With teams completing their final shakedown tests ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours next week. RML AD Group was at the Snetterton Circuit in England on Tuesday with all three drivers; Mike Newton, Thomas Erdos and Chris Dyson, completing an extended day’s running in the team’s Lola-Mazda B08/86.
It is only the second time since the official Paul Ricard test in March that the full driver line-up has been able to work together with the team. Chris Dyson may be the new face in RML AD Group’s driver squad, but he’s not new to the Lola Mazda. In the States he shares an almost identical car in the American Le Mans Series with Briton Guy Smith, and has already secured three podiums from the first four races this season. That makes him very familiar with the handling, performance and cockpit environment of the car, and the key issue to be resolved at Snetterton was the completion of his seat fitting.
“The test went really well,” said a buoyant Thomas Erdos. “It wasn’t about setting-up the car, but it was a comprehensive systems check to ensure that everything works OK and we’re ready for six hours of Free Practice next Wednesday. The car ran reliably all day, no problems, and it was good to get to know Chris a little better. It has left us all in a very positive frame of mind as we look towards Le Mans.”
The test was a valuable opportunity for Mike Newton to spend time in the cockpit. Mike has had his running severely curtailed this season, with stints at Barcelona and Spa cut short by technical problems. At Snetterton he completed more than 50 trouble-free laps. “I was a little tentative for the first few minutes, especially as we were all very aware of the fact that the car will be on the truck for Le Mans in a day or two, but I soon got into the swing of things,” he said. “There was no official timing, but I believe my pace was very similar to Chris’s and only a small margin behind Tommy. The car felt great, and we achieved everything we wanted to. From Chris down to Tommy, through our full range of heights, we’re comfortable with the car, and looking forward to the challenge.”
After the start the team has had to 2009 there have been questions over reliability. “Of course,” admits Thomas Erdos, “but that’s something every competitor faces in the Le Mans 24 Hours. It’s a very long race, and it places enormous demands on every aspect of the car, not just the engine. The problems we encountered in Barcelona and Spa served a useful purpose, much as they were hugely disappointing, and they have allowed us to focus on issues we might otherwise have overlooked in our preparations for ‘The Big One’. I feel we’re probably better prepared now than we’ve ever been, and I know, and appreciate, the efforts that AER has put in to these past few weeks. The engine is now producing a little more power than it was at the start of the year, and it’s getting nearer to parity with the normally aspirated engines. I believe we’re now in a very strong position.”
RML Team Manager Phil Barker declared himself well satisfied with the test. “I came away with a smile on my face,” he said. “I feel we can now head for Le Mans feeling encouraged by the progress we’ve made. It was good to get Mike into the car and give him his first proper run for some while. He applied himself with determination and got down to some very competitive times. We were also able to try out some of the new failsafe strategies that we’ve introduced to the car and to refine the new intercooler and oil cooler arrangement we fitted at Spa. That all appears to work very efficiently and, all round, it’s been a very productive day.”
“Pace-wise, we’re not far off by any means, as we proved in Barcelona and at Spa,” concluded Mike Newton. “Provided we can run cleanly and reliably, I think we have a very good chance this year.” RML AD Group took the LMP2 title at Le Mans in 2005 and 2006.
The Le Mans 24 Hours begins at 3:00 pm (CET) on Saturday June 13th.