Return to the home page Contact the team Privacy policy on this website RML Lola Mazda B08/86
RML AD Group racing with Lola and Mazda
Click here for the latest news from RML AD Group
Information about racing with RML AD Group
Information and galleries for the motorsport media
Sponsorship opportunities with RML AD Group
Shop, downloads and merchandising from team RML AD Group
Ideas and innovations from RML AD Group

If you go down to the woods . . .

Round 2 of the 2009 Le Mans Series looks set to be one of the highlights of the year, not only because the Spa 1000 Kilometres has become, in effect, a dress rehearsal for this year's Le Mans 24 Hours, but also because the support bill of races is simply astonishing. The hills and forests of the Ardennes will reverberate to the roar and rumble of perhaps the largest collection of contemporary sports and GT cars ever assembled . . . and the racing should be pretty good too.

In December 2008, with the the global "credit crunch" (now officially an economic recession) in full swing, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest moved to make the sport they govern more financially manageable. Various proposals were aired and subsequently enforced, one of which was the cancellation of the traditional pre-24 Hours official test. In years gone by this was actually a "pre-qualification" event, and those team's entered for the Le Mans 24 Hours that failed to achieve the necessary times could (and did) find their entry rejected.

More recently it lost that competitive edge and became a straightforward test session, but still a rare opportunity for teams and drivers to become acquainted to the full 15 kilometre Sarthe circuit. From that point of view it was extremely valuable, and teams could work on set-up for new cars, and rookie drivers could learn what is recognised as one of the sport's most demanding tracks.

While cancelling the event does save the teams money, it adds to their Le Mans challenge by changing the emphasis of the Wednesday and Thursday qualifying sessions. Exactly how the structure of these two days may change in 2009 has yet to be revealed, but the traditional schedule has seen a pair of two-hour periods of track action on each evening (7:00pm - 9:00pm and 10:00pm-12:00am), all of them treated as qualifying sessions. The hope is that Wednesday's periods, already confirmed as "practice" events only, will be extended, and may start earlier in the day, leaving Thursday exclusively for qualifying.

The ACO did offer, as a rather unappealing compensation, an extra track test at Le Mans in late April, of which more later, but restricted this to the shorter Bugatti Circuit. With only the pit straight and Dunlop sections of the main track included in the Bugatti configuration, any data collected would be of little or no value to teams preparing for the 24 Hours, so take-up was limited to just 11 cars. By contrast, the famous Belgian circuit at Spa-Francorchamps offers a far more appealing test venue (and just as relevant), so this year's Spa 1000 Kilometres has become the effective curtain-raiser to the Le Mans 24 Hours, and several teams who might otherwise have given the race a miss will be present. One of the most anticipated contests of this year's 24 Hours will be the battle between Peugeot, Audi and Aston Martin, and while the R15 will be absent from Spa, two examples of Peugeot's revised 2009-specification 908 will take part.

A grid of well over 50 cars is now expected to take the start for the 1000 Kilometres, but that's just the top of the bill in what should be a festival of sportscar racing. Not only will spectators relish the prospect of the six-hour LMS feature race, but they will also have the novelty of the first races in the all-new Formula Le Mans feeder series, support events from the combined Belgian, British and Dutch GT championship, the Classic Endurance series and also the Radical European Masters.

The logistical challenge will be how the organisers squeeze so much into just three days, but they've planned to do this by combining the British, Belgian and Dutch GT races into one, possibly with as many as 60 cars on track at the same time, but with the start taking place either at different locations under the control of separate pace cars, or at slightly different times. It should certainly be worth watching! (Postscript: After several entries dropped out, the Dutch GT entrants rescheduled their race to another meeting, and a significant number of cars suffered terminal shunts in practice, the final total is much more modest. As a result a single grid can be set for the start, but the race should still be good!)

Newcomers at Spa

With Le Mans only a few weeks later, a number of major players have confirmed entries for the Spa 1000 Kilometres. In LMP1, Team Peugeot Total has announced that it will be entering two 908 HDi FAPs, although three had been anticipated. "Our priority is still Le Mans and I don't want to see the team tire itself out by having to prepare three cars for Spa," explained Peugeot Sport Director Olivier Quesnel.

The team has also announced its plans for post-Le Mans, with factory 908s expected to participate in Round 3 at Portimão in the Algarve in August 2nd, and then either at Silverstone in September or at Petit Le Mans a fortnight later. Pescarolo Sport will end the season for Peugeot by entering a single 908 in the scheduled races at Okayama and Shanghai in November.

Another new arrival at Spa in LMP1 is the Team LNT Ginetta Zytek GZ09S, also with an entry in the Le Mans 24 Hours. The car will be driven by Dyson Racing's Guy Smith, a Le Mans winner with Team Bentley in 2003, alongsdie Robbie Kerr and team boss Lawrence Tomlinson. It is a strong line-up in a car that has already proven its pace, with Strakka Racing's Danny Watts (photographed above in Team LNT's Ginetta Zytek GZ09S entry at last year's Petit le Mans) claiming overall pole at Barcelona with a similar Ginetta-Zytek chassis.

The reasoning behind Oreca's strange decision to test 2008 specification cars at Paul Ricard became clearer after Barcelona when the team revealed a pair of all-new chassis at a shakedown test at the end of April (left). The new-look cars, built around a Courage-Oreca tub, feature new suspension, cooling, electronics, wiring and aerodynamics, are expected to display the characteristic Lego-block livery in time for Spa.

Pescarolo Sport was unlucky not to win in Barcelona, but their new 2009 specification chassis demonstrated great pace, and still claimed second at the chequered flag despite a late flutter. The team's second car at Spa will be another of the new-spec chassis, while Oak Racing's LMP2 Pescarolos are also expected to display uprated features.

Elsewhere in LMP2, the Team Essex Porsche returns to the fray, having missed Barcelona despite an impressive run in the Paul Ricard test. The Spyders have earned a reputation for being very expensive to run, and Team Essex is concentrating its efforts on the Le Mans. As with Peugeot, the team is viewing Spa as an extended test for the 24 Hours.

Another returnee is the Barazi Epsilon Ginetta-Zytek GZ07S LMP2 (right, at Silverstone last September), which makes its season debut at Spa. Team owner Juan Barazi will share the car with Fernando Rees this year, since Michael Vergers has departed the squad to take up a full-season drive with Virgo in GT2.

Hoping for a better showing at Spa than the 98-lap retirement they suffered in Barcelona is the rookie squad of Q8 Oils Hache Team. The outfit returned to the Catalunya circuit two weeks after that disappointment, and completed a two-day trouble-free test.

As if they hadn't been delighted enough by finishing fourth in LMP2, the Bruichladdich Bruneau Radical team also picked up the Michelin Green X Challenge award at Barcelona. Pierre Bruneau suggested that “the Radical is such a good car that it scores a podium even when you finish fourth!” No mention was made of the fact that TV’s wine expert Oz Clarke and Top Gear’s James May ran a Radical SR4 on a special distillation of Bruichladdich single malt whisky late last year. Although the car ran without problem, the cost of the fuel at some £26 per litre makes it unlikely that it will ever become commonly available on the forecourt.

Performance Equalisation

In what was something of a surprise move, the ACO announced shortly after the last round in Barcelona that revised regulations would be introduced in an attempt to achieve better parity in LMP1, where it had been determined that the diesel-powered cars still enjoyed a performance advantage over their petrol-engined rivals. Considering the relatively poor performance of the Kolles Audis, neither of which appeared capable of setting a competitive pace all weekend, and the outright debut win by the #007 Aston Martin Lola, this decision raised quite a few eyebrows. The ACO stated:

"Analysis of the performances of the diesel-engined and petrol-engined prototypes after the Sebring and Barcelona races showed that the diesel-engined cars still enjoyed an advantage. In order to guarantee the equivalence between the different engines, the ACO, in keeping with its undertakings, has decided to impose the following adjustments on diesel-engined prototypes from the Spa-Francorchamps race onwards:

Reduction of the orifice of the fuel flow limiter of the autonomous fuel tank (the current diameter of 38mm for diesels will now be the same as that for petrol-engined cars: 33mm).
An additional 30 kilos will be added made up of one or more pieces of ballast sealed by the scrutineers. Once the ballast has been removed the car must not weigh less than 900 kilos.

While this declaration caught most pundits on the hop, the long-anticipated announcement involving an addressing of the fuel incompatibility issue in LMP2 failed to materialise. News of general dissatisfaction within LMP2 ranks broke just before Barcelona, with two teams letting it be known that they were unhappy with the way the current bio-fuel formulation favours the normally-aspirated engines. The issue was effectively confirmed by RML AD Group it its own post-race press release, which revealed that the Mazda-Lola's engine failure at Barcelona had been attributable to the fuel incompatibility problem.

The issue first arose at Paul Ricard in March 2008, when RML's MG Lola suffered two catastrophic engine failures during the official pre-season test. Subsequent examination by engine manufacturer AER revealed that the bio-fuel formulation, introduced new for 2008, was incompatible with the turbocharged engines. Appeals were made to the ACO to address the problem, but nothing was forthcoming, although assurances were offered that suggested the issue would be investigated. RML, in common with other teams running turbocharged engines, were left with no option but to de-tune their engines for the remainder of the season.


Frustrated by a year of having to compete with a power disadvantage of some 50 horsepower, RML announced a two-year engine deal with Mazda from November 2008. While hopes remained that the incompatibility issue really would be addressed, the Mazda unit offered the benefit of being less highly stressed than the end-of-development MG XP-21, and better able to cope with the poor quality fuel. Hopes were dashed when samples of the 2009 specification fuel were analysed, only to reveal that the quality was actually inferior to the fuel supplied in 2008, and the affect on turbocharged engines was (is) likely to be even more acute.

Proof of the pudding came with the relatively poor results achieved by the turbocharged runners at Barcelona - the best finish coming from the Bruichladdich Radical in fourth - and the engine failures suffered by both the RML and the KSM Lolas. Further appeals have been made to the ACO.

Formula Le Mans

This weekend sees the inaugural races in the new Formula Le Mans championship. Seen as a feeder series for the Le Mans Series, and an opportunity for young up-and-coming drivers to break into the world of sports prototype racing, Formula Le Mans is based around the one-make chassis principal. The cars, developed by Oreca, certainly look the part, and have all the attributes and styling of a typical prototype but at a relatively modest cost. "There are numerous national and international competitions in the GT field which ensure a perfect flow-through [to the higher levels for competitors], however when it comes to the prototypes this is less evident; hence Formula Le Mans," says the ACO.

This new formula provides exactly that kind of foundation for those aspiring to move into LMP1 and LMP2, and should also offer an entertaining spectacle. Several reputable teams have expressed an interest, and the series has the wider support of the industry, so it will be interesting to see how it develops.

Bugatti Test

As mentioned above, the ACO offered the smaller Bugatti Circuit at Le Mans as a substitute test for team's preparing for the Le Mans 24 Hours last week (25th-26th April) but only eleven cars took part in the test. Of these, just three were LMP2 entrants; the Team Essex Porsche, the GAC (formerly Trading Performance) Zytek and the Speedy Sebah Lola. The latter suffered a serious "off" on the Sunday morning, causing extensive damage to the front right three-quarters. The tub was returned to Lola for repairs, but at the time of writing there is every expectation that the chassis will be repaired and back in action again at Spa.

LMS Takes on the World

In a press conference staged on 24th April, spokesman for the ACO, Patrick Peter, the Le Mans Series General Manager, revealed that it is the ACO's long-term aspiration that the series should become, in effect, a world series for sportscar racing. "Our intention is to become the second biggest World Championship within a time span of five years," he stated. "We are entirely convinced that the Le Mans Series can develop into a fully-fledged World Championship, and we are doing everything within our power to support this growth."

This comes hot on the heels of a statement from the SRO's Stephane Ratel, who intimated that he sees the FIA GT Championship as heading for similar global status in the not too distant future. Both predictions come in the face of growing financial and economic hardship, but have been supported by the arrival of new manufacturer interest in each case. Whether either can realise their ambition remains to be seen, but past failures to reach such dizzy heights by the likes of the once-successful BPRO suggest that the path is not an easy one, especially when the powers-that-be detect a possible threat to the supremacy of Formula 1 in the hearts and minds of motorsport followers.

The full LMP2 entry for Spa:

(Click for an enlargement)
No Team &
Drivers Car Engine & Tyres
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 24 Oak Racing

Jacques Nicolet
Richard Hein

Pescarolo Mazda 1997cc
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 25 RML AD Group
Great Britain
Mike Newton
Thomas Erdos
Lola Mazda B09/86 Coupé 1998cc
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 26 Bruichladdich Bruneau Radical
Great Britain
Pierre Bruneau
Tim Greaves
Jonathan Coleman
Radical AER SR9 1995cc
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 28 Ibanez Racing
José Ibanez
William Cavailhes
Frederic da Rocha
Courage LC75 AER 1997cc
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 29 Racing Box SRL
Andrea Ceccato
Filippo Francioni
Giancomo Piccini
Lola Judd
B08/80 Coupé
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 30 Racing Box SRL
Mateo Bobbi
Andrea Piccini
Thomas Biagi
Lola Judd
B08/80 Coupé
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 32 Barazi Epsilon
Juan Barazi
Fernando Rees
Zytek 07S 3396cc
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 31 Team Essex
Casper Elgaard
Kristian Poulsen
Emmanuel Collard
Porsche RS Spyder 3396cc
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 33 Speedy Racing
Team Sebah
Xavier Pompidou
Benjamin Luenberger
Jonny Kane
Lola Judd Coupé 3394cc
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 35 Oak Racing

Matthieu Lahaye
Karim Ajlani

Pescarolo Mazda 1997cc
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 37 WR Salini
Philippe Salini
Stéphane Salini
Tristan Gommendy
WR Zytek 3396cc
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 38 Pegasus Racing
Julien Schell
Philippe Thirion
Courage Oreca LC75 AER 2000cc
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 39 Kruse Schiller Motorsport
Francesco Sini
Heidiki Noda
Matthew Marsh
Lola Mazda B07/86 1998cc
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 40 Quifel ASM
Miguel Amaral
Olivier Pla
Ginetta Zytek GZ09S 3396cc
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 41 GAC Racing
Karim Ojeh
Claude Yves Gosselin
Philip Peter
Zytek 07S 3396cc
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 42 Ranieri Randaccio
Ranieri Randaccio
Glauco Solieri
Lucchini Nicholson McLaren 3396cc
Click to view an enlargement. All photos by Marcus Pots / CMC 43 Q8 Oils Hache Team
Enrico Moncada
Pierre Combot
Lucchini Judd 3400cc

Click any of the thumbnails to view an enlargement.

Weekend Schedule

The following schedule is subject to change and the circumstances and events of the day

Thursday May 7th

14:00 16:00 SRO GT3 & GT4 Series Adm. Checks/Signing on
15:00 19:00 CER Adm. Checks/Signing on CER tent
15:00 19:00 CER Scrutineering CER tent
15:00 18:00 Radical European Masters Scrutineering In situ
15:00 16:30 Le Mans Series Adm. Checks/Signing on Le Mans Series office
15:30 19:00 Le Mans Series Scrutineering ACO truck
15:30 16:45 SRO GT3 & GT4 Series Free Practice 1 75'
17:00 18:00 Formula Le Mans Free Practice 60'

Friday May 8th

08:00 14:00 Le Mans Series Drivers' Signing on Le Mans Series office
08:00 13:00 Le Mans Series Adm. Checks/Signing on Le Mans Series office
08:00 15:00 Le Mans Series Scrutineering ACO truck
08:30 11:00 CER Adm. Checks/Signing on CER tent
08:30 11:00 CER Scrutineering CER tent
09:00 10:00 SRO GT3 & GT4 Series Adm. Checks/Signing on
08:00 10:30 SRO GT3 & GT4 Series Scrutineering
09:00 12:00 Formula Le Mans Adm. Checks/Scrutineering
09:00 12:00 Radical European Masters Scrutineering In situ
09:00 12:00 Radical European Masters Signing On Radical Race Centre
09:30 10:30 Formula Le Mans Briefing
09:35 10:35 Radical European Masters Free Practice 60'
10:50 11:50 SRO GT3 & GT4 Series Free Practice 2 60'
11:00 11:45 CER Driver's Briefing Briefing Room 2
12:00 12:30 Radical European Masters Driver's Briefing Briefing Room 2
12:00 13:00 SRO GT3 & GT4 Series Scrutineering
12:05 12:35 CER Free Practice 30'
12:50 13:40 Formula Le Mans Qualifying 2 x 20'
13:30 14:30 SRO GT3 & GT4 Series Driver's Briefing Briefing Room 2
13:55 14:25 Radical European Masters Qualifying 30'
14:00 17:00 Formula Le Mans Scrutineering
14:40 15:30 SRO GT3 & GT4 Series Qualifying 2 x 20'
14:45 15:15 Le Mans Series Team Manager's Briefing Briefing Room 1
15:15 16:45 Le Mans Series Driver's Briefing Briefing Room 1
15:45 16:15 CER Qualifying 1 30'
16:30 18:00 Le Mans Series Free Practice 1 90'

Saturday May 9th

09:00 09:30 CER Qualifying 2 30'
09:45 10:45 Le Mans Series Free Practice 2 60'
11:05 11:50 Radical European Masters Race 1 Race 1 45'
12:10 13:10 SRO GT3 & GT4 Series Race 1 Race 2 60'
13:25 13:45 Le Mans Series Qualifying - "LM" GT1 & "LM" GT2 20'
13:55 14:15 Le Mans Series Qualifying - "LM" P1 & "LM" P2 20'
14:35 15:35 CER Race Race 3 60'
15:55 16:55 Formula Le Mans Race 1 Race 4 60'
17:15 18:00 Radical European Masters Race 2 Race 5 45'

Sunday May 10th

08:30 08:50 Le Mans Series Warm-Up 20'
09:05 10:05 SRO GT3 & GT4 Series Race 2 Race 6 60'
10:20 11:20 Formula Le Mans Race 2 Race 7 60'
10:50 11:20 Autograph Session Team Trucks
11:25 12:00 PIT WALK F1 Pits
11:30 12:00 Car Manufacturer track laps 30'
12:10 12:35 Le Mans Series Pits open / close
12:50 18:50 Le Mans Series Race Race 8 143 laps Rolling-Start

Media Coverage

TV: If you're based in Belgium, then you're in luck. RTBF will be broadcasting extended live television coverage of the race on Channel 2, including the start and first half-hour, a half-hour stint in the middle, and then the final forty-five minutes. For everyone else, the amount of coverage continues to be disappointingly sparse, with Eurosport offering a modest start and finish sequence "live", and then a half-hour programme of edited highlights much later in the day.

Radio & On-line: Much better news however on the radio front, with confirmation that Radio Le Mans will be starting full coverage of the Le Mans Series starting at Spa. Their schedule includes detailed analysis and blow-by-blow reporting on every aspect of the weekend's events, starting with practice on Friday. To get you in the swing, RLM has already recorded a Season Preview, including contributions from RML's own Thomas Erdos, and Graham Goodwin of Dailysportscar. Click the link above for access.

Click here to visit the Radio Le Mans website

More information?

If you're looking for more information about Spa, then check out our preview to last year's 1000 Kilometres, which includes extensive background to the circuit and surrounding countryside. This is located on our companion website at, where records of the RML AD Group's motorsport activities between 2003 and 2008 are hosted. Please follow this link.

Le Mans Series 2009

Le Mans Series 2009
Round 2. Spa-Francorchamps 1000 Kilometres
May 8th-10th 2009

Weekend Preview