Six Lola Le Mans Prototype sportscars were in action at the LMS Paul Ricard test in the South of France yesterday. Each of Lola’s all-new LMP Coupes were in action with the LMP2 example of Speedy Racing team Sebah turning a wheel for the very first time.

The Hugh Hayden led Speedy Sebah team had a very good day indeed with Andrea Belicchi, Xavier Pompidou, Robbie Kerr and Steve Zacchia all driving the car and coverering an impressive 50 laps. The only problems were a slightly sluggish downshift but that was rectified before the end of the day.

The LMP2 Lola Coupe was running with too much downforce and the wrong gearing, which was fine for the first day as the car was only completed on Wednesday evening at the Lola factory. Team driver, Andrea Belicchi loved his laps in the car and commented: “The Lola was very easy to drive, there’s a lot of assistance for the driver and the downforce is beautiful. My first feeling is that it is a very nice car.”

Hugh Hayden confirmed at Ricard that he will pick the final driver line-up for the Speedy Sebah Lola team “in a couple of days”. And for those who are wondering where the name ‘Sebah’ comes from then here is the answer. Hugh spent 25 years as a civil engineer in Dubai – “We built the first bridge over the creek”. Sebah is Arabic for seven, which is the lucky number for Arabs.

The Charouz drivers of Stefan Mucke and Jan Charouz each completed more than 40 laps yesterday without any significant problems. Aston Martin’s George Howard Chappell summed up the cars progress so far, saying: “We’re concentrating on core things – but the engine control and gear shift are now well sorted. We’re not interested in ultimate speed. It needs to work and it needs to finish first.”

The Charouz team that are being spearheaded by Prodrive were using a standard set-up on the car and not a specific Ricard set-up yesterday.

The other Charouz entry, being run for the Cytosport operation had a useful day with all three drivers, Greg Pickett, Klaus Graf and Jan Lammers getting a lot of lappery under their belts.

Klaus Graf thoroughly enjoyed his first trip to the Ricard track in a Lola and spoke about the changes between his US Lola-AER package and the new Lola-Judd, ex Charouz car: “You can’t compare the two Lola’s and the two engines (AER and Judd), because we run so much downforce in the ALMS,” pointed out Graf. “The Judd is more linear than the AER: you have to be more precise with the turbo engine, but both engines are great. We were on the podium four times in a row in the ALMS last year.”

The RML team were forced to pack up early yesterday, having had engine issues twice, with the their newly modified unit. Andy Wallace and Tommy Erdos completed over 45 laps in the morning but were reduced to just nine in the afternoon because of the problems.

The Chamberlain-Synergy team announced at Paul Ricard that Amanda Stretton will be joining her husband Bob Berridge and Gareth Evans in the yellow Lola LMP1 car this season for both the LMS races and Le Mans. Stretton shocked the paddock as she proved to be the fastest through the Mistral straight speed trap on Sunday afternoon!

Berridge was delighted with progress made during the problem free runs and decided to go through the night. “We are two seconds quicker than last year,” said Berridge. “I can run consistently as fast as I could manage on one banzai lap here last year. The car has run like clockwork, as usual – and it’s very fast in a straight line. I’m passing LMP1s past the pits, before the first corner, and we’re faster than anything else, including Audis, in a straight line.”

Hugh Chamberlain confirmed that: “I saw 312/313/314 kph from other cars, a 315 once, but Bob and Amanda were doing 317/318 kph, and that isn’t with low downforce.”

Amanda actually clocked the 318 kph, husband Bob the 317, Hugh suggesting that Amanda’s smaller mass having a significant effect.

The Quifel-ASM Lola LMP2 car had recently tested at Estoril and ran throughout the day yesterday with new drivers Guy Smith and Olivier Pla. Smith was back in a Lola LMP2 for the first time since Istanbul in 2005 and really enjoying the experience. “I forgot just how good the cars is. It has come on nicely since I last drove it in Turkey. You do notice the grip levels through the fast rights after the straight. Everything went to plan today and we might even do some night running too.”

The new Epsilon-Euskadi completed half a lap of the Ricard circuit yesterday evening before appearing in the paddock on a flatbed, having not set a time yet due to starter motor problems. It was running this evening, and set a time of 1:49.946 – after 31 laps were completed.

1.Audi Sport Team Joest - 1:39.705
2 Audi Sport Team Joest - 1:40.777
3. Team Oreca Matmut - 1:42.631
4. Creation Autosportif - 1:43.285
5. Charouz Racing System - 1:43.598
6. Pescarolo Sport - 1:43.880
7. (1) Van Merksteijn Motorsport - 1:44.246
8. Charouz Racing System-Cytosport - 1:44.556
9. Team Oreca Matmut - 1:45.000
10. (2) Team Essex - 1:45.284
11. (3)Quifel-ASM Team - 1:45.738
12 Chamberlain-Synergy - 1:46.168
13. Rollcentre Racing - 1:46.609
14. (4) Saulnier Racing - 1:47.427
15. (5) Speedy Racing Team Sebah - 1:49.035
16. (6) Team Bruichladdich Radical - 1:49.053
17. (7) RML - 1:50.750
18. Larbre Competition - 1:52.486
19. Aston Martin Racing - 1:54.344
20. Luc Alphand Aventures - 1:54.490
21. Luc Alphand Aventures - 1:54.948
22. IPB Spartak Racing - 1:55.348
23. Strakka Racing - 1:56.780
24. IMSA Performance Matmut - 1:58.249
25. Virgo Motorsport - 1:58.439
26. Team Felbermayr Proton - 1:59.232
27. Aston Martin Racing - 2:00.731
28. JMB Racing - 2:00.860
29. IMSA Performance Matmut - 2:01.618
30. Speedy Racing Team - 2:01.903.

All pictures John Brooks.

The brand new Speedy Sebah B08/60 LMP2 Coupe.

The Aston Martin-engined B08/80 LMP1 Coupe continued its development.

Jan Lammers in the Charouz-entered Cytosport car.

Amanda Stretton in the Chamberlain-Synergy LMP1 car.

The Speedy Sebah LMP2 Coupe heads the ASM LMP2 model.

The Speedy Sebah Coupe poses for pictures.