added beneath Tommy's seat, in some hope that this might help to alleviate a sciatic nerve pain he's been suffering since the early hours of the morning. After exactly seventeen minutes, Tommy was heading back out into the race and running seventh overall, just a tad under four minutes clear of the 007 Aston Martin.
The fix proved to be only a temporary cure. At 11:42 the whole scenario was played out for a second time, with the rear cover and sidepods removed. It transpired that the cables connecting the alternators to the electrical system had suffered internal fractures as a result of the intense vibrations being endured earlier in the race, and the previous remedy had only lasted a short while. Six minutes after the car had come to a halt, the engine was fired up once more. A quick blip on the throttle was sufficient to confirm that the system was now charging properly again, and was greeted by thumbs up all round.
At 11:50 the engine cover was refitted and the car eased out onto the apron, where Andy fired up the engine and blasted back out into the fray. Another ten minutes had been lost, and the margin in hand over the second-placed Miracle Courage was narrowing rapidly. In the overall stakes, though, another position had been lost; this time to the Luc Alphand GT1 Corvette, which moved through to 7th, leaving the MG on 8th, still ten laps clear of the Courage.
After so many trouble-free hours, the die-hard engineers and technicians in the RML garage were now being asked to prove their mettle on a regular basis, but at least they had a breather of nearly forty minutes before their next call to arms. Once again it was electrical and it came at 12:38, with Tommy bringing the MG back to the garage with a misfire. Thankfully it was quickly and relatively easily fixed, a new set of plugs and coils having the two-litre AER singing sweetly again inside five minutes. It was just enough to drop the MG to tenth place overall, but still with eleven laps in hand over the chasing LMP2 Miracle Courage. The pitstop was also an opportunity to make a time-effective driver change, with Tommy climbing out of the cockpit for the first time in nearly three hours. He was looking forward to bit of a rest.