| The RML driver pairing of Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos secured a memorable LMP2
victory in the Nürburgring 1000 kilometers today for Round 3 of the 2007 Le Mans
In a race where few cars encountered the usual problems, it was an especially sweet win for the Wellingborough-based team. The knowledge that they had beaten tough opposition on pace alone came as rich reward after the disappointment of missing out on a hat-trick of class wins in the Le Mans 24 Hours just a fortnight ago. That sensation also came as some recompense for the many occasions over the past two seasons when near-certain victory has been snatched away at the last moment by a bizarre failure or unforeseen mishap. This time, against one of the toughest grid's yet amassed for the Le Mans Series, the RML AD Group Lola-MG EX264 swept through from start to finish in a supreme demonstration of pit lane efficiency and unbeatable pace.
Following on from claiming pole on Saturday, Thomas Erdos drove a faultless first double-stint. The red, white and blue Lola-MG lead the LMP2 class all the way, save for a three-lap break created by an early pitstop for fuel, and he handed over at the end of two hours with a lead of over a minute from the second-placed Quifel ASM Lola.
Mike Newton, who had already demonstrated a considerable improvement in speed during free practice, maintained that level of pace for the next third of the race. Lapping consistently and without drama, he was able to hand back the Lola-MG for the final two hours with the advantage comfortably intact. It then rested with Thomas Erdos to steer the car home; a feat he achieved with considerable finesse, not only extending the lead, but setting a new race lap record along the way of 1:49.031
"That was absolutely brilliant!" said an overjoyed Erdos. "This is why we do what we do. To come here and beat the opposition purely on pace alone is a great feeling. The car was perfect, and it was a simple fact that nobody had an answer to what we were able to do."
Adam Wiseberg, Motorsport Director for AD Group, shared that exuberance. "What a performance by everyone in the team", he said. "The pit crew, the team manager, and most of all, the two drivers. What they have achieved today is simply remarkable. That first double-stint from Tommy broke the back of the opposition, and a cool, mature drive from Mike maintained the advantage. This has been a fantastic race to win, not least because it has come as a result of our maintaining a faster pace than everyone else."
Part of that credit must go to the pit crew. The RML MG spent less time in the pits than any other car save one, and that achievement was wholly down to the efficiency and experience of the engineers and mechanics servicing the car. "The guys achieved some excellent pitstops", agreed Phil Barker, Team Manager at RML. "The car was consistent, and both drivers were on top of their game, and it was a great all-round performance."
Mike Newton could not take the smile off his face. "We wondered at the start of the year if we would be able to match the pace of the new chassis and drivers line-ups when we came to a race where everyone ran clean and strong. We quite expected we'd have to settle for second, or worse. This has been that race, and yet weve won, on pace alone. Up against the toughest opposition, we've beaten them all, and that feels very, very good."
The next round is at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on August 19th. After the rush of the last ten days, since Le Mans, the next few weeks will come as a welcome break for the team
CHAROUZ BURN FROM THE STERN
The Charouz Racing System-Lola/Judd scored another fine finish in the latest Le Mans Series race at the Nürburgring in Germany over the weekend.
The team placed fourth after having to start the race from fiftieth position on the grid because of a decision imposed by the stewards after qualifying.
The team of Alex Yoong, Jan Charouz and Stefan Mucke acquired some more points once again with the Judd powered Lola after previously finishing in second place in Valencia.
Jan Charouz, who drove the final stint, moved up to fourth place on the penultimate lap of 195 race, taking the Creation LMP1 of former Ligier Grand Prix driver Shinji Nakano!
The nineteen-year-old Czech was some thirty seconds behind Nakano after the last pit stop but showed tremendous speed and agression to duck inside at the NGK chicane before the final corner.
On Saturday afternoon the technical inspectors from the ACO found a damaged seal under the airbox of the engine after having disassembled the car repeatedly (first two inspections were okay), which was assessed as a breach of the rules. The paradox of this is the fact that the scrutineers also helped the team by finding this, as the false air taken in was cutting the engine’s power down and increasing the consumption…
The team changed its strategy because of the penalty of starting in last position. Mucke, who was to drive the final stint, became the first driver. He is familiar with Nürburgring as it is his home circuit and he fought his way up to as high as eighth place overall in the first hour.
Yoong, who replaced him, got the Lola B07/17 up to fourth place, but a punctured tyre meant the car fell down the leader board to 8th place.
After replacing the wheel and some damaged bodywork the next advancement could begin, which was climaxed by Jan Charouz during the last two hours.
His performance was an apt present for his dad Antonin, who celebrated his 53rd birthday on race day. The Prague-based team principal was delighted with the teams performance and said:
“Jan gave me a supergift. His performance was flawless. But not his only, of course. Stefan and Alex deserve applause just as much. It was simply a similarly good result as in Valencia, where we finished second. I value today’s result even more because of many troubles we had - starting at the back, the slalom among slower cars, a dramatic and dangerous blow-out and then overtaking the opponent in the penultimate lap! It simply was a great show.”
Jan Charouz: “This was one of my greatest races. My fight with Nakano must have been spectacular and I’m happy I was the winner. It wasn’t easy. I caught up with him but I wasn’t able to overtake him. I had to prepare my attack in one of the slower passages. I decided for the NGK chicane and Nakano didn’t have a chance. Luckily enough.”
Stefan Muecke: “Overtaking 24 cars, that doesn’t really happen every day (smiles). But frankly, I’ve never beaten so many rivals. It was a fantastic piece of racing. The first set of tyres weren't ideal, the car oversteered with them. The second set was okay and I drove flat out. I didn’t keep the best course because I had to overtake a lot, which covered the wheels with lots of dirt and that was dangerous. I think our performance deserves acknowledgment; this was a real battle.”
Alex Yoong: “It was a shame about the puncture. I had to drive slowly the entire lap and go to the pits. It worked out and I didn’t get too much behind, just like after fighting with one of the Astons. Like Stefan, I wasn’t satisfied with the first set of tyres, either, but the second were all right. What matters is the final result and I consider that very good. I’m also happy I managed to set the fastest lap of our crew.”
Results, Le Mans Series, Nürburgring, Race 3 of 6
1. Team Peugeot Total LAMY Pedro, SARRAZIN Stephane (Peugeot 908 HDi FAP) LMP1 194 laps
2. Team Peugeot Total GENE Marc, MINASSIAN Nicolas (Peugeot 908 HDi FAP) LMP1 -1 lap
3 Pescarolo Sport COLLARD Emmanuel, BOULLION Jean-Christophe (Pescarolo Judd) LMP1 -4 laps
4. Skoda Charouz Racing System - Lola/Judd YOONG Alex, MUCKE Stefan, CHAROUZ Jan (Lola B07/17 Judd) LMP1 -7 laps
5. Creation Autosportif CAMPBELL WALTER Jamie, ORTIZ Felipe, NAKANO Shinji (Creation CA07 Judd) LMP1 -7 laps
6. RML ERDOS Thomas, NEWTON Mike (MG Lola EX264 AER) LMP2 -7 laps
7. Barazi Epsilon BARAZI Juan, VERGERS Michael, OJJEH Karim (Zytek 07S Zytek) LMP2 -8 laps
8. Arena Motorsport CHILTON Tom, SHIMODA Hayanari (Zytek 07S Zytek) LMP1 -8 laps
50 cars started