Thomas Erdos is back from the official Le Mans test with mixed emotions; delighted to have experienced the sweeping Porsche Curves in an open prototype, but aware that time in the car was curtailed by an engine problem. The RML MG Lola, now...
Thomas Erdos is back from the official Le Mans test with mixed emotions; delighted to have experienced the sweeping Porsche Curves in an open prototype, but aware that time in the car was curtailed by an engine problem.
The RML MG Lola, now also designated a Lola B160, is the last of the original works cars still to be competing in its original configuration, complete with AER two-litre turbocharged powerplant. New to 2004, however, is an alteration to the ACO regulations that means the car now runs head-to- head against the LMP1 category prototypes. No longer enjoying the benefits of the defunct LMP675 class, the MG Lola must now compete directly with the likes of Audi's all-conquering R8, and it was against this kind of standard that RML's performance last weekend would be judged.
In November last year the team contested the inaugural Le Mans 1000 kilometres race on the short Bugatti circuit. Last Sunday morning, however, Thomas Erdos was the first of RML's three drivers to head out onto the full Le Mans track, all 13.6 kilometers, and the initial run went exceptionally well. "It was really good," said an encouraged Brazilian after setting a best of 3 minutes 44.047 seconds. Aside from some slight play in the steering, the MG behaved impeccably. "We were running full tanks on scrubbed racing tyres, and the track was very dusty," he added. "That put us P6, and the fastest of all the cars using Dunlop tyres, even the Domes." The time was indeed enough to place the car sixth fastest overall, bettered only by a quartet of Audis and the Judd-engined Pescarolo of Sebastien Bourdais. "It was excellent to be out there in a prototype," he continued. "Going through Indianapolis in an open-topped car is tremendous, and the speed you can carry through on the entry is nothing short of phenomenal. Unbelievable, in fact."
Having completed his first series of laps Erdos returned to the pit garage, and handed the car over to Mike Newton. "Mike got his time down very quickly, and did some tyre work with Dunlop," explained Erdos, who was happy to see his regular co-driver coming to terms with the prototype so readily. Finally, before the lunchbreak, new signing Nathan Kinch completed a handful of laps. "We stayed in the top eight for most of the morning, dropping to P9 shortly before the session closed. It was very promising," concluded Erdos.
After lunch, however, the news was less cheering. Mike Newton managed only two further laps before an unusual crank failure saw him coasting to halt out by Indianapolis. There would be no more running from the RML MG Lola, but enough had been done to prove that the car will be very competitive come the race proper in June. By the close of Sunday's test Tommy's best time from the morning was still good enough to see the #25 car listed twelfth overall out of fifty, despite the much improved conditions. "I know we did not feature very high up the order at the end," conceded Erdos, "but we did so well in the morning, and I know we'd have improved throughout the day, given the chance." Adam Wiseberg, speaking for AD Holdings, was equally upbeat "We know we're not going to be able to run with the quickest P1 cars, but we could have got down into the 41s," he suggested. "Come qualifying [in June] we'll be looking to do a time that shows what we can really do, bearing in mind that we're not intending to run the race at a sprint."
Before then the team has GT and LMES duties to anticipate, with Round 3 of the FIA GT Championship at Magny Cours next weekend, and round one of the LMES at Monza on May 9th.