RML AD Group announces the team’s withdrawal from the final round of the 2011 Le Mans Series in Portugal, scheduled for September 25th.
A clean run from co-drivers Thomas Erdos, Mike Newton and Ben Collins took the RML AD Group Honda Performance Development HPD ARX-01d to fourth place in last weekend’s Silverstone 6 Hours. By doing so, the team recorded its best result of the season, matching fourth in class at June’s Le Mans 24 Hours. However, this fell short of the high expectations set by the defending Le Mans Series LMP2 title-holders, and failed to meet the hopes and aspirations of the team’s principal sponsor, AD Group.
“RML and our sponsors, AD Group, have taken the balanced decision not to compete at Estoril,” said Phil Barker, Team Manager at RML. “After considering our results and the team’s current championship position, we are of a mind to secure our resources and focus our efforts on preparations for 2012. Concentrating those resources at this stage of the year will set us on a firm footing for launching a competitive campaign in the new season.”“We have struggled to be competitive this year,” said Mike Newton, CEO of AD Group. “Due to early season issues, including the major incident at Spa, and unexpected reliability issues with the turbo installation, we felt we needed to see the car run at its full potential before we made a final decision. Last weekend the car ran totally reliably and we had a relatively smooth race, yet others who hit problems still managed to finish ahead of us. The deficit we face on the cost-capped cars, with their greater power, lighter weight and rapid refuelling is simply too much of a disadvantage to overcome. There have been cars on the grid this season that are inherently older than ours, yet the HPD ARX-01d is the chassis that is “grandfathered”. Manufacturers have circumvented the regulations by the simple expedient of tweaking their price list, and I’m sure that is not what the ACO intended by introducing the very laudable cost-capped concept."
Confirmation that there will be no television coverage from Estoril has also impacted on the sponsor’s willingness to support RML’s attendance at the race meeting. "The success of the car in the series, and the fact that it is seen to be successful by our clients and others in our industry, is critical to our commercial position,” insisted Pauline Norstom, AD Group’s Motorsport and Marketing Director. “An uncompetitive car weakens the synergy we have created between the team and our technology. Although our clients appreciate that there have been issues with performance, we cannot carry on making excuses. Ultimately we are "in it to win it"; a principle that we apply equally to our products and technology solutions. It's an aspirational goal which, in the real world, cannot always be achieved. Our clients understand that. However we do want them to see that we aim for the very best, and a successful car is an important catalyst to that understanding.”
“As the series winners last year we had an excellent platform from which to start the season,” she added. “However, the lack of competitiveness at Paul Ricard at the beginning of the year was an embarrassment to AD Group in front of its clients, and the season did not really get any better. The pain we share with RML is mutual - the team prepared an impeccable car ready to perform at it's peak, yet the chassis remained 2-3 seconds off the pace on anything other than when using soft tyres for best qualifying pace, and which may not give the best overall race strategy."
RML AD Group’s two professional drivers are disappointed by the decision, but fully supportive. The Estoril 6 Hours will be only the second round of the Le Mans Series that RML AD Group has missed since the Series’ inception, as the ELMS, in 2003.