RML AD Group's 2009 Le Mans stalls on 18 hours Entering the Porsche Curves, Saturday afternoon. Photo: David Lord / Dailysportscar Mike Newton, Thomas Erdos, Chris Dyson and the entire RML pit crew, lead by Team Manager Phil Barker, suffered the...
RML AD Group's 2009 Le Mans stalls on 18 hours
Entering the Porsche Curves, Saturday afternoon. Photo: David Lord / Dailysportscar Mike Newton, Thomas Erdos, Chris Dyson and the entire RML pit crew, lead by Team Manager Phil Barker, suffered the frustration of a third engine failure of the season when the team's Lola B08/96 retired from last weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours. This time, however, the disappointment was even more intense, not only because the engine gave way during the most important race of the motorsport year, but also because the Lola Coupe had, until that point, excelled itself.
Aside from a brief glitch for a replacement set of plugs at 2:15 on Sunday morning, the car had run faultlessly for the best part of eighteen hours. "Everything was going so well, and the engine was pulling strongly and felt very good," said Thomas Erdos. "We'd been able to run at a competitive pace throughout the race, and we were still in contention for a podium right up until the moment the engine let go."
Erdos had taken the race start, and challenged hard for third in LMP2 throughout his opening triple stint, constantly harrying Jonny Kane in the #33 Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola-Judd. Aside from the inevitable consequence of making out-of-sequence pitstops, the #25 Lola-Mazda retained fourth in class for more than ten hours, and while the pair of Porsche RS Spyders consolidated their hold on the top two positions, the two Lola coupes looked equally comfortable in third and fourth. "Until the lap before the engine let go, I was feeling really chuffed with the way the car was going," admitted Thomas Erdos. "To be running so strongly at such a late stage in the 24 Hours is always a special feeling, and we were beginning to think we might make it."
Into the Dawn, Sunday morning. Photo: David Lord / Dailysportscar "The chassis is obviously excellent," stated Ray Mallock, Founder and Chief Executive at RML. "Apart from the plug change and the eventual engine failure, the car ran like clockwork. After the problems we've experienced previously this year (in the Le Mans Series) it was perhaps expecting a great deal to hope for a better result here, but the team did a superb job -- as usual -- both in the garage and on the track."
Mike Newton was perhaps the most disappointed of anyone within the team, and found it difficult to express his emotions. "It's terribly frustrating, when we'd been holding a strong fourth place, and closing on third," he said. "We knew that even the smallest problem for any of the cars ahead of us and we'd have been into a podium position, but as soon as I heard the noise from the engine, I knew it was all over."
Through the Esses, Sunday morning. Photo: David Lord / Dailysportscar His co-driver, Thomas Erdos, searched for something positive from the result. "Setting aside the enormous disappointment I feel now, we have to be encouraged by how much we've achieved," he said. "After the problems we've had previously this season in the Le Mans Series, if the engine had failed after just two or three hours, that would effectively have been the end of our season. Now we must consolidate, think through our strategy for the rest of the year, and see where we go from here."
"We also have to consider the team as a whole," said Mike Newton. "The guys do a great job, and they put their heart and soul into every aspect of their work. It's an absolute passion on their part, and the engineers and mechanics behind the scenes are the ones who make all this possible. In situations like this, their disappointment is every bit as great as ours as drivers, and over the coming weeks we will be working closely with Mazda to seek a resolution to the problems at AER."
The exact nature of the fault will not be established until the unit can be taken back to the workshops and dismantled, but the RML Lola-Mazda covered a total of 273 laps of the 13.629 kilometre circuit at an average speed of 192 km/h; some 3721 kilometres in total. The class was eventually won by the Team Essex Porsche RS Spyder #31, with the Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola #33 second, and the Oak Racing Pescarolo #24 a distant third.