Donington Park saw plenty of exciting sportscar action over the weekend during the fourth round of this years Le Mans Series.
Run over 1000kms of the Leicestershire track, RML claimed their first class win of the year to move in to the lead of the LMP2 standings. They were also classified an impressive 4th overall.
After qualifying on the LMP2 pole and 8th overall on the full grid, Tommy Erdos took an immediate lead during the first stint of the race. However, the Lola-MG then developed a slow puncture and was forced to make an early un-scheduled stop. When Erdos made his second scheduled stop in the second hour, the safety car was called out just as the RML car, now with Mike Newton aboard, left the pits, effectively putting the car down another lap on the class leading Radical driven by Joao Barbosa.
The Lola-MG, so often fearless in the face of adversity, once again started a superb comeback drive, with Mike Newton
completing his usual solid stints to then hand back over to Erdos. The 'Britzillian' driver soon began setting a series of quick laps, peaking at a class beating fastest of 1m22.953s, a time that was just 1.4 seconds slower than the fastest overall time set by Creation's Jamie Campbell Walter.
In to the last hour, the red, white and blue AER powered Lola-MG was eating in to the Radical's advantage and was soon
on the same lap as the class leader. But with just 25 minutes of the race remaining the car headed for an unscheduled pit stop when a wheel nut jammed against the locking device on the front left corner of the car.
At this point it appeared that the Wellingborough based crew would have to settle for 2nd in LMP2 despite proving once again to be the quickest car in the class. However, as so often happens in sportscar racing, there was plenty of late drama as the Radical refused to fire up after its final pit stop, allowing Erdos to cross the line to score a popular home win for Ray Mallocks team.
"It was a tough race but we overcame the problems we had," said a delighted Mike Newton after the race. "You have to feel sorry for the Rollcentre boys but unfortunately that's Motor Racing sometimes. We know all about that. But on the whole it is a terrific result and very good for the Championship."
BINNIE BOUNCE BACK WITH LATE PODIUM
Rounding out the LMP2 podium in 3rd place was the Binnie Motorsports Lola B05/40-Zytek. Claiming their third podium of the season, Bill Binnie, Sam Hancock and Allen Timpany took the chequered flag after a dramatic race, which tested the Huntingdon built cars strength and reliability to the full.
Lining up a splendid 3rd on the grid, Hancock showed why he is so highly regarded by the sportscar fraternity as he captured the LMP2 lead at the 45 minute mark. This though didn't last long as the Anglo/American Lola was rudely spun in to the McLeans gravel trap by a GT2 Porsche.
"The traffic was a complete nightmare from about lap 10 onwards," said an angry Hancock after his first stint. "The Porsche didn't even see me, despite having passed two blue flags in the previous corners. I was stuck in the gravel for about a lap. It was really disappointing because the car was handling so well up until that point."
If that was hard luck for the team, worse was soon to follow, as a tyre, cut in the incident with the GT car, let go in the biggest possible way as Hancock braked for the chicane. With the entire tread of the tyre being flung high in to the air, the car rotated in to the gravel trap, beaching Hancock once again and this time bringing out the Safety Car.
Tenaciously, Hancock made it back to the pits where a new Michelin and an engine cover were put on the car for Allen Timpany to roar back out in to the fray with. But having lost significant time the car was out of contention for a class win.
Timpany drove a faultless stint before handing over to team boss Bill Binnie who brought the car home a very worthy 3rd in class after the late demise of the Rollcentre Radical.
TOUGH DAY FOR MELLOW YELLOW LOLA'S
The winners of the last two LMP2 races, Team ASM Portugal, once again proved to be contenders in the early running at Donington, with Miguel Angel De Castro temporarily leading the class in the first hour.
Looking for a unique hat-trick of LMP2 victories, the newcomers to the series this season were to be disappointed after an engine problem forced them to retire in the second hour, before Burgueno or Miguel Amaral could take the wheel.
Lola's LMP1 entry of Chamberlain Synergy finished 5th in class, maintaining an impressive series of finishes in the series this year. Earning yet more points, the Oxfordshire based crew are now 3rd in the title standings.
Bob Berridge started the race in the AER powered B06/10 but lost time in the opening laps with a spin at the Melbourne Chicane. Subsequent stints by reigning LMP2 champion driver, Gareth Evans, and Peter Owen saw the car clawing its way back in to contention. However, a hole in the header tank meant a lengthy stop for the team and a final position of 5th in LMP1.
The final round of this seasons series takes place at Jarama near Madrid in Spain on September 24. Lola sportscars will be in action next weekend when the latest round of the American Le Mans Series is held at the challenging Mosport Park circuit in Canada.
Lola Cars International Ltd
Glebe Road, St Peters Road,
Tel: +44 (0) 1480 359590
Fax: +44 (0) 1480 482970
Click here to view the results in PDF format.