At it's first race event, the Silverstone 1000 Km round of the 2008 Le Mans race series, the new RML MG Lola EX265C completed a faultless run to fourth place in the final race of the 2008 Le Mans Series. In a six-hour endurance that was punctuated by dramatic incidents and thrilling nose-to-tail racing, the much-admired new coupé performed without a hitch, rewarding the team’s hard work and meticulous preparation with a reliable and extremely competitive performance.
“I’m delighted – chuffed to bits!” said a smiling Mike Newton, co-driver of the EX265C and CEO of AD Group, principal sponsors to RML’s sportscar programme. “The guys have done an amazing job to put this car together so quickly, and to achieve a trouble-free run is an exceptional achievement.” The team had always approached the Silverstone 1000 Kilometres as an extended, if very public, test session, but poor weather on the previous two days had severely curtailed their on-track development. “When you compare this to where we might have been, after the events of the last couple of days, this has got to be an excellent result,” he added.
The only issue the team encountered during the course of the race was a rise in engine temperature that, if left unaddressed, might have threatened the unit. “The engine was running a little too hot,” said Thomas Erdos, who drove the opening two stints in the MG Lola, and was first to detect the problem. “We were able to de-tune it enough at the next pitstop to ensure it would run the distance, but it meant we were perhaps forty or fifty horsepower down for most of the race. In that respect, fourth is a great result.”
Despite the reduction in power, which restricted the car’s straight-line speed, the lap times remained competitive throughout - a testament to the aerodynamic work carried out by Lola Cars of Huntingdon, designers of the car. “I was very pleased with the pace,” admitted Mike Newton. “Even after the de-tune, our times were still very fair.” Before climbing into the cockpit for his first stint, Mike had only managed five laps in the car, so came to the coupé very raw. He admits to missing the “wind-in-your-hair” experience of the open-topped car, but his first lap proved to be four seconds faster than he’d ever managed before.
Adam Wiseberg, Director of Motorsport for AD Group, was well satisfied. “We said all along that we were making this an extended test session, and as with most tests, it just got better and better,” he said. “All in all, a very pleasing first race. We made no unscheduled stops, the car ran cleanly, the build was clearly excellent, and given some more time with it, I think we’ll achieve the kind of performance we're asking for.”
Phil Barker, Team Manager for RML, had praise for his crew of engineers and mechanics. “To have got to the chequered flag in a six-hour race with a newly-built car is an achievement that I’m very pleased with. All credit to the guys, they did a tremendous job. It’s a great start to the life of the new car, and a good basis from which we can look forward to next year.”
The team now has several months of development work ahead of them in order to prepare the EX265C for a full and very competitive season in 2009