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RML at Autosport International 2011

It was a busy few days at the annual Autosport Show, staged at the NEC in Birmingham between the 13th and 16th January. The two trade days saw thousands of industry visitors, representatives of the media, racing drivers and people from all tracks of world motorsport milling around the busy halls and stands. It was an opportunity to renew acquaintances, settle deals for the new season, and catch up on all the news and gossip. Then, on Saturday and Sunday, the doors were thrown open to the public, and tens of thousands of motor racing enthusiasts poured through the doors.

RML was well represented, with two examples of the team's Chevrolet Cruze touring car on display, and a significant presence on the main Autosport Stage on the Friday afternoon. Ben Collins, re-signed as the team's "third" driver for 2011, also had his hands full, taking part in the celebrity kart race and launching a new race series - of which more in due course.

RML Receives "Teamwork" Award

On the Wednesday evening, before the show opened, the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA) held its annual Business Excellence Awards. RML's CEO Ray Mallock was honoured to be presented with the 2010 Teamwork Award in recognition of the Wellingborough-based outfit’s outstanding record of having secured five championship wins across all three of its motorsport projects last year.

Ray Mallock acceots the MIA Teamwork Award 2010.In addition to the LMP2 Le Mans Series drivers' title, won by Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos, and the LMS team crown - a just reward for Phil Barker and his crew - RML also swept the board in the world of touring cars. The team's Chevrolets not only won the British title with Jason Plato, but topped that with the manufacturer's title for Chevrolet and individual driver's title for Yvan Muller in the prestigious World Touring Car Championship. It had indeed been a memorable year for RML.

The MIA awards have been an integral part of the Autosport International Show since 1995, acknowledging and celebrating excellence across all levels of UK motorsport. There are seven award categories, with the winners selected as a result of a voting process open to all the MIA's own members. Taking into account the notable contributions made to the industry over the previous twelve months, and the inspiring achievements of some of the top names in motorsport, the recipients value these awards very highly indeed.

“It is a great honour to receive this award on behalf of the whole team at RML," said Ray Mallock, founder of RML. "In many ways, this is the most significant award from our 2010 campaign in that it recognises the outstanding success we achieved in five of the toughest UK, European and international championships across three disciplines."

"Few, if any other organisations have had this level of success anywhere in the world. RML prides itself on its core values for success, including teamwork, integrity and striving always to be the best through a process of continuous improvement. 2010 was testament to those values and I am immensely proud to accept this accolade on behalf of all at RML. It is a fitting tribute to their hard work, their skills and in particular, the team work that RML demonstrates.”

RML Chevrolet BTCC driver champion 2010, Jason Plato. Photo: Marcus Potts/CMC

The RML-run Chevrolet Cruze, entered by Silverline and driven by Jason Plato,
took the BTCC Driver's Title in 2011, and was featured on the Autoglym stand.
Yvan Muller's similar WTCC-winning Chevrolet was a prominent feature of the MIA stand.

The AD Group Team on Stage

The RML AD Group "team" took to the stage early in the afternoon of Friday, with Rupert Manwaring representing RML and accompanied by Mike Newton, Ben Collins and Thomas Erdos. It was an opportunity to announce the team's Le Mans Series and 24 Hours plans for 2011, confirm the rumour that RML would be pursuing the all-HPD route in 2011, and welcome Ben Collins back to the fold as a permanent member of the driver line-up for the new season. Here is a transcript of the interview:

RML AD Group, Autosport International, January 14th 2011. Photo: Marcus Potts / CMCQ. Welcome Gentlemen, and Happy New Year to you. Good to see you. Mike, I’ll start with you, as you're closest to me. Great year for you in 2010, Le Mans Series champions, much of the same in 2011, you hope?

Mike: Absolutely, yes. After the previous two years, to get back on top in LMP2 was terrific. It felt very difficult during 2008 and nine, but the team did a terrific job on the chassis, we had total reliability, HPD did an equally amazing job with the engine, and we had no stops throughout the whole season. It was great to pull that result, so we want to come back and show that we can carry on doing it.

Strakka Racing HPD, Le Mans Series 2010Q. Those young pups at Strakka Racing gave you a hard time, didn’t they?

Mike: They did, and we knew that they had a faster chassis, but we knew that, with consistency, we could potentially prevail, and we did.

Q. You’ve been paired with Tommy for a number of years now, and you’ve really come on in racing. Have you learned a lot?

Mike: Absolutely. Due to circumstances in 2003, we were both thrown together in the deep end at fairly short notice, and without Tommy’s support and assistance it would have been impossible, with the steep learning curve, and it’s been a wonderful experience. I went from very limited experience in GT cars into Le Mans the next year, so a very steep learning curve, but one that’s paid dividends for both of us. It’s been great working with Tommy, it’s been a pleasure.

Q. Now, Ben, a lot of eagle-eyed people will recognise you from your previous life, but we never got to see what you actually looked like. You’re doing proper racing now, and joining the team full time.

RML Lola HPD, Le Mans Series 2010Ben: Yes, absolutely. It’s been a great thing for me. I came in half way through last season, when these guys had done all the hard work, to see the boys home and win the championship in the Le Mans Series. To be back full-time is a dream come true for me, and to be at the Le Mans 24 Hours is just incredibly exciting. It’s been a good few years since I was there. It’s the greatest race in the world and I think it’s a fantastic spectator event, but to be with these two guys, and with RML, Ray Mallock Limited, such a super team, so efficient and professional. It’s the right place to be.

Q. It was not very many years ago since L:MP2 was the reliability graveyard at Le Mans, There were lots of problems with the cars, but that problem’s just gone away completely, hasn’t it?

Ben: Yes, and it’s hard to keep up with the regs as well. The car we ran last season was an LMP2, but that’s effectively this year’s LMP1. So, really we’re driving cars that are very similar to the P1 class – they’re very fast, they have to last six hours for the shorter races, and 24 hours in the “big one”. I’ll let Mike explain the new car and engine package, but last season we ran with HPD, and they did a fantastic job with that engine. We have a new engine for this year, which we hope will be fast and reliable.

RML AD Group, Third at Le Mans 2010Q. Tommy. You’re going to be part of the mainstay of the team again, in the Le Mans Series, and at the 24 Hours. It’s an environment that you love being in.

Tommy: Oh, absolutely. As Ben said, it’s the greatest race in the world, certainly from where we stand. There’s nothing like the feeling of being at Le Mans and competing, and we’ve obviously been fortunate enough to have been able to step onto the top of the podium at Le Mans, and I think that’s what really drives the whole programme forwards. It’s the ultimate prize, and we’re very focused on that.

Q. Rupert. From Ray Mallock Racing perspective, the Le Mans Series is one of a number of feathers in your bow and 2010 was an extraordinary year for RML. Everything you touched turned to gold!

Rupert: Yes, you’re right. It was one of those years, which means we’re under incredible pressure to do it again. We’re delighted to be able to defend our titles in the LMP2 class. As Ben says, the rule changes have been quite confusing, but I think we’ve come out with a fantastic package, so hopefully, we can pull it off again.

RML AD Group HPD ARX-01d, Le Mans Series 2011. Photo-realistic visual by Marcus PottsQ. Mike. The new car. Tell us a little bit more about it.

Mike: As you said, the cars are now so much more reliable, and if you look back to 2005 it was the walking wounded. In 2010 we did nothing but put fuel, tyres and drivers in the car. So, having now got it right, everything’s all change again!  The HPD engine was such a key factor last year, and although we had a slower chassis, through what we did to correct it as a team, we were able to prevail over the ARX chassis. There are forces at work determined that we won’t beat the ARX chassis again, so the easy way of stopping that is that, next (sic) year, not only are we going to have the HPD engine, but we’re going to have an ARX chassis as well.

Q. Ben. What about testing? How much mileage are you going to get in before the season starts?

Ben: The great thing about this new car is that we’ll be able to get into the simulator, which is incredibly realistic. I’ve yet to try one of these things, but our competitors were in and out all last year, and they found a huge bonus in that. The boys will be getting the new car very soon, and aiming to get that ready for February time, to start our testing. We have the Le Mans test (at Paul Ricard) in March. So, we will get some time in the car, which will be a nice change. When I joined (last season) I was given it in the night, and told to get on with it. It was a great challenge, but I didn’t do much more than a few laps before we were in the middle of a race. So, starting at the beginning of the season, and being there from the beginning, doing horrid seats (fitting) and going testing will be a nice luxury.

Q. I’ve got to ask you a Top Gear question. Do you mind?

Ben: What do I mind?

Q. Can I ask you a Top Gear question? Do you mind? Ladies and gentlemen, this is The Stig, of course, which some of you will have realised. Lot of fun?

Ben: It was great fun. Eight years, tearing round those tracks, trying not to be killed by the likes of Tom Cruise and David Walliams and all these other celebrity guests that we had, and particularly at the end, not to be eaten by Jeremy Clarkson, when he came after me. I survived that.

The one thing I always wanted to do as The Stig, which I was unable to do, was go real racing. We did the Britcar 24 Hours, which was fun, but the Le Mans 24 Hours is a different kettle of fish altogether. As a racing driver – with all of us – our hearts are in competition, and Le Mans is the ultimate competition, it’s the ultimate endurance test. We get to do what we love doing for the longest time possible. So, if all goes well, we’ll all get about eight hours in the car driving at 200 miles an hour, through those trees, and that’s what it’s all about.

Q. Tommy. Ben mentioned simulation – getting in the simulator. When you started racing here in Britain, as a youngster, simulation; computerised “how does it work” in advance, on a computer screen, unheard of. “

Tommy. Absolutely, yes. Are you telling me I’m old?

RML AD Group, winners in the Algarve, Le Mans Series 2010Q. You look good on it!

Tommy. Thankyou. But it’s true, we had none of that when I started racing. I think it’s a great tool that we have nowadays, and a very cost-effective tool as well. If you can imagine taking a whole team, such as the one we operate at RML, to a racetrack in Europe, it’s a very expensive exercise, so I think the facility we’re going to be able to use this year with Wirth will be a fantastic aid to our programme, but nothing really beats being on track and doing the testing there as well, so yes, we are planning a certain amount of testing. We’re looking forward to the experience.

Q. Rupert. From an RML perspective; any plans for expansion? Any more projects in the pipeline?

Rupert: Obviously, we have got our hands fairly full this year, but as a company, we’re always looking for new projects, and always positioning ourselves to win those projects. There are a couple out there at the moment, and hopefully we’ll land one during the course of 2011.

Q. We’ll look forward to it, so we’ll be following your  progress, chaps,  throughout the year – best of luck to you, thanks for talking to us; Rupert Manwaring, Ben Collins, Tommy Erdos and Mike Newton.

The official announcement of the HPD chassis can be found here, while confirmation of Ben's reappointment is considered in more depth here. Hover over an image to detect if an enlargement is available.

More news from the Show later this week, including details of that electrifying new championship launched by Ben on Thursday. . .

Team News
RML AD Group at Autosport International 2011

Issued January 17th 2011

RML Chevrolet BTCC driver champion 2010, Jason Plato. Photo: Marcus Potts/CMC






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RML AD Group, Autosport International, January 14th 2011. Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC













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