the hard way
RML AD Group’s Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos salvaged three valuable points from Round 3 of the 2008 Le Mans Series at Spa in Belgium, but they had to do it the hard way. A blown turbo, followed shortly afterwards by gear selection problems, cost the team nearly fifty minutes in repairs, but determined graft from the pit crew saw the MG Lola EX265 through to the chequered flag.
The two hours of the 1000 kilometre race had promised much better for the reigning LMP2 champions, with Thomas Erdos holding fifth in class at the start, and then working forwards into fourth, and then closing on third before the end of his second stint. A lengthy safety car period right at the beginning of Mike Newton’s mid-race period came at just the wrong time for RML, and cost the MG the best part of a lap.
This loss was compounded minutes after the restart when the car’s turbo failed. Mike Newton was able to return the MG to the pits, where the engineers and mechanics carried out a remarkable repair in just over half an hour, but with a further 14 laps lost to the leaders, any chance of a meaningful result had evaporated.
Back in the race, Newton posted some of his best-ever laps of the Spa circuit as he strove to regain lost ground, but minutes after his mid-stint pitstop for fuel he was forced to return once again to the garage with gear selection problems. This time the repairs were completed in under twenty minutes and Mike was swiftly back into the race. With both the drivers’ and the team titles to defend, every point counts.
Thomas Erdos returned to the cockpit for the last half hour, and took the chequered flag in a richly deserved sixth place. “That was really hard work!” he said. “We soldiered on, despite all the problems, and we collected some points for the team. As drivers, we just had to keep going, but it’s been very tough on the lads. The fact we finished at all is all thanks to them.”
“Once we’d lost the turbo, there was no way we could compensate for that, so there was no alternative but replace the unit,” said Team Manager Phil Barker. “It was one of those days when things just didn’t go right for us. The safety car periods both cost us dearly, and then we had the second issue with the gearbox. Some days you get the rub of the green, some days you don’t. I guess we had some valuable pitstop practice ahead of Le Mans next month, and Mike did really well.”
Rick Perry, chief race technician on the RML MG Lola had been largely responsible for refitting the turbo, and had suffered several burns to his hands from the damaged, but still red-hot unit. “That’s what we do. Tommy drives, we fix!” he said, confirming that his injuries were largely confined to a few blisters and some cuts and grazes. Adam Wiseberg, Motorsport Director for AD Group, was philosophical about the Spa result. “You have some good days, and you have some bad days, but as usual, the boys did their stuff,” he said. “Now we have to look ahead and focus on the Le Mans 24 Hours next month. We have an excellent record at Le Mans, having won the class twice, in 2005 and 2006, and it’s what we’ve been working towards all year.”
The team will be heading across to France in three week’s time for the official Le Mans test, which takes place over the weekend of May 31st and June 1st.