Lola LMP sports cars continued their impressive start to the 2011 season at the opening Le Mans Series race at Paul Ricard yesterday. A pole position, fastest lap in LMP1 and three podium finishes completed a successful weekend of racing for Lola customers. After taking a clear pole position on Saturday the #12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota of Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost led the early stages of the six-hour race until a gear compressor problem necessitated an unscheduled pit stop. Despite this the duo fought back well to register 3rd place in the LMP1 class, 7th overall, and also clinching the fastest lap of the race with a 1m47.465s lap.

Taking a fine 2nd place overall was the Jean Christophe Boullion and Andrea Belicchi Rebellion Lola-Toyota. Overcoming a difficult start to the race, the French/Italian partnership proved to be formidable in coming up through the field and they were set to challenge the eventual race winning Pescarolo Judd until a 5th hour spin lost time and momentum.

The weekend brought a large haul of points for Rebellion Racing in their quest for the Le Mans Series LMP1 title and a pole, fastest lap and double podium for Toyota was an excellent start to their return to international sports car competition.

Lola Executive Chairman, Martin Birrane, commented on the weekend’s events at Paul Ricard, stating “We congratulate all our teams on some excellent performances at the weekend. It was clear that on pace and reliability the Lola designed and constructed sports cars are right at the front. To get a 100% finishing statistic in the first LMS race of the year is very pleasing and we now look forward to even more success as the season progresses.”

Lola Managing Director, Robin Brundle, watched the Lola performances and in particular the LMP2 pace discrepancies with interest at Paul Ricard and said: “Despite an excellent start to the season for Lola, the governing body does have a need to address the performance difference between Petrol and Diesel and on safety grounds between the GT, FLM and LMP2 cars"

In LMP2 the Pecom Racing Lola B11/40 entry of Luis Perez Companc, Matias Russo and Pierre Kaffer had a brilliant trouble-free run to 2nd place in class and 4th overall. The Judd powered cost capped Lola sports car signalled its entry into the ultra competitive LMP2 class with a fine showing that delighted Argentine racer, Companc. “We had a very nice run today and I must say thank you to the team, Lola and Judd. We have not had a huge amount of testing so this is an excellent platform for us to use for a productive first year in this class.”

Pecom Racing’s result backed up the debut class win by the cost-capped B11/40 LMP2 of Level 5 Racing at Sebring last month and puts the car in good stead for the Le Mans test day later this month.

Team RLR had an equally smooth race in LMP2, finishing 9th overall and 5th in the LMP2 class. The Lancastrian squad used their MG branded Lola, Dunlop tyres and Judd engine to the maximum during the whole weekend.

Rob Garofall, Simon Philipps and Barry Gates all drove exceptional stints in the red, white and blue Lola to finish 5th in LMP2 and 9th overall. The Lancastrian team were delighted with their hard fought result and now have a good platform to build on with their new package of Judd engine and Dunlop tyres.

Paying tribute to the Japanese nation, the official Lola spares vehicle sported a special message at Paul Ricard. Lola, with many customers and friends in Japan wanted to bring attention to the ways in which people can help those affected by the natural disasters via www.jrc.or.jp and www.savethechildren.or.jp.

Lola LMP cars are next in action at the Long Beach ALMS event on April 17. A week later, six LMP cars will take part in the official Le Mans test day in preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.

All pictures courtesy of Peter May/Lola Heritge.

Second for the Jean Christophe Boullion and Andrea Belicchi Rebellion Lola-Toyota in LMP1.

The second Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota of Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost led the race after taking pole position.

Second in LMP2 for Pecom Racing Lola B11/40 of Luis Perez Companc, Matias Russo and Pierre Kaffer.

A good result for Rob Garofall, Simon Philipps and Barry Gates.

Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost on the LMP1 podium.

The Pecom Racing B11/40 at the end of the long Paul Ricard straight.

Luis Perez Companc, Matias Russo and Pierre Kaffer on the LMP2 podium.

One of the Rebellion Lola's refuelling in the pits.