RML Take it to the Wire on Day One Qualifying The current LMP2 champions endured a troubled first day of qualifying for the 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours, but Andy Wallace pulled out all the stops for the MG EX264's one and only flying lap, right at the...
RML Take it to the Wire on Day One Qualifying
The current LMP2 champions endured a troubled first day of qualifying for the 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours, but Andy Wallace pulled out all the stops for the MG EX264's one and only flying lap, right at the end of the day. His best of 3:49.217 was enough to draw the RML entry clear of the GT1 field and into sixth position in class.
From the outset Thomas Erdos had been aware of a steering imbalance, and brought the car back at the end of his very first lap. While others were enjoying the best of the daylight conditions, the Brazilian was forced to sit patiently in the cockpit as the team endeavored to source the problem. Initially believing that a faulty damper was the culprit, efforts were made to address this, but time was slipping by. The situation was compounded by the unfortunate red-flag incident involving the #53 Lamborghini, followed by a sudden worsening in the weather. With the #25 lying next-to-last on the timing screens, the team entered the mid-session break with a genuine concern that the MG might be starting the 75th Le Mans 24 Hours from the back of the grid.
The team's strategy changed for the second period, with the sole intent being to ensure that all three drivers fulfilled their three-lap night driving requirement. Thomas Erdos completed his trio, and was followed by Mike Newton. The MG EX264 performed faultlessly, and both drivers were setting times that were well in line with the best in LMP2, for the prevailing damp conditions. Andy Wallace stepped aboard as the track began to dry, and was offered slick tyres. His first lap went well, but part-way through his second, the steering issue revealed itself again. He pitted immediately. This time the nature of the malfunction had revealed the true cause, and the team affected a rapid repair.
With little more than five minutes remaining Andy headed back out on track. He had time enough for just one flying lap, and he made it count. At one stage he was two seconds up and looked set for a 3:47, before meeting a white-flagged car in the Porsche Curves. There was considerable relief in the RML garage when he crossed the line. "That was a tremendous lap," enthused Adam Wiseberg, Motorsport Director for AD Holdings. "Andy had no real time in the car at all before that, but he pulled it out of the bag. It's nice to know that, whatever happens tomorrow, were ahead of the GT1s. Hopefully that's all our little niggles sorted out before the race."
Andy's co-drivers were equally relieved. "I'm happy that we found the problem," said Thomas Erdos. "Now it's fixed we only need a small dry window tomorrow and perhaps we can improve. What Andy did with a single flying lap was stunning. He really showed his class today."
Mike Newton was pleased to have completed his night laps. "It was an evening of frustrating teething problems," he said, "and I'm glad they're all ironed out."
Phil Barker identified the fault as being "a slight movement in the steering rack that we were able to find second time around. It's a bitter-sweet taste, but I'm pleased to have found the problem today, and not taken it forward into the race."
ML Back on Course
After the frustrations of Wednesday's disrupted qualifying session for the 75th Le Mans 24 Hours, RML's MG Lola EX264 was back on form for a treacherously wet second day at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Torrential rain and standing water for almost the entire four hours ensured that there was no possibility of improving on the sixth-fastest time in LMP2 set by Andy Wallace on Wednesday. However, running third quickest in Thursday's atrocious conditions, and under the kind of watery downpour that the forecasters are predicting for the race, was more in line with expectations for the RML MG. What was especially significant is that Mike Newton's individual best time was also good enough for fifth-fastest, confirming the overall strength of the RML driver line-up.
With Wednesday's technical issues resolved, it was a far more comfortable Andy Wallace that was first out onto the circuit at the start of the daylight session, completing his required three-lap stint without incident, despite monsoon-like conditions. Mike Newton then enjoyed the remainder of the first period, posting a time of 4:31.102 to stand third-quickest in LMP2, behind the two front-row Zyteks.
After the break, and with some minor adjustments to the car's aerodynamics, Thomas Erdos was given free-rein to establish the best possible wet set-up for the EX264. A series of exploratory laps, interrupted by brief visits to the pitlane for adjustments, resulted in a best lap from the Brazilian of 4:17.297. It sliced nine seconds off his previous benchmark, and while a little short of the times set by the two Zyteks (4:11.296 and 4:14.508) was a significant seven seconds ahead of the next quickest in the class.
"Tonight was far more typical of the performance that we expect to deliver than last night," said Adam Wiseberg, Motorsport Director of AD Holdings. "We're very pleased with the way the car went today, and it has given us plenty of opportunity to work on the kind of wet set-up that the weather forecasts suggest we will need for the race. I think we're exactly where we should be by now."
Phil Barker, Team Manager, was very satisfied with progress. "We have a set-up now that we can change very quickly to suit any conditions. It's safe and comfortable for the drivers, whatever the circumstances. That puts us in a very strong position."
All three drivers are now looking forward to the race with confidence. "The conditions were challenging tonight," admitted Andy Wallace, "but with the work we've done now, we've achieved an excellent balance for the race." Thomas Erdos would have liked the opportunity to go quicker. "I set my quickest time on a preparatory lap," he said. "If I'd pushed, I think we'd have been with the Zyteks tonight." Mike Newton was especially pleased to have set third quickest for his own stint. "That was the highlight for me, and makes up for being below the technical qualifying time." It is believed that more than 30 other drivers are also outside the required time.
The team is now looking forward to a day of final preparation, and a dry warm-up, if at all possible.