RML Thursday qualifying report

Thomas Erdos claims LMP2 pole for RML at Le Mans RML's Thomas Erdos added his first Le Mans pole to a long list of racing achievements when he set a best of 3:41.555 in the team's MG Lola EX264 to secure the top grid position in LMP2 for ...

Thomas Erdos claims LMP2 pole for RML at Le Mans

RML's Thomas Erdos added his first Le Mans pole to a long list of racing achievements when he set a best of 3:41.555 in the team's MG Lola EX264 to secure the top grid position in LMP2 for this weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours.

After Wednesday's two evening sessions had been virtually washed out by torrential rain, it had become inevitable that the battle for the grid would be concentrated into the first two hours of Thursday qualifying. With conditions almost perfect for racing, any times set on the previous day were wiped from the screens within ten minutes of the pitlane opening. Offered the chance to go for pole in the MG, Erdos was instantly on the pace, and his first flying lap was good enough to stake an initial claim to the top spot in LMP2. It was a position he would never relinquish.

Having set the benchmark, the Brazilian then handed over the MG to his two co-drivers so that they could complete their requisite qualifying laps. Andy Wallace enjoyed his first run in anger in the RML machine, completing two very competitive flying laps, before handing over to Mike Newton, who also made two circuits of the track. With conditions nearing their best as the evening cooled, Erdos was strapped back into the car and given some softer race tyres and a free rein. He grasped the opportunity, and set a succession of blisteringly quick laps, each one faster than the last, to culminate in a best that would stand proud of the rest of the LMP2 field by more than two seconds.

That was how the timing screens stood at the end of the first session, but there were nervous moments when qualifying resumed at ten o'clock. Erdos, his job done, had already take off his race suit, but the first twenty minutes of the later session have sometimes proved the quickest. While Mike Newton and Andy Wallace pounded round the circuit, building up their familiarity with the car and track, Erdos watched the screens. Initially there were improvements from some of the top LMP1 competitors, but the track had evidently peaked, and as the session wore on he visibly relaxed. On the stroke of midnight the chequered flag fell, confirming Erdos as LMP2 polesetter, with the Audi R10 of Capello, Kristensen and McNish on outright pole.

"That's mission accomplished," declared Ray Mallock, team owner at RML. "Not only in terms of pole position, but also to get all the drivers successfully qualified, and at the same time establish a race set-up for the car that all three are comfortable with. Getting pole on top of that is a bonus, but one we're all delighted to accept." Phil Barker, team manager, was especially pleased for Thomas Erdos. "That's three poles out of three races so far this season, and I'm delighted for Tommy. He's worked so hard for this, and to be top of the tree at a prestigious event like this is tremendous."

The man himself was "just surprised that nobody else went quicker! I was convinced they would, but I'm so pleased for the team, and for the lads who worked so hard to build this car for us. To create the fastest car at an event like this is a reward they all deserve."

Andy Wallace, who won the Le Mans 24 Hours with Jaguar in 1988, thoroughly enjoyed his first experience of the RML MG Lola, and is looking forward to getting to grips with it in the race on Saturday. "I'm so impressed with the car," he enthused. "It's lovely to drive, and this is a team with a tremendous amount of experience. Everything's under control, and that's a nice feeling to take forward into a twenty-four hour race."

The team will now spend Friday preparing the car for the race; a process that will include the fitting of a new race engine, and a multitude of other ready-prepared components. "It will be very satisfying if the rest of the weekend goes as smoothly as qualifying," said Adam Wiseberg, Motorsport Director of AD Holdings, the team's principal sponsor. We'll have to wait until five pm on Sunday to discover if they do."

-rml

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Andy Wallace , Mike Newton , Thomas Erdos , Ray Mallock