Lola designed and built LMP cars had a successful start to the 2011 Le Mans Series at the traditional pre season test at Paul Ricard last week. Just three weeks before the teams arrive at the same circuit for the first event of the year - the Paul Ricard 8 Hours - Rebellion Racing topped the time sheets with their new look Toyota powered Lola LMP1. As well as the Swiss team in action last weekend, Team RLR also had a productive test with their ex RML LMP2 open Lola. The new Pecom Racing squad also undertook the first public testing of the brand new Lola B11/40 LMP2 cost capped sports car.

With conditions variable for the two-day test on Friday and Saturday, the pair of Rebellion Lola-Toyota’s led the way in two of the four sessions. The #13 Lola of Guy Smith/Andrea Belicchi and Jean Christophe Boullion set the fastest time of the two-day test with a best lap of 1m46.573s. The sister Rebellion entry of Neel Jani/Nicolas Prost and new recruit Jereon Bleekemolen set the 4th best time with a 1m47.045s.

“In a lot of small ways the car is much improved on last year,” summarised Guy Smith. “Ergonomics and driver comfort seem better and after struggling for balance at times last year it now seems much nicer to drive. We had a very productive session with the data last night (Friday night) and again I think we found a little more progress with the balance there too.”

The Rebellion team curtailed their testing in the final session to get ready for their flight to Florida in readiness for the first round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup at Sebring this weekend.

In LMP2, the new Pecom Racing team showed off their provisional colour scheme for this years Le Mans Series campaign and ended the test 2nd fastest in the LMP2 class. The Italian run team has a strong Argentine flavour as both Luis Perez Companc and Matias Russo are flying the pale blue and white colours of Argentina in the Judd powered 2011 spec cost capped Lola.

After a short test at Estoril last month, Pecom Racing undertook many laps at Ricard in readiness for the 8-hour race on April 2nd. Companc in particular was extremely pleased with the Lola chassis, commenting: “The Lola brakes much better, turns better and is, for me at least easier to drive than the GT cars I am used too. I found it very hard to take a GT2 car to the limit, with the Lola you can have more confidence to push.”

Team RLR have been among the busiest teams this winter with useful tests at Estoril and Imola ahead of arriving at Paul Ricard. Rob Garofall, Barry Gates and Simon Phillips all drove the MG Lola Judd last week and they were delighted with the progress they have made since making their debut at the Hungaroring 1000kms last season. The Lancashire based team ended the test 4th fastest in LMP2.

“I think everyone has done a good job this weekend and over the close season,” said Team RLR driver Barry Gates. “We have moved forward with the setup of the car and the whole team has come on leaps and bounds compared to last year. The two events we did last year were always intended to be a learning curve for us, and since then we have tried to make steady progress in everything we've been working on. Now we are ready to go out and be competitive. I can't wait for the season to start."

Lola sports cars will again be in action this weekend when Dyson Racing, Cytosport, Level 5 Motorsports and Rebellion Racing all line up for the Sebring 12 Hours.

Combined best times from Paul Ricard test – 11-12 March
1. Smith/Belicchi/Boullion Rebellion Lola-Toyota LMP1 1m46.573s
2. Pla/Amaral Quifel-ASM Zytek LMP1 1m46.597s
3. Collard/Tinseau/Jousse Pescarolo Judd LMP1 1m46.982s
4. Jani/Prost/Bleekemolen Rebellion Lola-Toyota LMP1 1m47.045s
5. Hirschi/Beche/Thiriet TDS ORECA Nissan LMP2 1m50.062s
6. Companc/Russo/Kaffer Pecom Lola-Judd LMP2 1m51.074s
7. Frey/Meichtry Race Performance ORECA-Judd LMP2 1m52.282s
8. Garofall/Gates/Phillips Team RLR MG Lola-Judd LMP2 1m52.777s
9. Erdos/Newton/Collins RML Honda ARX LMP2 1m53.279s10. Rosier/Luco/Basso Elimite Norma-Judd LMP2 1m53.374s

All pictures courtesy of David Lord and Pedro.

The Rebellion Lola-Toyota of Guy Smith, Andrea Belicchi and Jean Christophe Boullion set the fastest time.

The second Rebellion car of Neel Jani, Nicolas Prost and Jereon Bleekemolen was also quick.

The LMP2 Pecom Racing car driven by Luis Perez Companc and Matias Russo in the Judd-powered 2011 spec cost-capped Lola.

The MG Lola-Judd Team RLR LMP2 car was driven by Rob Garofall, Barry Gates and Simon Phillips.

Guy Smith in the new LMP1 Rebellion Lola-Toyota.

Lola's Adam Airey keeps a close eye on the Rebellion Lola-Toyota.