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


The second day of the Spa 1000 Kilometres meeting could not have got off to a worse start for RML AD Group, and driver Mike Newton in particular.

Mike has had a frustrating season. In Barcelona, he completed less than one racing lap before the car was forced into retirement following a total engine failure. At Paul Ricard in March, for the official ACO Le Mans test, he and Chris Dyson spent most of their time working on seat fittings, and managed just a handful of laps on track. Even in testing, the emphasis has tended to be on establishing appropriate set-ups for the team’s Lola Mazda, and Tommy Erdos has carried out most of that work.

As a result Mike’s track-time has been severely restricted, and after such a successful run on Friday (with Tommy emerging fastest in LMP2), Saturday’s second free-practice session offered the first real opportunity for Mike to get some “quality time” in the new car. So, it was the CEO of AD Group who was suited up at half-nine and ready for the start of the 60-minute session when the pitlane opened at 09:45.

Mike's only lap on Saturday morning - Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC

Conditions were good, with the track dry and the sky already clear and sunny when Mike headed off on his out-lap to tackle the likes of Eau Rouge, Les Combes (above) and Blanchimont. Mike knows the track well, and has raced and won here, many times in the past. The lap went well, and he worked hard to get temperature into the brakes and tyres. “Coming into the Bus Stop the brakes felt good and gave me the confidence to go for a quick lap.” It’s a long lap at Spa, and that makes it easier to have the car up to temperature perhaps earlier than on other circuits. “Normally, if it feels OK for the Bus Stop, I know it’s OK to go for the lap.”

So Mike exited the final element of the “new” Bus Stop and picked up speed rapidly as he blatted down the pit straight to begin his first flying lap. Using the data collected from recent races at Spa, Mike headed for his usual braking point, and was bearing down on La Source with a clear track ahead when he went for the brakes. “The car has felt even better under braking this year,” he said, “but when I pushed on the pedal, the rears just locked up straight away. The right gripped first, and that pitched me into a spin.” The car pulled to the right, slewed sideways across the track, and then caught the concrete wall just thirty feet from the corner. The front-left hit first, hard, and then the rear snapped round, slapping the unrelenting wall side-on with the rear left wheel.

There was a moment’s silence, and then Mike’s voice crackled over the radio. “The brakes just locked up!” he stated. At least he was OK, but the car was not. The entire left-hand side of the Lola had sustained heavy damage. The front suspension was badly distorted, but it was the back that had taken the brunt of the impact. Hitting the wall perpendicular to the wheel had forced the driveshaft inwards, towards the gearbox, and the casting had fractured. It would not be a straightforward repair.

The session was red flagged straight away, and while the team sent engineers and mechanics to recover the car, Mike was checked over for serious injuries. He was found to have sustained some bruising to his right leg and knee, and the sudden jolt had given him a mild headache. “Otherwise I feel fine,” he insisted.

Mike and Tommy spent the best part of two hours examining the data and on-board video footage to establish the cause of the accident. “The brakes felt good, the speed was OK, but the rear brakes locked. Everything in my head said I was good to go, but basically, I wasn’t,” Mike admitted. What had possibly given him the misapprehension that the conditions were OK for him to begin a flying lap was the early hour of the day and the bright sunshine, which gave the false impression that conditions were warmer than they truly were. The ambient temperature was actually unusually chilly, and whereas most laps at Spa will be enough to get critical brake and tyre temperatures to suitable levels, a cold morning in May made this less likely.

Even before the car was back in the garage the team knew that they faced a major rebuild. “All the suspension, dampers, floor and many of the other major components down the left of the car will need to be replaced,” explained Phil Barker. “It will all have to be rebuilt and double-checked. The gearbox has sustained a crack to the casing and that will have to be replaced as well. Thankfully, the engine, intercooler and oil cooler all appear to be OK. These things happen, and it’s our job to fix them, but it has left us with a very big shopping list.”

With qualifying scheduled for early afternoon, the first task was to decide if it would be feasible for the team to have the car back together again and race-ready in just two-and-a-half hours. “The amount of work required is not a million miles away from the level of damage we had to repair when the car flipped at Le Mans last year,” said Phil Barker. “Under race conditions, we might attempt it, but this is a major rebuild, so we won’t be ready for qualifying today.”

Adding weight to this conclusion was the letter received by the team from the ACO that confirmed the team’s fears about the engine failure at Barcelona. Not only would RML have to take on board a “DNF” and no points from Round 1, but the fact that the engine had to be rebuilt and replaced would also incur a ten-position penalty in qualifying, as well as the loss of two championship points . . . which the team hasn’t got. In that light, even class pole from Tommy would have been knocked back to the rear of the LMP2 grid.

So the team would take the rebuild at a more leisurely pace, and ensure that everything was put back together again perfectly, piece by piece. The crew set to work almost immediately, firstly by dismantling the severely damaged Lola, and then by beginning the painstaking restoration. It would take them until almost eleven on Saturday evening.

Fortunately, the race officials did concede that they had no “issue” with Mike’s not having completed the expected number of laps in practice, and would be happy for him to take part in the race. Having finished on the podium here at Spa twice in the last three years, including third overall in 2007, his knowledge of the track is not in question. There will also be opportunity for him to clock up some track time during warm-up, and then also in the twenty-minute “window” on Sunday before the race when the pitlane will be open to traffic.

LMP2 Times - Session 2

Pos No. Overall Team Driver Car
1 31 21 Team Essex Collard/Elgaard/Poulsen Porsche RS Spyder
20 Racing Box Ceccato/Francioni/Piccini Lola B08/86 Coupé
14 Quifel ASM Amaral/Pla Ginetta Zytek GZ09S
4 33 42 Speedy Sebah Pompidou/Luenberger/Kane Lola B08/80 Coupé
16 Racing Box Biagi/Bobbi/Piccini Lola B08/86 Coupé
6 41 17 GAC Racing Team Ojeh/Gosselin/Peter Ginetta Zytek GZ07S
28 Oak Racing Ajlani/Lahaye Pescarolo Mazda
8 32 13 Barazi Epsilon Rees/Barazi Ginetta Zytek GZ07S
26 WR Salini Salini/Salini/Gommendy WR Zytek
46 Kruse Schiller Marsh/Noda /Sini Lola B05/40
34 Q8 Oils Hache Moncado/Combot Lucchini Judd
24 Oak Racing Nicolet/Hein Pescarolo Mazda
18 Bruichladdich Bruneau/Greaves/Coleman Radical SR9 AER
37 Pegasus Schell/Thirion Courage AER
43 Ibanez Racing Ibanez/da Rocha/Cavailhes Courage AER
40 Ranieri Randaccio Randaccio/Solieri Lucchini McLaren
51 RML AD Group Erdos/Newton Lola B08/86 Coupé
no time


Sadly, the RML AD Group's #25 Lola Mazda was unable to take part in qualifying. However, after an eventful and red-flag interrupted GT session, the remaining prototypes took to the track at just before two o'clock.

High resolution images will be posted in the Spa Gallery later today

Back to Top

Le Mans Series 2009

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

Saturday Report