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RML AD Group pleased with fourth

Thomas Erdos set a time of 3:41.952 to claim a second-row slot on the LMP2 grid for RML AD Group’s Lola-Mazda in Saturday’s Le Mans 24 Hours. The red, white and blue coupé will line up alongside the similar silver and blue Speedy Racing Team Sebah entry, and directly behind last year’s winning Porsche RS Spyder, this time entered by the Japanese Team Goh squad. Class pole fell to the #31 Porsche RS Spyder entered by the Denmark-based Team Essex.

There had looked to be every chance that Tommy would have been able to claim third, and was eight-tenths up on his best time before he caught up with a slowing GT1 Corvette in the Porsche Curves, right towards the end of his quickest lap. Having to back off cost him the lap, but he admitted that matching the pace set by the Porsches was never really on the cards. “The sector times suggest that we could have been the top Lola, but traffic got in the way – as I’m sure it did for everyone, but that’s just the way of things. I lost a lot of time, and for sure, third on the grid was possible, but I was very happy with the car at the end of today. We ran with a full load of fuel on standard race tyres, and still set a time that was potentially good enough for third in class. I’m actually delighted with that, but more so because I know we have a very well-balanced, competitive car for the race.”

Rupert Manwaring, Marketing Director for RML, said; “I’m delighted that all three drivers are happy with the balance and performance of the car. It would have been nice to be the quickest Lola, but we are the fastest of the Mazda-powered cars, and that is a satisfying achievement for the team. The most important thing is that the drivers themselves are confident in the car, and feel comfortable with their ability to maintain a fast pace throughout the race.”

“I’m really impressed with Tommy’s lap, in the darkness,” said John Doonan, Manager of Motorsports Team Development for Mazda North American. “Our primary goal this evening was to ensure that every driver had plenty of time in the car, and to be able to set three forty-fives at night suggests that we’re in really good shape for the race.”

Phil Barker, Team Manager at RML, was well satisfied by the turn of events. “That was a very good session. We made a series of changes just to improve the race balance, and the drivers are now very comfortable in the car. We know there was a quicker time in the car if we’d had the opportunity to go for it, and even on Tommy’s quickest recorded lap, we lost a significant amount of time through the final sector with traffic. Third and the top Lola would have been nice, but we have the bonus of an excellent car for the race, and we can be satisfied with that.”

The only very minor cause for concern was that Chris Dyson missed sight of the chequered flag at the end of the first of the evening’s two sessions. It had only just been unfurled, but he technically, and inadvertently, completed one lap too many. Called up to see the race director, he was immediately apologetic. “Truthfully, I just didn’t see it, but Daniel Poissenot was very understanding. It was a split second thing, and he advised me to “be careful Chris!” for the future.” Chris completed a generous run of laps just before the break, and then added to that with night-time laps after ten o’clock. “We were on double-stinted tyres and full tanks, and the car still felt great,” he said. “We have a car that can run at a great pace, and that gives us great encouragement for the race.

Mike’s times were particularly impressive, bearing in mind how little running he’s had this season. “Mike’s pace tonight must have boosted his confidence,” said Tommy. “He was quickly into setting some good times through heavy traffic, and for Mike to come straight here after two negative events at Barcelona and Spa and achieve that kind of pace, straight into the three-fifties, is a credit to him.” Mike was quietly pleased. “My last lap was a fifty-eight, but that included two or three second-losing incidents with traffic, so we can confidently count that as a fifty-six or fifty-five, which is OK. That was on two-thirds tanks and tyres that were well past their best as well, so if that is potentially around my race-pace, I’m quite satisfied. If I’d had a clear lap and actually done a fifty-five, I’d be very happy,” he said.

During Friday, and before the weekend’s race, the team will be refitting the engine that they “ran in” on Wednesday night. “We’ve extended our policy of pre-testing components before we use them to include the engine,” explained Mike. “Everything has been run-in, and there’s nothing new and unproven for us to encounter in the race. The gearbox, race suspension and also now the engine have all been validated and as good as we can hope for. That engine is now a known quantity; it’s already exhibited characteristics of good power and reliability, and it’s now run-in and ready to put in the car. It’s a cunning plan, and so far it has worked well.”

The race begins at 15:00 (CET) on Saturday afternoon.

LMP2 Times - Qualifying

Pos No. Overall Team Driver Car
1 31 19 Team Essex Collard/Elgaard/Poulsen Porsche RS Spyder
2 5 20 Team Goh Ara/unimoto/Maassen Porsche RS Spyder
3 33 23 Speedy Sebah Pompidou/Luenberger/Kane Lola B08/80 Coupé
24 RML AD Group Erdos/Newton/Dyson Lola B08/86 Coupé
25 Quifel ASM Amaral/Pla/Smith Ginetta Zytek GZ09S
26 Racing Box Biagi/Bobbi/Piccini Lola B08/86 Coupé
7 41 27 GAC Racing Team Ojeh/Gosselin/Peter Zytek GZ07S
28 Oak Racing Ajlani/Lahaye/Moureau Pescarolo Mazda
9 32 29 Barazi Epsilon Barazi/Berville/Moseley Zytek GZ07S
30 Kruse Schiller Marsh/Noda /dePourtales Lola B05/40
33 Bruichladdich Bruneau/Greaves/Rostan Radical SR9 AER
36 Oak Racing Nicolet/Hein/Yvon Pescarolo Mazda

Additional photographs are available from the Le Mans Gallery

Le Mans 24 Hours 2009

Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, France
Qualifying Press Release
Friday June 12th 2009