RML & AD Group Upgrade to LMP2 Lola Coupe
RML and AD Group will contest the final round of this year's Le Mans Series with a comprehensive upgrade of the MG Lola EX265 LMP2 sports prototype. In collaboration with Lola Cars of Huntingdon, the team has today carried out a final shakedown test of the fully revised EX265C at Snetterton in Norfolk, where regular drivers Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos assessed their first experience of the new closed-cockpit configuration.
RML began a close association with Lola in 2003, campaigning one of the formerly works-prepared MG Lola EX257s in the inaugural Le Mans Endurance Series race at Le Mans. AD Group CEO Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos then completed a full season in the LMES the following year, including a run in the Le Mans 24 Hours, before the introduction of the EX264 and two successive class wins at Le Mans. Continued development, both independently by RML, and also in conjunction with Lola, saw this evolve into the EX265 and a fifth year of competition for the MG Lola LMP2 sports prototype. Carrying this process forward to the coupe body style is a logical and natural progression.
As was the case with previous incarnations of the MG Lola, much of the additional development work carried out by RML, both in terms of chassis refinement and engine, has been carried over into the EX265C. Almost 75% of the car that Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos have raced so successfully for the past two seasons has been accommodated by the upgrade.
"We have been considering the way forward for several months," admitted Adam Wiseberg, Director of Motorsport for AD Group, principal sponsor of the RML sports prototype programme. "It became clear very early in the current season that the latest incarnation of what started life as the EX257, whilst having been tremendously competitive for the last three years in the LMP2 class, has reached the end of its useful life. As a consequence we have been examining very carefully all the possible options open to us for the future, and we arrived at the conclusion that upgrading the chassis to a closed-cockpit configuration was the most effective."
AD Group and RML have a good working relationship with Lola, built up over many years of close cooperation. "Our total program to date, since 2003, has been with Lola, and we are delighted to think that we shall be continuing with that for the foreseeable future," said Mike Newton. "We have such an excellent relationship with them, and they build fantastic racecars," added Thomas Erdos. "I'm pleased to think that the association will be ongoing."
"As one of our longest-standing sportscar customers, we value RML's dedication to European sportscar competition," said Martin Birrane, owner of Lola Cars. "Their racing passion and philosophy is very similar to Lola's and I am sure that more success will be coming their way in the next few years with the LMP2 Coupe, which has already proved to be one of the very quickest models in this ultra-competitive class."
Thomas Erdos, who has been co-driving with Mike Newton for six years, is convinced that the correct route has been chosen. "The Lola coupe has everything going for it. It's already shown that it can be very competitive, it provides us with continuity of components and manufacturer, and it's very attractive. When something looks right, it so very often is."
The decision to make the change before the end of the 2008 season is a bold move by RML, but one that makes sense for the future. "The championship has already been won by Jos Verstappen and Van Merksteijn Motorsport," explains Adam Wiseberg. "Doing the change at this stage gives us considerably more time with the car prior to the start of next season, and running at Silverstone offers a significant opportunity to compare the performance of the enclosed MG-Lola against other chassis configurations." As its designation suggests, the MG Lola EX265C retains the AER developed MG XP-21 engine. "This will remain in the car for Silverstone," says Wiseberg, and Mike Newton confirms that "we are still to make a final choice of engine for next year, but as we have been running with the XP-21 since the start of the season, we elected to complete the year in the same format. It will give us a good foundation upon which to base our decisions for 2009."
The Daytona 24 Hours aside, it is not since they shared a Saleen S7-R in the FIA GT Championship that Mike and Tommy have raced regularly in an enclosed car. "My preference has always been for an open cockpit," admits Mike Newton. "However, the raw pace of the coupe that we have already witnessed this year suggests that the EX265C should offer significant performance benefits, and we are confident that this will allow us to redress some of the balance moving into next season."
Thomas Erdos is "very excited" by the car's prospects. "The class has moved on, and we've always known that we need to upgrade the package to remain competitive. I'm just proud to be part of a team that's prepared to make this level of investment and clearly wants to go on winning. We have six hours at Silverstone to learn as much as we can about the revised car, and then we have the whole of the winter to get it fully sorted for 2009. It will put us in a very strong position going into the next season. This AD Group-RML package means I've now got the tools to do the job, and I just can't wait to repay them for that."