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Le Mans Series 2008
Round 3. Spa 1000 Kilometres. May 9th - 11th 2008
Sunday Review


The unprecedented weather seems to have lasted into a third day, with ambient and track temperatures already rising as the cars headed out for the brief warm-up session, starting at 08:45.

Tommy was one of the first to take to the track, and posted an early 2:10.533 that suggested a healthy race-pace for the Brazilian. It was sufficient to set the MG third in class for most of the session.

Just over half way through the twenty-minute allocation, the team performed the first of two scheduled driver change simulations, with Mike Newton stepping into the cockpit. By then the remaining front-runners in LMP2 had got into their stride, and the established hierarchy had been restored - Porsches one-two-three, then the #33 Speedy Sebah Lola, and Tommy's time fifth. Yet to reflect its qualifying pace was the Barazi Zytek.

Then, just after the chequered flag had been shown, Jonny Kane came through with a 2:10.193, followed moments later by Joey Foster in the sister car, posting 2:10.670 - the two Embassy Zyteks creating an MG sandwich.

And that was how the session ended, with the only other noteworthy posting being the time of 2:16.733 from the #40 ASM Lola - the fact that it participated at all being some testament to the hard work carried out overnight by the team to repair the damage caused by yesterday's accident. Others less fortunate were those at Kruse, who had found the #44's tub beyond immediate repair and had given up, for this weekend at least.

Top LMP2 Times - Warm-up

Pos No. Overall Team Driver Car
6 Van Merksteijn M/s Van Merksteijn/Verstappen Porsche RS Spyder
2 27 8 Horag Racing Lienhard/Theys/Lammers Porsche RS Spyder
3 31 11 Team Essex Nielsen/Elgaard Porsche RS Spyder
4 33 12 Speedy Sebah Belicchi/Pompidou/Zacchia Lola B08/80 Coupé
13 Embassy Racing Hughes/Kane WF01 Zytek
14 RML AD Group Erdos/Newton MG Lola EX264
15 Embassy Racing Kimber-Smith/Foster WF01 Zytek
16 Saulnier Racing Ragues/Lahaye Pescarolo Judd
17 Bruichladdich Rostan/Petersen/Lueders Radical SR9 AER
10 32 18 Barazi Epsilon Barazi/Vergers/Rees Zytek 07S
22 Quifel ASM Amaral/Pla Lola B05/40 AER
Trading Performance Ojeh/Gosselin/Schroyen Zytek 07S
- Kruse Schiller de Pourtales/Noda Lola B05/40
WR Salini Salini/Salini/Roussel WR Zytek

The Race

Race Start Hour 2 Hour 3 Hour 4 Hour 5 Hour 6-Finish

Race coverage is created "live" starting from approximately two hours into the event, and then driver quotes and additional observations are added later. This can lead to some inconsistency with tenses, for which we apologise.

For links to live timing and Radio Le Mans live radio coverage, please see Spa intro page. After the race there will be archived recording of interviews and race reporting.


Although scheduled to begin at 12:50, a spin for the #46 Embassy WF01 Zytek on the first green-flag lap resulted in the entire field processing through for a second warm-up lap, and a delayed start at 12:58. Subsequently discovered that the #46 had been punted by the #31 Team Essex Porsche, which was later awarded a 3 minute stop-go as a result. The #46 would be unable to take the start as a result.

The start itself was clean enough, with the only notable exception being the Team Modena Aston Martin GT1, which pushed wide into La Source and promptly lost the class lead to the chasing Luc Alphand Corvette.

In LMP2, the start was untroubled by conflict, and by the end of the second lap had settled down. The #34 Van Merksteijn Porsche was pushing hard at the front, but the #33 Speedy Sebah Lola was hanging on to the purple Porsche's rear wing. A small gap extended then to the #27 Horag Porsche in third place, followed yet further down the road by the #32 Zytek, and then Thomas Erdos, making his usual conservative start in the RML MG Lola EX264.

Much as before in LMP2. The only significant action - apart from the on-going duel between the #34 and the #33 - was the progress being made by the #31 Team Essex car. A troubled time in practice and qualifying had not given the metallic blue car a good start, but it was now starting to make up good ground from the nether regions of LMP2. Also making up considerable ground, having started from the pitlane, was the #6 Oreca Matmut Courage, and at 13:10 Nicolas Lapierre muscled through ahead of Tommy. Up until this point he'd been holding station on the #32, but with the LMP1 car forcing its way through between them, the MG dropped back a few seconds.

Tommy has fallen perhaps four seconds back on Vergers in the #32, and the #35 Saulnier car is about the same distance behind the MG, although has Warren Hughes, taking first stint in then #45 Embassy Zytek, tight on its tail.

The battle for the lead in LMP2 is becoming even more intense, and whereas the #34 Porsche appeared to have the edge during the first quarter hour, the Lola Coupé has now closed right down on the Porsche, and is threatening to overtake.

The #8 Peugeot leads overall from the #1 Audi, with the second Pug third, with a long gap then back to the #2 Audi in fourth.

The MG holds 5th in LMP2, six seconds behind the #32, and 4 seconds ahead of the #35.

The leading LMP2 cars have now lapped everyone up to and including Tommy in the MG.

The #33 Lola Coupé moves through to take the lead in LMP2, but on the next lap, Verstappen regains the lead once more, but only briefly. Heading down into the Bus Stop, the Coupé gets through once more. Tommy, meanwhile, is finding the traffic heavy going, but has closed a little on the Barazi Zytek.

The leading cars are now on their 19th lap.

The first round of pit stops is beginning.

Tommy makes his first pit stop for fuel only. The tyres are standing up to the conditions very well, and have been behaving very consistently so far.

Tommy rejoins the race, and once the staggered pitstops resolve themselves, is still holding 5th in LMP2, with a four-second gap to the #32 Zytek, visible ahead of him on the track, and some 30 seconds over Warren in the #45 Embassy car behind him.

Overall, the #8 Peugeot continues to lead from the #1 Audi, while in LMP2 the #33 Lola Coupé maintains a narrow advantage over the #34 Porsche, and the #27 in third.

The debutant Strakka Racing Aston has moved forward into second in GT1.

Tommy is moving ever closer to the #32, and is now less than one second behind the blue Zytek.

Hour 2

Trouble with traffic again, and Tommy is forced to drop back on the #32 once again. The #33 leads the class by some two seconds over the #34.. The #27 still holds third, with the Barazi fourth and Tommy fifth.

Yellow flags at Les Combes.

The #34 Porsche has regained the lead in LMP2.

Tommy has been able to close right back onto the #32, and when the Zytek locks up into Virage, he looks to have an opportunity to dive through, but a GT2 Porsche gets in the way, and he has to bide his time.

The Strakka Racing Aston has a gravelly moment at Les Combes. More yellow flags, this time for an extended period while the car is eased back onto the track.

Tommy still threatening the #32, but unable to make it stick.

Tommy finally gets ahead of the #32 Zytek after an error by the Barazi driver at the Bus Stop.

The fuel warning light starts to flicker on the MG's instrument panel. A previous imbalance in the brake temperatures seems to have been resolved.

Tommy makes his next pitstop, and hands over to Mike Newton. The car is refuelled and fitted with fresh tyres.

Incident at Les Combes . . . again.

After the safety car lets through a stream of tail-enders, to pick up the leader, Mike finds himself right behind the leader in the queue.

Racing resumes once again.

Hour 3

MIke reports a problem with the engine. The telemetry confirms a blown turbo. Mike is able to steer the MG back to the pitlane, where it is immediately refuelled, and then hauled backwards into the garage. The procedure to refuel is standard whenever the car comes into the pitlane, even if a lengthy repair stop is anticipated.

Major accident for the #8 Peugeot, Alexander Wurz at the wheel. The car has made very heavy impact with the barriers possibly after contact with another car. The #1 Audi pits and is taken backwards into the garage a few minutes later. The #7 Peugeot now leads.

The RML put crew are working like trojans to get the MG fixed and back into the race, but it's not easy. The turbo is incredibly hot, and until it, and the ancillaries around it, are cooled down, it's impossible to begin the process of removing the blown unit and replacing it with a fresh one. The answer is to pour cold water over everything down the left-hand side of the engine, and three buckets full are generously dosed, accompanied by clouds of steam.

With the components OK to touch - but still uncomfortably hot - Rick and the rest of the guys start the process of dismantling the damaged turbo, removing the exhaust manifolds and yards of pipework, all fixed in position by stainless steel tie-wraps. It's a fiddly, frustrating job, and access is not easy.

The MG has already dropped down the order and is briefly holding 21st overall.

Just as the RML guys get the new turbo bolted into position, the racing resumes. They now have to complete the attachment of all the various ancillaries, including the exhaust, and then the enclosing bodywork. Several more minutes to go.

All the guys are working hard, but Rick, especially, is struggling to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. There's no room for error, yet time is ticking away. Although most of the engine is now cool, certain components can still give bare flesh a nasty burn, and access to some of the smaller corners is very difficult.

Peugeot #7 still leads overall with Audi #2 second and the #6 Courage third. The #16 and #17 Pescarolos are fourth and fifth.

The situation in LMP2 is now: #27 Horag Porsche leads from 6th position overall. The #34 is second, followed by the #33 Speedy Sebah Lola (from 9th overall). Fourth in class is the #35 Saulnier Courage, followed in fifth by the #41 Trading Places Zytek. Sixth is the #31, 14th overall, and then a long gap down to the #32 Barazi Zytek, seventh in class, but 27th overall. For the time being the MG is 34th overall, 8th in class.

The RML are still battling away, sweat dripping down foreheads and across noses, but the end of their mammoth rebuild is in sight. They're getting ready to fit the sidepods. The front wheels are fitted at 16:27, and then the back wheels, and finally the engine cover.

Mike heads away down the pitlane to rejoin the race. The turbo replacement has taken just 35 minutes. Rick in particular has suffered, and resorts to bathing his hands in a bucket of cold water.

Mike has rejoined in 35th position overall.

Paul Daniels has spun off the track in the
#95 James Watt Automotive Porsche 911 GT2. He looks to have recovered OK, but the safety car has already been deployed.

Safety Car period continues, despite the fact his car has been cleared for some time. Assurances that the safety car period would be brief seem to have been optimistic.

Racing resumes. During the Safety Car period the #32 Zytek went into the pits, and has been there for roughly ten minutes. Mike has moved through to 32nd overall, 7th in LMP2.

Hour 4

Car #31, the Team Essex Porsche, is given a 3 minute stop-go penalty. Currently fourth in LMP2.

Barazi Zytek back into the race, now with vergers at the wheel. Is three laps behind Mike.

Mike has found himself caught up in the middle of the battle for GT1, with Peter Cox in the Lamborghini leading, but a tight battle for second between Luc Alphand in the #72 Corvette, and Thomas Enge in the Team Modena Aston Martin DB9. Fourth in class is the Strakka Racing Aston Martin DB9, but six laps back.

Barazi Zytek is back in the box. Mike starts to add more laps between him and the #32 car.

Didier Theys leads the class in the #27 Horag Porsche, merely ten seconds clear of Van Merksteijn in the #34. The #33 Speedy Sebah Lola remains in third, but more than a lap behind the leaders.

The #1 Audi is also given a 3 minute stop-go penalty. Reason unclear.

Vanina Ickx loses the Rollcentre Pescarolo into the La Source hairpin and goes heavily into the tyre wall. Undaunted she regains the track, and completes a full if careful lap back to the pitlane again for repairs. It looks as though the Lavaggi was involved in some way.

Mike into the pitlane for a fuel-only pitstop.

Mike is back into the pits, this time with a gearbox selection problem. The team set-to for a second time, on this occasion replacing the cabling to the gearbox. The process takes eleven minutes, but there's a much less hectic atmosphere in the garage, compared to the previous stop anyway. Not having to work with a scalding hot turbo-charger must help, but there's also time to smile and joke, amongst some of the crew anyway. Perhaps there's a realisation that the race may have been lost, but there's still a finish to be won. With a reasonable advantage over those further down the order the repair is completed in an unflustered, competent manner, and soon enough Mike is eased back out onto the pit apron, the engine restarted, and away he goes.

Mike rejoins the race.

Hour 5

The MG is now circulating strongly once again, with Mike turning in very respectable laps in the 2:15 to 2:17 bracket - much on a par with Xavier Pompidou, currently at the wheel of the #33 Speedy Sebah Lola and occupying a lofty third in LMP2.

Mike's position is 7th in class, but 20 laps in arrears. The main battle for LMP2 is still closely contended, with the #34 now leading once again, Jos Verstappen having passed the #27 Horag Porsche. This is the aforementioned #33, followed by the #35 Pescarolo, the #31 Porsche and then, in 6th, the #41 Zytek.

Overall, Marc Gené leads for Peugeot in the #7, nearly a lap clear of Mike Rockenfeller in the #2 Audi. Third is the #6 Oreca Courage. The #1 Audi, having suffered a puncture and an extended stop-go penalty, is down in 6th, just behind Verstappen in the leading LMP2 Porsche.

Lammers regains the class lead for Horag after a putstop for Verstappen. There's been a problem for the #33 Speedy Racing Lola, and it has now been in the pits for about five minutes, and has dropped to 15th overall as a result, 6th in LMP2. Mike remains at the wheel of the MG, and has upped his times to the mid to low 2:14s. By doing so, he's regained several positions overall, and is now running in 30th.

The first signs of a flicker from the MG's low-fuel warning light. Mike will pit this next lap.

The pitstop and driver change completed, Tommy heads back out to rejoin the race. The MG has completed 99 laps, while the leader is on his 131st, suggesting just eleven or twelve laps left to run. The #33 Lola is back in the race, holding 17th overall.

The #4 Saulnier LMP1 prototype taps the leading GT2 Ferrari, Rob Bell at the wheel, on the exit of the Bus Stop. Once again, the #4 car causing problems through careless driving. There may be damage to the Ferrari, but having missed the pit entry, Rob will have to complete a full lap before he can have it checked over.

Hour 6 - Finish

Spin for the Strakka Aston. Quickly regains the track and resumes.

Contact between the #35 Saulnier LMP2 Courage and the #2 Audi. The Saulnier car is itself stranded on the kerbs, and the safety car is deployed.

Confirmed stop-go for the #4 Saulnier car following the incident with Rob Bell.

The race gets under away again, and it's suddenly getting exciting in LMP1 . . . at last. Nic Minassian leads in the #7 Peugeot is leading by just fifteen seconds fro the #2 Audi, currently with Alexandre Premat at the wheel.

Sadly for Rob Bell, the suspension looks to have collapsed on the Ferrari. He's managed to hold on to the GT2 lead, but looks likely to lose it now.

Gape between first and second has extended to 24 seconds, but there are only three laps to go. In LMP2 Lammers is just 20 seconds behind Verstappen, so there's a battle in LMP2 as well. No such excitement in GT1, where the #72 Corvette is a lap clear.

Rob Bell is battling on, but clearly has problems in the Virgo Ferrari. His advantage over Marc Lieb second in the #77 GT2 Porsche is less than a second.

Minassian does the fastest mid-sector of the race in the lead Peugeot. The gap has extended a bit further.

On his final lap, Minassian comes through to win by 18 seconds from Audi #2, with the Oreca Matmut #6 Courage third. There's a prototype stranded on the pit straight - not sure what it is. Van Merksteijn Porsche takes the win in LMP2, followed by the #27, and then the #31 making it a one-two-three for Porsche in the category. Battle for GT2 continues to the line, with Rob Bell holding off the challenge from Marc Lieb all the way to the flag, and taking the class win by less than two tenths of a second. Victory in GT1 goes to the #72 Corvette, followed by the #55 Lamborghini, with the Team Modena Aston third and the Strakka Racing fourth.

RML AD Group's MG Lola confirmed as 30th overall, 7th in LMP2.

LMP2 Result

Pos No. O/all Team Driver Car
6 Van Merksteijn M/s Van Merksteijn/Verstappen Porsche RS Spyder
2 27 7 Horag Racing Lienhard/Theys/Lammers Porsche RS Spyder
3 31 8 Team Essex Nielsen/Elgaard Porsche RS Spyder
10 Saulnier Racing Ragues/Lahaye Pescarolo Judd
Trading Performance Ojeh/Gosselin/Schroyen Zytek 07S
28 RML AD Group Erdos/Newton MG Lola EX264
30 Bruichladdich Rostan/Petersen/Lueders Radical SR9 AER
8 33 n/c Speedy Sebah Belicchi/Pompidou/Zacchia Lola B08/80 Coupé
n/c Embassy Racing Hughes/Kane WF01 Zytek
10 32 n/c Barazi Epsilon Barazi/Vergers/Rees Zytek 07S
n/c Quifel ASM Amaral/Pla Lola B05/40 AER
n/c Embassy Racing Kimber-Smith/Foster WF01 Zytek
no time
- Kruse Schiller de Pourtales/Noda Lola B05/40
WR Salini Salini/Salini/Roussel WR Zytek

There are high resolution images posted in the Spa Gallery. With thanks to David Downes, David Lord and Peter May (dailysportscar) for additional images this weekend, and also to David Stephens of Studio 21.

During the races it is possible to follow live timing on the Internet, visit the Le Mans Series website and click on the highlighted panel in the centre of the page. Full results details can also be downloaded in PDF format from the Le Mans Series website. Click here for access.

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