to official Le Mans test
Appalling weather conditions and less than an hour’s dry running failed to dampen spirits within RML AD Group’s trio of drivers for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours during Sunday’s official test.
A comprehensive shakedown at Rockingham in England a few days before the squad headed for France meant that it took just ten full laps of the 13.6 kilometre Sarthe circuit for the team to collect the necessary telemetry data ahead of qualifying for this year’s French classic.
“The main thing was to set a lap that was representative enough for us to use as a benchmark for developing our set-up for the race,” explained Thomas Erdos, who did all but one of the car’s laps on Sunday. “Assuming it’s going to be dry for the race, it would have been very disappointing not to have managed to collect some dry data to work from. We now know our gear ratios, the behaviour of the tyre compounds, and the effectiveness of our aero-package, and that will provide a great base from which to develop our set-up when we come back here for qualifying.”
The conditions throughout the day ranged from merely damp through to torrential monsoon, and RML AD Group was not the only team to play the cautious card against the potential for disaster. Fortunately, the skies cleared just long enough during the lunch-break to permit a back-to-back run of five flying laps in the dry during the opening minutes of the afternoon session, and then the rains returned. The time of 3:44.678 set by Erdos during that brief window was sufficient to establish the team’s MG Lola EX265 as fifth quickest in LMP2. “In the current conditions, fifth is good,” said Erdos. “I’m happy with that.”
Including in- and out-laps, the MG completed just fifteen laps overall – one of the lowest figures of any team participating in the test. “In some senses, it’s been a frustrating day waiting for the narrow window of opportunity to get some representative dry-run data,” said Adam Wiseberg, Motorsport Director of AD Group. “We carried out the minimum running necessary but that was enough to establish that we already have a good set-up on the car. We can return next week and build upon that foundation in our usual methodical way. Today we felt that, with the inconsistent conditions that existed most of the day – neither fully wet nor dry – the risk to the car and drivers was too high when balanced against the usefulness of the data we’d have collected.” There were a number of significant incidents during the day, two of which have left the teams concerned with considerable re-building work ahead of scrutineering, which starts on June 9th.
With such restricted running, the squad’s two other drivers; Mike Newton and Andy Wallace, took no active part in the day’s proceedings. Mike Newton abandoned his one and only lap when conditions worsened significantly, and Andy Wallace never even sat in the car. They did not appear unduly disappointed. “The important objective was to collect the necessary data, and then ensure that the car sustained no damage at this late stage, so close to race week,” said Newton. “We achieved all that, and can now look forward to the race with some confidence.” Both he and Erdos, who co-drive the MG in the Le Mans Series, are delighted to welcome Andy Wallace back to their Le Mans squad for the third successive year – a view that Wallace reciprocates. "It's just so nice to be back with RML again," he insists. "The level of their work is so high, and it's a privilege to work with guys of this calibre.”
RML AD Group took the LMP2 class win at Le Mans in 2005 and 2006, but missed the hat-trick last year following a rare piston failure. The category has moved on since then, with new cars, teams and drivers adding to the intense competition, but the team is undaunted. “We already know that there are teams here that have an advantage in outright pace, but we have the expertise and the reliability to go the distance,” suggests Erdos. Wallace agrees. "Not being favourites to set the fastest time relieves some of the pressure," he says. "There's no expectation that we have to be out there at the sharp end, fighting for the lead. Instead we can concentrate on racing our own race, and let the others make mistakes.”
The race itself takes place on June 14th-15th.