RML AD Group -- Back on the Podium RML AD Group has endured the most difficult season in a seven-year sportscar racing programme, but 2009 has ended on a high after Thomas Erdos, Mike Newton and the team's Lola Mazda recorded a long overdue...
RML AD Group -- Back on the Podium
RML AD Group has endured the most difficult season in a seven-year sportscar racing programme, but 2009 has ended on a high after Thomas Erdos, Mike Newton and the team's Lola Mazda recorded a long overdue podium in the final round of the Le Mans Series at Silverstone.
Having gone the distance in just a single race before the weekend, the team took the brave decision to install a revised version of the AER-designed Mazda engine for the season-closing round at Silverstone. With the emphasis on reliability, the team concentrated on set-up and handling, and the RML Lola Mazda emerged second quickest in the weekend's first day of practice. Tommy Erdos then qualified third for Sunday's 1000 Kilometres, although the organisers' response to the fitting of a new engine since the previous race at the Nurburgring was to impose a ten-place grid penalty.
Lining up on the eleventh row for the six-hour race, Thomas Erdos made an emphatic start, slicing through from 21st position to reach 12th overall and second in the LMP2 class within the first hour. It was a position he handed over to Mike Newton for the middle hours of the race, and the CEO of AD Group made the most of what would be his longest race stint of the season to consolidate the team's grip on the podium. For the final two hours Thomas Erdos built on that foundation to establish a two-lap margin over third place that never looked challenged.
"It's such a relief to be back on the podium again," said Thomas Erdos. "We've been chasing this all year, and we've always had the pace, but never the reliability. Our emphasis today was on going the distance, so the engine wasn't producing all the power it should be capable of. That meant we couldn't match the Speedy [Team Sebah] car on pace alone, but we proved that it was a wise decision to try this version of the engine. A podium is a great reward for all the hard work the team has put in to this season, and to clinch second is just the icing on the cake."
Ray Mallock, founder of RML, was in attendance. "With my commitments to the World Touring Car Championship, this has been my first opportunity to be at a Le Mans Series race this year, but it's been the right one. At last we have a good result to end what has been a very disappointing season for Phil Barker [Team Manager] and the rest of the team. Today, the engine has run like clockwork, and the question now is, what might have happened if we'd had this kind of reliability all the way through the year? It's a very positive way to end the season."
Pauline Norstrom, Director of Worldwide Marketing for AD Group, was "absolutely ecstatic! I'd almost forgotten what it felt like to see Mike and Tommy on a podium, but this is the result the team has deserved all year. We didn't want to believe it until we saw the car cross the line, but I'm delighted for the drivers, and I'm on cloud nine for the rest of the team."
The one person who has borne the brunt of the year's disappointment has been Mike Newton. On so many occasions this season the engine has failed within minutes of his taking over the car, but the final Le Mans Series weekend saw Mike complete more time on track than he's managed in the whole of the rest of the year combined. "A win would have been too much of a fairytale," he conceded, "but this is where we should have been all season, and it feels great!"
Over the coming months the team will be working with partners AER and Mazda to refine the two-litre turbocharged engine to achieve a unit that is not only reliable, but with the power to bring more rewards to a team that won the LMP2 Le Mans Series title in 2007, and has taken the class twice in the Le Mans 24 Hours.