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This archive remains exactly as it was written in June 2005, and no tenses have been altered.


Please note - some images in this section do not necessarily relate directly to the adjacent text

Hour Ten

The MG Lola was now running like clockwork, and the car's pitstops were following a regular twelve-lap schedule. Just before his first such stint came to an end, Thomas Erdos passed the #30 Kruse Motorsport Courage as it languished in the pits, elevating the RML MG to 28th position. His stop, when it came at 12:50am, was problem-free and routine, and that allowed him to resume his challenge on the #35 G-Force entry, catching and passing Gary Pickering when the Londoner took to the pitlane at ten past one.

Fifteen minutes later and one of the team's predicted rivals in this race, the #30 Kruse Courage, hit more problems, with an off at the Dunlop Chicane soon after returning to the track, further reducing its challenge in LMP2. Tommy meanwhile, was closing on the #89 Sebah Automotive Porsche and also, now, the #32 Intersport Lola. The one-time LMP2 leader had been encountering a succession of minor woes, but they seemed to be increasing in seriousness. Taking the Lola's position at the head of the class had been the the #37 Belmondo Courage, followed soon afterwards for second by its sister car, the #36.

When Gregor Fisken took the Intersport Lola back into the pits five minutes later, it handed 26th place and a potential foothold on the third step of the LMP2 podium to RML's MG Lola. Tantalisingly close, just a lap and a half ahead, lay the #36 Courage, but overall status was nearer at hand. Erdos duly passed the Sebah Porsche, depriving Dane Thorkild Thyrring of 25th place and setting the #25 MG Lola in his stead.

At half-past one Tommy's triple stint came to an end, but what should have been another routine and trouble-free handover to Mike Newton turned out to be anything but. For no obvious reason the electrics failed to revive when it came time for Mike to drive out of the box. There was much shaking of heads. There is nothing more frustrating that an intermittent fault that proves so elusive to track down. Once again, as had happened several times before, the MG was dragged backwards into the pit so that the whole cohort of engineers and mechanics could set to work on the car. Outside on the pit apron, only four personnel are permitted to work on a car. Once inside the garage, any number of people can be called upon to assist.

The pause gave us a chance to catch up with the Brazilian, and discover how his late-night run had gone. "It went really well," he said, sounding tired, but clearly exhilarated by having continued Warren's fight-back so successfully. "It was hard work. Early in my first stint, I lost the paddle-shift, so I had to use the manual gearchange from then on. That also meant reverting to right-foot braking, which I've not had to do for a while." His observations of the track conditions were not exactly favourable, but concurred with the feedback being received from other drivers. "It was very, very slippery out there. There's just so much cement dust, possibly too much, and it has made parts of the track exceedingly slippy. Thankfully, the tyres have been so good. They just stay, stay, stay. Through the Porsche Curves, and at Indianapolis, the car felt so stable, it was fantastic." Casting concerned glances to the garage from time to time, it was clear that he was distressed to see much of his hard work going for nothing. "This is all so frustrating," he shrugged. "All that work, and to regain P3, and then this. I can't believe it." Alastair Mcqueen agreed. "It was all going so well," he said.
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Hour Eleven

The stoppage ended up at being almost half an hour in length, and Mike was not back out and circulating until just before two o'clock. The delay had dropped the team to 26th place overall, with the Sebah Porsche back in front once again, this time by several laps. Mike's times, however, were far more encouraging. Although some way short of his earlier bests - well, this was the middle of the night, after all, and he was driving on the manual gearchange - they were still markedly quicker than those of his rivals ahead.

Hours Twelve & Thirteen

The remainder of this stint progressed without incident, and Mike completed a refuelling pitstop at ten to three without the feared electrical gremlin rearing its head. Others were not so fortunate. On the hour the #37 Courage hit a problem that forced Belmondo to haul the car into the garage, allowing Mike Newton to close to within less than two laps, but he'd not have the chance to get any closer. His next scheduled stop came up at 3:38, with the CEO of AD Group handing over driving duties to Warren Hughes. Thankfully the car fired up again without hesitation, and it was a matter of moments before Hughes was roaring back out along the pit exit. He soon found that same groove that had served him so well earlier in the night, and was posting times in the low three-fifties.

Rounding off the twelfth hour of the race, and seeing the RML MG Lola through to half distance, Warren Hughes enjoyed a stress-free run well past four o'clock and down to half-past. Just before his next scheduled stop he posted one of his best laps of the race, a 3:49.524, and by doing so carried the MG Lola through to 25th place overall, passing the #37 Courage and making a first claim on second position in LMP2. The class leader at the time was young Adam Sharpe in the #36 car, a mere three laps ahead.
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Hour Fourteen

Frustratingly, it was all just a temporary elevation. The pitstop when it came did not go smoothly, and after refuelling the car, the car was trolleyed backwards into the garage. Sure enough, four minutes later the #37 Belmondo car wailed up the tribune canyon to snatch back second in class and started to pull out a meaningful lead. It would be a full 24 minutes in the garage for Warren before Phil Barker waved him out and on his way once more, this time with some tempting soft-compound rubber on all four corners. The fickle finger of fate was pointing both ways through this summer's night, however, and both Belmondo cars would be serving time in the garage before the race was another hour older. The #37 was first to pit at two minutes to five, followed moments later by the #36. First in would be first out, just five minutes later, but the #37 would languish for some time yet. At five eighteen Hughes sailed serenely by, and then rubbed salt into the wound by posting his fastest lap of the race, not once, but three times. His first improvement; 3:47.875, was followed two laps later by an even quicker 3:47.649, and then rounded off by a scintillating 3:47.601.

Hour Fifteen

There must have been a collective sigh of relief from the RML garage when Warren completed a perfect pitstop at five-forty. He was stationary for just five minutes, and then rapidly back out on track and lapping in the mid 3:50's or 53's, establishing a firm grip on 24th place overall, second in LMP2. The car had covered 178 laps of the 13.6 kilometer Circuit du Sarthe.

The team's next target was the Luc Alphand Porsche, being piloted by Jerome Policand, four laps ahead. Passing the #72 entry would not happen for a while, and not while Warren was in the car. At just after half-six he would hand over the MG to Thomas Erdos, and once again, the dice would tumble favourably. It was a straightforward and reassuringly rapid pitstop that saw Erdos heading back into the fray with barely a heartbeat missed. "We've just got to try and keep this thing going," said Warren. Another with similar views was Scot Allan McNish, barging headlong into the tyrewall at Indianapolis when a tyre failed on his Audi R8. He got it back to the pits and the car was racing again inside ten minutes. Not so Xavier Pompidou in the T2M Porsche, suffering a massive impact at the same corner. That car wouldn't be moving again - ever - although Xavier was amazingly unscathed.
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Hour Sixteen

Thomas Erdos marked the start of the sixteenth hour by passing the #89 Sebah Porsche, static in the pits, at five past seven. It was another notch on the overall order, but far more important was the next LMP2 place. That was still held by the #36 Belmondo Courage, and by twenty-past the margin stood at less than two laps with Erdos closing at a rate of fifteen or twenty seconds each lap. In the opposite direction, he had a similar two-lap cushion over the #37, but was adding comfort by outpacing the second Belmondo car by 30 seconds or more.

The next scheduled pitstop came round at 7:33. Fingers crossed, it went without a hitch. Slick and fast and totally faultless, the car was dosed up with fuel and Tommy sent on his way. "I hope we finish. I really hope we do," said one of the mechanics. This wasn't a plea; this was grim determination.
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Hours Seventeen and Eighteen

The battle in LMP2 has been fought as much in the garages as on the track. Not one of the remaining significant runners has enjoyed an easy passage, and the #36 car was about to encounter another patch of rough water. A conventional stop at ten past eight was followed quarter of an hour later by an unscheduled sojourn in the garage that would last long enough to allow Tommy an unopposed claim on 22nd overall. Bringing a far bigger cheer to the RML garage, however, was the realisation that this meant that the MG was now leading the class for the first time. Sixteen hours previously such an achievement might have seemed unlikely, but a potent mix of perseverance, skill and mutual encouragement can work wonders.

With another faultless pitstop the prospects were suddenly looking far more encouraging, and Erdos pressed on confidently for another half hour. He passing the #72 Luc Alphand Porsche just before the hour, and then completed his stint by handing the MG back to Mike Newton at 9:08. Not only was Mike entrusted with the next stint, but he also had the personal pleasure of knowing that his car was now leading its class at Le Mans. It must have been a very special sensation, made easier to bear by the knowledge that he had a three-lap lead over the #37 and four over the #36. Regrettably, it was not going to last. At half past nine Mike was back down the pitlane, and it wasn't a scheduled stop. The car was barely at rest before the engine cover was off. It didn't take a detailed examination to confirm the problem. "We've got a gearbox oil leak," acknowledged Ray Mallock. "One of the castings may be cracked, so we're seeing if we can fix it." Proof that this was the culprit came from Jamie Campbell-Walter, who had been following the MG when the fracture occurred. He caught the oil and slid into the barriers at the first Mulsanne chicane.

It was desperately sad to see all that hard work slipping through the team's proverbial fingers. The Luc Alphand Porsche was the first to take advantage, moving through to regain 21st place at 9:40. Eight minutes later the #37 Courage reclaimed the class lead, and then the #36 knocked the MG down to third.
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Hour Nineteen

With the car stationary in the garage the team’s position on those podium steps was looking increasingly fragile, and as the clock ticked past ten o’clock the timing screens already confirmed that 25th overall was third in LMP2, yet the likelihood of slipping to fourth was imminent. The #30 Kruse Courage, long since overtaken, was back up to pace and only a few laps adrift.

As it must always be throughout the story of this race, all credit to the RML mechanics and engineers, who completed the repair in record time. Weary to the bone they may have been, but they never wavered, and their efforts had Mike back out onto the circuit and racing again by quarter past ten. It was a close call. Tim Mullen in the Kruse entry had moved ahead of the MG on the previous lap, but had just arrived in the pitlane himself for a lengthy, if scheduled, stop. It was a matter if just a single lap of the track before Mike had restored RML to that bottom step once more and the road to recovery could be resumed.

Having achieved so much, it really was starting to feel like one step forward and two back. From the class lead, Mike now faced a six-lap deficit on just the first of the two Belmondos, yet he couldn’t begin the task of reducing that margin just yet. He was passing through the pitlane again after a couple of laps for fuel, a full set of tyres and, more importantly, a quick check-up of the repair to make sure that everything was as it should be. Passed fit for duty, the MG was soon on its way.

Hour Twenty

The next half hour or so proved routinely uneventful – something of a relief perhaps. Mike notched into a rhythm of four-minute laps and that consolidated the car’s position, and meant that Warren was perfectly placed to take the fight back to Team Belmondo when he clambered aboard for his next double-stint at 11:12. The #36 had lost twenty minutes in the pits just before the hour, so the gap was down to spitting distance. Indeed, when Mullen pitted at quarter past, it meant that all three – the #36, the RML #25, and the Kruse #30, were all on the same lap. The difference was the relative speeds, and that suggested an advantage in Hughes’ favour of fifteen to twenty seconds with every lap completed.

Sure enough, by half past eleven the gap between the tail of the #36 Belmondo and the MG’s nose had been cut to less than a minute. By quarter-to it was thirty seconds and every lap was bringing them closer together. The retirement of the #17 Pescarolo, for so long a serious challenge and French hope for the outright lead, went almost un-noticed in the RML garage, because Hughes was about to weave through the Ford chicane with that red, white and blue nose tucked tight under the rear wing of Adam Sharpe’s Courage. As they crossed the line the gap was clocked at a mere 0.774 seconds, and as the noise from their engines echoed between the grandstands, Hughes notched the MG to the side and eased by. The second step was RML’s once more.

Within a lap Hughes had established a lead of fifteen seconds. His times were all neatly bracketed around the three-fifty-two mark, with a 3:51.930 following a 3:52.937 following a 3:53.891. My midday, and inside three laps, he’d moved clear of Sharpe to the tune of 45 seconds.
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Hours Twenty-One and Twenty-Two

With just under four hours to go – just? That’s longer than most regular endurance events! – Warren came in for a regular pitstop. Five minutes later, so did Sharpe. They were shadowing one another, but Warren’s shadow was lengthening the quicker. He had continued to impose his dominance over the young Briton in the French car, and the gap had grown to more than a lap. In doing so, Warren had also drawn closer to the #37, but the margin was larger than he could hope to close by raw speed and talent alone. By half past twelve the MG Lola had covered 260 laps in total and was lying 23rd overall, second in LMP2, but still six laps adrift.

These last hours before the chequered flag have a strange detachment. There are crowds milling around the stands and through the Village, but many are totally oblivious of the action on the track. While the cars continue to fly by just as fast as they ever have, their drivers deep in concentration; hot and tired, their arms and necks aching from the constant strain and g-forces, it’s all too easy to take them for granted. The bellow of a passing car earns a casual glance, the pre-race purity of its paintwork long since blemished by an acne of dead flies, spent rubber and tank-tape, but never underestimate the bravery of these guys. Fuelled by adrenalin and determination, encouraged by the support of seemingly tireless mechanics, they push on regardless. It’s a humbling thought.

Thomas Erdos was about to become one such driver. At five-to-one Warren Hughes’ final stint came to an end as the soft-spoken Geordie handed over responsibility for the last three hours to Tommy. The first of those sixty minute batches was to be pretty uneventful, with the RML MG moving smoothly through to 22nd overall after passing the #89 Sebah Automotive Porsche – again – and pulling three laps clear of the #36 Belmondo Courage. As the official electronic clock on the Rolex gantry fluttered its digits over to two-o’clock, the #37 Courage began its 289th lap, still with five laps in hand over the chasing Erdos. I have a entry in my notebook that simply states: ‘Only a miracle or a mistake by the #37 can change the result’. Little did I know what lay around the corner.

Hour Twenty-Three

The corner in question turned out to be the Ford Chicane, and the time was 2:07. As Tommy came onto the brakes after negotiating the Porsche Curves, slowing the car’s momentum into the first element, misfortune cast her cards in equal measure. One of the right rear suspension arms sheared from its mounting, tipping the car into a series of wild gyrations across kerb and gravel and coming to rest just yards from the entrance to the pitlane. “It snapped as soon as I went on the brakes,” explained Erdos afterwards. “We were very lucky that I didn’t hit anything, since there was nothing I could do about it at all.” Like a cruel test from the Gods, being so close to the pits was a lifeline, but with less than two hours remaining and with the #37 Belmondo Courage already five laps clear and the #36 closing fast, the result RML had started to dream of was suddenly looking unlikely.

Back in the garage there was a moment’s hesitation as those watching the TV monitors gaped in disbelief before instinct and training took over. Like ants disturbed in their nest, red-suited RML personnel were suddenly busying themselves for action. Tiredness was wiped from their faces along with the sweat as they hurried to take up the tasks they knew were theirs. Phil Barker lived up to his name, issuing commands with the minimum of words. While others marvelled at the fact that the incident had taken place at the very entrance to the pitlane, four mechanics were already running towards the car, Barker’s strict instructions not to “cross the line” ringing in their ears.

In the end they weren’t needed. The marshals had moved swiftly into action, and using one of the Manitou recovery hoists, had pulled the MG clear of the gravel and, as luck would have it, hauled it towards the pit entry. Once on terra firma Tommy was able to coax the car gently back to the garage, crabbing slightly sideways and with the right rear sunk low to the ground. It was a desperately sorry sight, with the once resplendent bodywork scarred not only by twenty-two hours of hard racing, but now covered in the dust and debris of a trip through the gravel. Every available hand was on call to haul the car backwards into the garage and then begin not only the repair of the damaged suspension, but also the painstaking removal of every last trace of the harsh sharp-edged stone chippings used at Le Mans. It was a strangely silent operation, the thunderous noise from the racetrack as cars accelerated up the pit straight drowning out and rendering useless any form of speech inside the garage. It was superfluous anyway. Save for a few shouted instructions from Barker, his brigade knew the drill. It was impressive to watch, and inspiring. There wasn’t a single man amongst them that seemed to consider for a moment that the race was over. After what they’d already been through, their determination was at once both staggering and admirable.

Throughout the next half-hour Erdos sat impassively. A fan had been set on the sidepod of the car to blow air into his visor, his movements deliberate and his thoughts unreadable. “I was thinking, what else can possible go wrong?” he admitted afterwards. “I was tired. I’d done two triple-stints, and then doubles, and at the end was in the car for three hours. I felt emotionally drained. I was also a little concerned, because it was a very unusual failure. I was worried that the other side might go the same way.”

Behind him the action continued unabated. While the left side of the car was being rebuilt, the right hand side was being painstakingly inspected. What had happened once could happen again, and even at this late stage in the race, nobody was prepared to take chances with the car or, more important, the man inside it. Amazingly, despite what looked to be a violently physical accident, the rest of the car had survived almost unscathed, confirming the resilience of carbon-fibre construction. Nobody was taking any chances though, and every nut, bolt and accessible component that could be examined was checked for tightness or damage.

Amazingly, within twenty minutes of arriving in the garage, wheels were already going back on the EX264. They glistened wetly as the bright lights reflected off the smooth surface of the fresh rubber. Two minutes later, the rear panel was being secured in place over the engine and the car trolleyed unceremoniously out of the garage, dumped on the ground, and then raised on its jacks. Only then were the race tyres fitted – pre-scrubbed and ready for the track ahead. The team was taking no chances, and had used the new tyres to wheel the car across any remaining chippings on the garage floor, saving the best for the track.

At two thirty-five, almost exactly thirty minutes since he’d been lost to sight within a cloud of dust at the Ford Chicane, Thomas Erdos barked the MG Judd V8 into life and roared off up the pitlane, leaving only the smallest trail of gravel. It was a remarkable demonstration of determination, bravery and skill, and only now did anyone turn to the timing screens to see what the last hour and a quarter offered. They were greeted by another amazing twist in this already unbelievable tale: not one, but both Belmondo Courages were also in their garages. The leader, it was suggested, had holed a piston, while the #36 was suffering from an overheated starternator. “Those are the very problems we always used to catch,” said Mike Newton, referring to RML’s period with the AER-engined EX257. Suddenly everyone recognised that, despite the events of the previous half-hour, and the considerable deficit the team now faced, there was still a chance.

In amongst all this had been a cruel coincidence. The Aston Martin pitlane crew had occasionally spilled over onto the RML box during the race, when both their cars in the adjacent garage had been expected close together. As the MG emerged into the daylight after what must have looked to many like a potential retirement, the refuelling crew for the #58 had to step aside, but their gaze didn’t waver. Peering over the MG and her attendant personnel, they were scanning the distant track for any sign of their car. Only after the begrimed MG had hurtled away and the noise of its departure faded into the distance did they accept the stark reality that the DBR9 they were waiting for wouldn’t be coming back. It had run out of fuel after more than twenty-two hours. One can only begin to imagine their thoughts.
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Meanwhile, back in the RML garage, the team had one eye on the screens, and another along the pitlane towards the Belmondo garage. There was an air of high tension, but Phil Barker suddenly had a skip in his step as he ran across to the pitwall to consult with Alastair Mcqueen. He, for one, knew the race wasn’t over. Tommy had also discovered that the car had survived this latest ordeal reasonably well, and even if he couldn’t possibly match the kind of pace he and Warren had demonstrated earlier in the race, there was a good chance he could overhaul the two Courages. Both had pulled ahead in the class during the MG’s enforced stop and were now several laps clear, albeit stationery.

Under strict instructions over the radio that there were to be “no heroics” Erdos eased back and started lapping in the mid four-tens. So long as the two Belmondo cars remained in their garage he had no need to push, and the strategy worked. At 2:42 he came through to begin his next lap, and overtook the #36 for second in LMP2. That left the #37 still several laps in front, but with a damaged engine did it pose a threat? Incredibly, it did! Having had it confirmed that the mechanics were not doing any work on the car, it was with some incredulity that those watching the monitors suddenly caught sight of the #37 leaving the pitlane. There was a collective sigh of relief, however, when the car’s pace, and the accompanying pall of smoke, confirmed that it was going nowhere fast, even if it did have five laps in hand. Trailing smoke and travelling at pitlane speed, or slower, the car was being accompanied around the circuit by a Mexican wave of white flags.

Minutes later the #36 also rejoined the race. Adam Sharpe was back in the cockpit, but with a three-lap arrears he had a lot of ground to make up. He set about the task with some zeal, and was actually matching Tommy’s pace at this stage. The Brazilian was intent on making sure that, having recovered so much, RML’s position wasn’t about to be endangered by overstressing the MG. “The engine was fantastic throughout,” enthused the Brazilian some while later. “It never missed a beat, and it was strong from start to finish, but I wasn’t about to make it do any more than we truly needed.” There had been times when the team had pushed very hard to make up lost ground, but this was an occasion where discretion was needed.

When the Belmondo car finally stuttered to a halt near Maison Blanche at just after three, hoping to wait there until the final lap and then crawl across the line almost an hour later, the seal had been set. At three-fifteen Tommy swept passed the stationary car, and began his next lap as class leader. There was hardly anyone in the RML pit who could quite believe what they had just gone through, but it wasn’t over yet. The final hour of the Le Mans marathon may seem like the end of the race to the spectators, but it is nonetheless another sixty-minutes of sprint racing, and some races don’t even last as long. A final scheduled pitstop saw the MG refuelled, re-tyred and smoothly back into action again with barely a minute’s pause. If only all the car’s pitstops could have gone so well.

If the challenge from the #37 had gone, the #36 Courage was still in the chase. Tommy couldn’t afford to ease back too much, and the 73rd running of the Le Mans 24 Hours offered similar tension throughout. In every class, there was a battle in progress for the podium, with leaders and chasers each within sight of the other. Not until the final ten minutes did it appear that the protagonists had accepted their fate, and while the overall winners, two Audi R8s and the sole surviving Pescarolo formed up to stage the perfect photo-finish, realisation dawned upon the hot and weary faces around the RML garage that the could actually win.

As luck would have it – and didn’t it always throughout this race? – Tommy was ahead of the race leaders on the track, so the finish had been staged for several minutes before the glare of the MG’s headlights could be seen glittering through the haze. It couldn’t have worked better. With a flourish, the commentator announced the arrival of the LMP2 winner. In solitary splendour, and accompanied by an enormous cheer from the crowd, the diminutive MG Lola EX264 wailed its Judd-inspired battle-cry across the finish line, Tommy pedalling the throttle into a crescendo of defiance. Not only was he celebrating the finish the team so much deserved; not just a podium, but also that rare distinction, victory at Le Mans. Mike Newton and Warren Hughes both climbed high atop the pitwall to welcome home their car, their feet swathed in the waving arms of a mass of cheering and ecstatic team members, better halves and sponsor’s guests. It was an enormously emotional moment, and the relief that comes after so many hours of strain and pressure was clear for anyone to see.

The final two hours of the race had produced some of the most extraordinary motorsport likely to be witnessed for some time. While motor racing in America was making headlines for all the wrong reasons, the greatest race of them all was demonstrating just why Le Mans and legends go hand-in-hand. Throughout the field, in every class and category, there had been genuine competition and nail-biting excitement. Nowhere was this more tangible than in the RML garage, where triumph really had been dragged kicking and screaming from the jaws of apparent disaster.

One of the drivers suggested that the car itself simply didn’t want to finish the race. At every turn, no matter what hurdle the hard-working team had ovecome, another obstacle would be thrown in their faces. From the very first hour this had been a rollercoaster race of despair and delight – on the one hand, the frantic struggle in the garage each time something went wrong, and on the other, the sight of the MG EX264 and one of its drivers blasting away up the pitlane to begin another fight-back from ten laps down.

In the end the RML MG Lola EX264 covered a total of 305 laps on its way to winning LMP2, taking 24:05.45.284 hours to do so – the greatest total time of any car in the race. The #36 Courage C65 of Paul Belmondo Racing finished second on 300 laps, with the #37 sister car fourth on 294 laps. Fourth place fell to the #30 Kruse Courage on 268 laps.
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We managed to get words out of the drivers after the race, finding Warren sitting on the floor in the driver’s rest room, elbows on knees and hands clasped around his neck.

“I have never seen a team of people work so hard before, never,” he insisted, shaking his head in disbelief. “Those boys just wouldn’t give in. They’re the ones who won this race, not us.” His voice, hoarse from a flu-like bug, cannot hide his pride. “It’s hard to live through that kind of experience,” he continued. “It was just one thing after another. It’s almost surreal. None of the problems were related to the speed we were doing. Even when we were forced into pushing, the things that went wrong were nothing to do with that. I was lucky though. My two triple stints, and then that last double, were all relatively trouble-free. Even during the night, the only glitch I had was with the gearshift, and I had to switch to the manual system.” This was actually quite a frightening situation to be in. “The team radioed a solution, and told me I had to switch everything off going down the Mulsanne. All the lights went out, everything!” He freewheeled in the dark (at no mean speed!) before toggling the appropriate controls and initiating the change to manual. Thankfully, it worked.

“It’s amazing to think that we didn’t touch one car, didn’t have any unforced spins, and we were quick all the way,” added Warren. “The car was also the fastest [LMP2] in the race. It wasn’t in qualifying, because the others could turn up the boost on the turbo, but they couldn’t do that in the race. Even though we had the extra pace, after our initial delays, overheating, and the gearbox, we needed other people to have problems, which they did. We were also very fortunate with Tommy that the suspension failure didn’t happen anywhere else, like Indianapolis or the Mulsanne, where the speeds are so much quicker. When I saw that on the screen I thought, well, that’s game over. It was just one thing after another, but credit again to the boys; they wouldn’t accept that the car wasn’t going to finish.”

Tommy shared the same gratitude for all the hard work put in by the RML mechanics.

“It’s all thanks to those guys. We’d never have got there without them,” he said. “They had a remarkable ability to deal with everything that came along, and to do it quickly. I admit, there were times in the middle when I never thought we’d make it, but towards the end I started thinking that perhaps there was a chance. Even so, I was looking on P2 as being the best we could probably hope for, and I was more than prepared to be satisfied with that. At least that would have secured us an entry for next year.”

As for the car’s third driver, well, the grin never left Mike Newton’s face for what must have been the best part of an hour. It was a pleasure to see him so delighted, and to know that he had played a significant role in his team’s success. There have been certain people, those who don’t look too closely at the figures, perhaps, who have dismissed Mike as a driver, but they’d be wrong to do so. Put anyone alongside a pairing like Tommy and Warren, and unless they were diehard professionals, they’d all run the risk of looking slow. Mike never pretends to be more than he is; an enthusiastic gentleman driver, but perhaps that alone is where he falls short. Weighed against those of others on the track at the same time, professionals included, his times compare very well indeed. If his best race laps only occasionally dipped below four minutes, they were consistent, and typically came through several seconds quicker than those of his immediate rivals in LMP2. He didn’t shirk his duties either, and completed over five and a half hours at the wheel; only two stints less than Warren. He had every reason to look fulfilled.

In every respect, this was a fantastic team effort by everyone at RML, amply supported by Lola, Judd and Michelin. It just seems such huge injustice that the name of MG will appear in the annals of Le Mans history two months too late, for here is a story that deserves a bigger audience and far greater recognition.
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Marcus Potts