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RML AD Group Taking a Sabbatical

With the publication of an advertisement in Autosport last week offering the "sale or lease" of the team's HPD chassis, and the simultaneous appearance of similar details here on the website, it has become evident that the RML AD Group sportscar programme will not be active in 2012.

This comes after eight very successful seasons, during which the team's various Lola or HPD chassis were never far from the podium. Indeed, the squad picked up two class wins in the Le Mans 24 Hours and two sets of titles in the Le Mans Series. By way of explanation, we reproduce below the content of a feature article that initially appeared on Dailysportscar:

Ever since the Le Mans Series was first launched, initially as the LMES at a one-off 1000 Kilometres race at Le Mans in late 2003, one name has been consistently present on the entry list; RML AD Group. The squad, with regular driver pairing of Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos, only missed one round (Interlagos) in eight seasons of racing, picking up two LMP2 titles along the way. Then, at the tail end of 2011, the team dropped out of the final race in Estoril, and little has been heard of them since.

RML AD Group | HPD ARX for sale | Imola 2012, photographed by Marcus Potts / CMC Graphics

Speculation as to the team’s plans for 2012 were answered, to a certain extent, when an advert appeared in Autosport last week announcing that the RML AD Group HPD ARX, now in full 2012 cost-capped specification, was being offered “for sale or lease”. A similar report on the team website prompted us to track down Mike Newton at Autosport International, and try to get to the bottom of the story.

“After a lot of soul searching, we have decided to step back from a full sportscar programme this season,” admitted Mike. “Last year was hugely disappointing, and although we have overcome some of the obvious issues, now that the HPD is able to run within the full cost-capped regulations, that hasn’t been enough to convince us that a season in either the WEC (World Endurance Championship) or ELMS (European Le Mans Series) is sufficiently attractive.”

“We’ve considered both championships very carefully, but neither calendar meets our interests for 2012. As far as the WEC is concerned, there are only three or four rounds, including Le Mans of course, which fit in with our sponsorship and marketing needs. We do have interests in the United States, but races in The Far East have no great appeal for us, and our market in South America is somewhat limited. On top of that, the intensive block of nine weeks at the end of the season, when I’d be required to spend nearly all my time travelling between the UK and China or Japan, is simply impractical from a business perspective. As a key marketing tool within our business, the WEC simply doesn’t work for us.”

“In the meantime, we’ve been keeping a watching brief on the way the ELMS has been developing, but I have to admit that, so far, it does not appear compelling enough as a race series to allow us to make any form of commitment. Primarily, the choice of race circuits is a problem. For example, we remain unconvinced as to the suitability of Donington Park to host a grid of the diversity and size being predicted for the ELMS. I appreciate that we have raced there previously, and indeed, we won at Donington in 2006."

RML AD Group | Donington Park 2006 | Winners LMP2

"I really like the track, but it remains dependent upon the mix of prototype and GT entries to determine whether or not the circuit would be acceptable. I remain even less convinced that Zolder is either appropriate or safe for LMP entries to share the same grid, especially if the Series is dominated by GT cars. The track is particularly tight, the run-off is questionable, and the surface is very bumpy.”

The remaining two rounds of the ELMS; Brno and Portimão, elicit a shrug from the CEO of AD Group. “Portimão is a good circuit, but what is the appeal to racing in front of empty grandstands? I’m simply not convinced. ”

The advert for the HPD chassis suggests that the car is available for ‘sale or lease’. “Potentially, we could be interested in sharing a season in the WEC with another party – drivers or sponsors - that might be attracted by the prospect of rounds in the Far East,” explained Pauline Norstrom, Marketing & Motorsport Director at AD Group.  “Those races have no real appeal to us. We have to approach our motorsport programme from a solid business footing, and races in China and Japan simply do not fit our global marketing strategy. Our industry footprint remains focused in Europe, and the Far East is not our target market, but we’d certainly be open to offers from anyone interested in commissioning RML to run the car on their behalf, possibly in collaboration with AD Group’s principal interest in European competition.”

AD Group has always approached its motorsport with a sound business model, and uses the medium of trackside hospitality to promote its products to very good effect. So long as the trade generated exceeds the cost, then the team will continue to go racing. The financial implications of a calendar that renders more than half the year’s races uneconomic has forced the team’s hand, for this year at least.

Mike Newton, CEO AD Group | Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC GraphicsAlthough he’s ruled out a full season in the WEC or ELMS, Mike Newton won’t be hanging up his racing boots just yet. “From my own point of view, if the sportscar programme has to be put on ice for a season, so be it. I have various options open to me, and I may be looking at competing in some classic or historic races, especially now that there are some openings for me to compete with the older LMP chassis in my collection. I also have classic saloons and touring cars that could help me keep my eye in, and that's tempting, pending a return next year. There are several options, including Britcar, possibly with a prototype in the new LMPX category, or failing that, with the Falcon, but I also wouldn’t exclude some selected rounds of the ELMS.”

In addition to the HPD, the team is also offering for sale one of Mike Newton’s Saleen S7Rs. The car in question is one of the early RML chassis, and took the GT1 title in the 2001 ELMS, the British GT title in 2002, and raced at Le Mans in 2003.

Anyone interested in taking up the opportunity of either of buying or leasing the RML AD Group HPD ARX-03b is asked to contact: Phil Barker (+44 (0)7768 397 661) or Mike Newton (+44 (0)7798 927 111). Further details of the HPD and the Saleen can be viewed here.

Le Mans & Team News

RML AD Group to miss 2012
Sportscar Season

Released January 18th 2012

RML AD Group| Mike Newton | Photo: David Downes

















































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