Sub-zero temperatures and overnight snow were not enough to deter RML AD Group from carrying out a first shakedown of the team’s new Mazda-powered Lola B08/80 LMP2 Coupé. The two-day test at Snetterton was also an opportunity to finalise the car’s revised livery for the 2009 season, with Mazda’s distinctive corporate blue now a significant element of the familiar colour scheme.
The long-range forecast had threatened heavy snow for both days, but the team’s faith was rewarded with at least one perfect day. Wednesday was dry and bright, although bitterly cold, and Brazilian Thomas Erdos managed sessions in both the morning and afternoon. “Under the circumstances, we achieved some very good running, and the car looks gorgeous!” he said. “It was too cold to get any real warmth into the tyres, and they never felt as if they were biting the road, but we learned a great deal about the car. Now I’m just looking forward to being allowed to run at full throttle,” he grinned.
In addition to the new Mazda 2-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine, the car is also running the new-for-2009 aerodynamic package, revealed last week by Lola. “My experience with the engine has been very reassuring indeed,” observed Erdos. “It feels very responsive, picks up power earlier than the old engine, and then kicks out more torque. Bearing in mind we run a smaller restrictor this year, that’s very encouraging and a very positive first impression.”
Overnight snow and early-morning fog reduced Thursday to a half-day, with no running possible until half-one. “The conditions were very difficult, and we were forced to curtail the second day, but over the two days we’ve learned a lot about the new car, the engine and the modifications we’ve introduced over the winter, explained Team Manager Phil Barker. “It’s been very productive, and good to have this shakedown opportunity ahead of our next full test in a few weeks’ time, when we’ll hopefully have the benefit of warmer conditions.”
Recovering from a viral infection, AD Group CEO Mike Newton was unable to drive, but attended the test. “We have had a very encouraging first run with what is effectively a new car,” he said. “Due to the conditions, we were unable to complete all our planned running, but what we did accomplish was enough to resolve several preliminary installation issues, and make it a very worthwhile test.”
The team was particularly grateful to the circuit staff. “The guys at Snetterton were fantastic,” said Thomas Erdos. “They had the tractor out and brushed the entire circuit, and over the last two days they’ve worked so hard to make the track user-friendly. They tackled snow and ice and they made every effort to ensure the track was safe to drive. I’ve only got the highest praise for them. Fantastic.”