Positive Progress for RML AD Group
It was a day of steady progress and methodical development for RML AD Group as the team added to their experience and understanding of the Honda Performance Development (HPD) ARX-01d at the official Le Mans test on Sunday.
Since the opening round of the Le Mans Series at Paul Ricard at the beginning of the month, when the HPD struggled for pace, the ACO has introduced a modest restrictor break to the twin-turbo V6. The official Le Mans test has been the first opportunity for the team to run the engine in the new configuration, but it was the deployment of a lower-downforce aero package that had a more significant impact on narrowing the performance gap between the #36 and the rest of the LMP2 class. "Although we have detected an improvement in power from the engine following the ACO's restrictor break, we have still found it wanting," admitted Team Manager Phil Barker. "There has certainly been an improvement, but it is still a considerable way off where we need it to be.
"The true significance of the restrictor change won't be apparent until the teams reassemble at Spa, in a fortnight's time, for Round 2 of the Le Mans Series. The RML and Strakka Racing HPDs will then have to re-fit the homologated medium-downforce aerodynamic package. "We'll experience more drag at Spa, and may not have the power to push the car through the air. Only then can we make direct comparisons with the data from Paul Ricard. Then we'll know where we really stand," said Phil Barker.
Sunday's two test sessions at Le Mans have all been about improving the team's understanding of the car, and learning what will be needed for the race in June. "Our priority was to ensure that Ben completed his mandatory ten laps, and that we had a baseline set-up that we can build on for the 24 Hours," added Phil Barker. "We made a series of changes today that have moved the car on several significant steps."
Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos have raced together at Le Mans for the last eight years, but Ben Collins hasn't been back to the Circuit de La Sarthe since 2002. "There have been lots of changes since I was last here," says Ben. The first curve, up into the Dunlop chicane, seems tighter than it used to be, and that caught me by surprise the first time I came through. The new section down into the Esses, with a big bump, was entertaining, but I really like the new Tetre Rouge. You can really hammer out of there and onto the straight. It's been a long time, but I am starting to feel at home again, picking up the rhythm, and getting a good feel for the track. I'm just looking forward to getting properly stuck in when we return in June."
What's also a personal relief is to be back here in an open-topped car -- I'd just prefer this one to be a bit faster!
The significance of the new aero comes into play when the car has to contend with the equally quick GT cars. "You can now gain a tow and get passed them," admits Ben, to which Mike Newton agreed. "We're out of the "dangerous mode" now, and in far better shape for passing the GTs, at least here at Le Mans. What's also a personal relief is to be back here in an open-topped car -- I'd just prefer this one to be a bit faster!"
"We saw a significant improvement during the course of the day, and that's a positive and encouraging step forwards," said Pauline Norstrom, Motorsport and Marketing Director for AD Group, the team's principal sponsor. "We'd just like to be in a position where we could actually realise the true potential of the HPD. We're now looking ahead to Spa, and seeing what unfolds there, when we'll be able to make a true comparison."
The 1000 Kilometres of Spa-Francorchamps takes place on May 7th.
-source: rml ad group