Mans 24 Hours 2008
Saturday - Warm-up/Legends/Race Start. June 14th 2008
Saturday morning warm-up is a chance for the teams to double-check
that all the work done on Friday - when most will have completely
rebuilt their cars - has been completed successfully, and
the drivers are still happy with the set-ups achieved during
the practice and qualifying sessions.
was first out for RML, clocking a rapid 3:43.690 in what
is now full race trim, including maximum fuel load. If that
is indicative of his likely race pace, then the MG truly
is in fine fettle.
quickest time came on his third flying lap, and took the
#25 MG up to 17th overall and fourth in LMP2. His next looked
certain to be quicker, with his first two sectors showing
green on the timing screens, but he was already on his way
back to the pitlane, where Mike was waiting to take over
in the cockpit.
car was refuelled and fitted with fresh tyres before Mike
returned to the track. His three laps hovered around the
3:50 mark, and he returned a few minutes later to give Andy
the final fifteen minutes.
second lap was a 3:44.008, and then his last lap shaved
this to 3:43.406. That would be the fastest time for the
car in this brief session.
for the MG in LMP2 warm-up was very encouraging, although
times are rarely significant during what is really just
an opportunity to check the cars before the race.
RML MG Lola EX265 is one of some 30 or more cars on the
55-car grid to be carrying the "4 MCC" sticker
in recognition of the contribution to sportscar and GT racing
made over the past fifteen years or so by Malcolm Cracknell,
founder of what is now Dailysportscar. Malcolm was recently
diagnosed with an illness which has left him unable to continue
his excellent work in reporting on, and promoting, the world
of sportscar racing. Malcolm established his internet news
gathering website in the mid-Nineties, originally as SportscarWorld.
After various reincarnations, briefly as SuperSportscarWorld
and then TotalMotorSport, Dailysportscar was born in late
2001. In the years since then the site, under Malcolm's
editorship but with contributions from dozens of other highly
regarded motorsport journalists, has grown to become the
most widely respected site of its kind worldwide. The fact
that almost two-third of the grid for the Le Mans 24 Hours
carried the sticker this year is some testament to that
respect and admiration. Thanks Malcolm.
Times - Warm-up
warm-up out of the way, thoughts turned to the forthcoming
race. RML checked through the data from the morning, and
made a few minor adjustments to the car, but had little
more they could do, and the MG Lola EX265 would be one of
the first to head out onto the grid. Before that, however,
there were various activities intended to entertain the
Legends Race this year involved some of the most beautiful
and evocative racing cars from the eighty-five years history
of Le Mans; the fabulous Group C era. Thirty magnificent
cars took to the track for an hour-long race. All are lovingly
maintained and cherished, and perhaps half those drivers
taking part were treating their cars with the utmost respect,
as is only understandable considering their irreplaceable
value. However, sufficient numbers were determined to get
the most out of the occasion that we did have an excellent
race. In the end it was Justin Law in the Silk Cut Jaguar
XJR-12 who took the chequered flag, crossing the line a
full 18 seconds ahead of mark Sumpter in a Porsche 962.
fastest lap of 3:45.915 demonstrates, on the one hand, that
Justin Law is no slouch as a driver, and could clearly hold
his own in the main event, but on the other, that these
old cars are still capable of a fair turn of speed. The
#62 Sauber Mercedes from 1989 (pictured on our Friday
review) is also reputed to have been clocked as one of the
fastest cars all weekend along the straight, matching the
latest crop of LMP1 cars. Awesome - and such a wonderful
salute to the past came, somewhat surprisingly, with the
sight of an ancient-looking biplane, which trundled slowly
along the pit straight. Lovingly recreated from photographic
evidence, sketches and plans, this full scale replica of
the Wright Brother's original aircraft marks a century since
Wilbur and Orville first came to Le Mans. Having made its
first flight in America, the original plane was shipped
across the Atlantic, and in 1908 made its first ever flight
over European soil from a field just outside Le Mans. A
monument in the town square (right) celebrates this link
with pioneering aviation, and Le Mans is proud of the association.
cavalcade of historic and classic cars - some a little faster
than others - completed the circuit action before the track
was cleared and the first of the cars for the 2008 grid
were pushed out onto the main straight. There's a lot of
rivalry involved here, with some teams eager to be the first
out, and others just trying to make the most of a marketing
opportunity. It was great to see the Aston Martin and Corvette
squads racing side-by-side, the mechanics struggling to
push their cars up the slight incline towards the front
of the GT1 grid. Rumour has it that the Corvette team narrowly
RML MG took up its position a full two hours before the
anticipated start of the race, but already the grid was
filling up. There were no great surprises, although one
of the GT2 Porsches was subsequently relegated to the back
of the grid, reputedly because a mechanic refuelled the
car while it was lined up on the grid - a definite breach
of regulations. Despite serious accidents in qualifying,
both the JMB Porsche and the Kruse Schiller Mazda Lola,
#44, would start the race, and all 55 would take up their
positions on the grid.
forty minutes still to go the track was cleared of non-essential
personnel and the cars started to move away from the classic
herringbone formation to begin a full lap of the track.
They would then take up their correct positions on the grid,
although several by-passed this and made additional pitstops
for last-minute checks, to top up their fuel tanks, and
get in an extra lap just in case.
half hour of waiting ticked by. To some it seemed slow,
specially perhaps the drivers waiting in the heat for the
start of the race, but for the spectators watching the assembled
cars, it was just yet another element in the tension-building
last few minutes. Finally, at about eight minutes before
three, the pace car moved off at the head of the field,
followed by the leading Peugeots and Audis.
lap behind the pace car seems to last longer than almost
any other - and perhaps it does. The race must start at
three o'clock, and it is up to the driver in that Audi TT
to ensure that the leaders arrive at the end of the Ford
Chicane just seconds before the hour. This year, he did
a good job. With a last sprint for the exit, the silver
car dived out of the way, leaving the main straight clear
for the eruption of noise that followed.
with the arrival of the whispering diesels, the once-awesome
roar that used to accompany the first cars as they accelerated
across the line is a thing of memory. Instead we have to
wait for the leading group to clear the stage before the
proper decibel levels are achieved. It still makes tummies
tremble and the ground shake, and the reverberation through
the lofty concrete grandstands amplifies the sound until
all else is masked by a solid wall of noise.
76th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours had begun . . . .
of the following was written "live", as it happened.
Driver quotes and additional details were then added later.
As a result there may be some inconsistency in tenses, for
which we apologise.
remarkably clean start by almost the entire 55-car grid,
although there was some jostling as the pack made its way
through the Dunlop Chicane. Pretty soon, however, everything
became neatly strung out.
the end of the first Lap a distinct pattern has already
emerged, with the three leading Peugeots running almost
in unison, nose to tail, but with a clearly visible advantage
over the chasing Audis. In LMP2, no position changes as
yet, but Tommy is very close under the rear wing of the
#45 Embassy WF01 Zytek. In fact, they're almost touching
as they exit the Ford Chicane to begin the second lap.
Aston Martin Lola Coupé, which was fifth, loses out
to the third Audi, so it's now Peugeot 1-2-3 and Audi 4-5-6.
LMP2 is holding steady for the time being, although Tommy
is clearly quicker than Warren Hughes' Embassy.
stringing-out effect is becoming more marked throughout
the field as categories settle down. Just now, Tommy is
not quite as close to Hughes as he was, but both are pulling
away from the #40 ASM Lola in seventh. The #34 Porsche leads
the class from the #31, with the Speedy Sebah Lola third.
four laps completed and already the leaders have the last
of the tail-enders in their sights. They will start lapping
them this time around. The Peugeots have opened out a five
second advantage over the leading Audi, and there's a gap
of about a second or two between each of the next three.
The #10 Lola, the #11 Dome,and then the #16 Pescarolo are
now all quite close together but have gap of about six or
eight seconds over the #17 and the #6, which are nose to
tail. There's then a lengthy gap to the first of the two
lap 5, and Tommy gets ahead of Warren Hughes to take fifth
in class. He then starts to close in on the #32 Zytek and
challenge for fourth in class.
the end of lap 6 the #33 Speedy Sebah Lola makes an early
and unscheduled pitstop for a replacement tyre, but quickly
rejoins. Tommy passes the #32 Zytek for what is now third
place. Only 20 minutes of the race have elapsed.
dispensed with two of his LMP2 rivals, Tommy now has his
sights set on the #12 Muscle Milk LMP1 Lola - formerly the
Charouz car, as raced in the Le Mans Series last season.
It is very obvious that the grey and red Lola is holding
back the MG, and in doing so, has allowed Warren Hughes
and Olivier Pla in the #40 Lola to close up. There has been
a problem for Vergers in the #32 - perhaps a track error
somewhere, and he's dropped well back.
Heading up towards the Dunlop Chicane, Tommy closes right
down on the tail of the #12 car, and then passes Greg Pickett
for third place. The two are then nose to tail through the
Esses and Tetre Rouge and press on for the first Mulsanne
Chicane. The LMP1 Lola has the legs down the straight, and
closes back up, and then overtakes the MG down the left
hand side. The two cars race parallel to one another as
they continue the run down the lengthy straight, but as
they near the first "Playstation" chicane the
"Muscle Milk" Lola brakes early, seemingly to
allow Tommy the prime approach to the apex. Tommy moved
back in front and then goes for the brake pedal nearer to
his usual braking point for the chicane. Instantly, the
rear of the car snaps round to the right, sending the MG
diving right across the front of the #12 car, which luckily
is now several yards behind. They miss by inches. The reaction
of the MG to the application of the brakes is almost exactly
the same as happened to Andy on Wednesday evening, although
this time it is the front of the car that heads nose-first
into the barriers.
a heavy impact, but the car bounces back into the track,
and Tommy is able to limp forward towards the protection
of the staggered tyre walls that cross the sliproad for
the chicane. He reports his accident to the team.
#12 Lola recovers and heads for the pitlane and a quick
check-up, but all seems OK, and Pickett resumes his race.
No such luck for Tommy Erdos, who watches helplessly as
Hughes sweeps by into third, followed by the #40 Lola. Hughes
pits the Embassy WF01 at the end of the lap, but is soon
back into the race.
checked the car, Tommy begins a slow and laborious return
to the pits. The front left hand sub-assembly has collapsed,
and the car is difficult to steer. He has reached Indianapolis
#44 Kruse Lola pits.
Tommy trundles through Arnage.
The #32 Zytek and the #40 Lola both make scheduled pitstops.
Tommy arrives in the pitlane. The MG is a sorry sight, with
much of the front bodywork missing, the front left-hand
wheel at an awkward angle, and the ensemble clearly difficult
to steer. He slithers down the pitlane and finally reaches
the sanctuary of the RML garage.
team is quick to haul the car back into the garage, pausing
for only a few seconds to refuel - standard practice whenever
the car returns to the pits. Tommy is asked if he's happy
to remain in the car, and he insists he is. While he sits
there impassively, the team crawl all over the car like
ants around their queen. ripping away damaged bodywork and
then removing broken suspension elements, clearing away
the remnants of the damaged parts and hoovering out loose
gravel, which seems able to ingress almost anywhere.
looks as if the entire front left-hand corner will have
to be replaced, as well as the nose cone, the entire front
panel assembly, damper cover panel, and various other ancillaries.
#34 leads the class from the #31, with Warren Hughes now
third in the Embassy car, with the #33 already back up to
fourth, despite the stop for a puncture.
In an amazing twenty-nine minutes, the RML crew has rebuild
the car, and Tommy is trolleyed back onto the pit apron,
where he fires up the XP-21 engine and, with a couple of
blips on the throttle, powers off towards the pitlane exit.
seconds or so later, as he heads away down towards Mulsanne,
he reports that everything seems "OK", and he's
pressing on. Unfortunately, the delay so early in the race
has cost RML dearly, and Tommy resumes in last place . .
. just. Eleventh in LMP2 sounds better, but means exactly
the same thing.
Tommy's confidence in the team, and the cars they rebuild,
is evident from the way he's lapping the MG, which is setting
times in the very low forties. His best, a 3:43.082, underlines
All the following text was uploaded
Tommy is now running in 52nd position overall, having started
a recovery that could take all the remaining 23 hours of
this race to achieve. Having lost 29 minutes in the pits
making good the repairs to the #25 MG Lola, Tommy has been
circulating in the low 3:40's, and recently set a new fastest
lap for the MG of 3:43.082, which makes the #25 currently
one of the fastest cars circulating in LMP2 - only Elgaard
in the leading #31 Essex car is going quicker.
Tommy reports that the car has developed a slight vibration.
The team will monitor the situation. A few minutes later
Tommy confirms that the vibration has eased, and was almost
certainly attributable to a pick-up of spent rubber.
The Muscle Milk Lola, #12, heads into the pitlane, belching
The #41 Trading Performance Zytek is off in the gravel at
the Ford Chicane. Tommy thinks it may be a safety car situation,
but the marshals are quick to do their job, and the car
is moved under yellow flags.
The Lola Aston Martin #10 spins off at Dunlop Curve in exactly
the same manner as the JMB Ferrari did in qualifying, and
hits the concrete wall hard with the rear of the car, snapping
off the rear wing instantly. Stefan Mucke, driving, had
been holding 8th place overall.
Another incident for the #12 Lola, which spins and hits
the barriers, just as the struggling #10 Lola, which has
got moving again, limps through Tetre Rouge and the front
right suspension appears to collapse. It pulls over to the
side of the first section of Mulsanne, having driven over
some parts of its own bodywork. Mucke has to clear the debris
before he can resume his journey back to the pitlane.
IMSA GT2 Porsche and Flying Lizard GT2 Porsche have a coming
together and both end up in the gravel trap. The Flying
Lizard car looks the worse for wear, but later resumes the
Driver change: Erdos-Newton)
Tommy into the pitlane. Refuel and fresh tyres for Mike,
and he sets off at 4:56.
Car #40 is hit by a Corvette on the exit of Arnage, and
spins. It's a light tap, and Guy Smith recovers quickly.
the hour, and the #80 Flying Lizard Porsche is heading slowly
back towards pit lane, crabbing along the side of the track
and with tyre-spoke from fouling bodywork clouding in its
first official retirement is confirmed as the #83 Risi Competitzione
The #10 Lola Aston Martin finally gets back to the pits,
and is quickly hauled back into the garage. Moments later
the Lizards get their Porsche back too.
Mike who has been circulating in 52nd place overall, moves
up to 51st, and now 10th in LMP2, by passing the #41 Trading
Performance Zytek. He's lapping in the mid-three-fifties.
The overall lead is still being held by the #8 Peugeot,
Sarrazin at the wheel, and heading the #9 car by 50 seconds.
Third is the #7, with former World F1 Champion Jacques Villeneuve
in the cockpit. The three Audis are next up (#2, #3 and
then #1) with the #16 Pescarolo leading the petrol-engined
charge from 7th.
LMP2, Elgaard leads by five seconds from Verstappen, with
the Dutchman lapping two seconds quicker on the last lap.
Michael Vergers holds third for Barazi, but a lap adrift.
Verstappen has just done the #34 car's fastest lap (3:35.250
GT1, the 009 Aston Martin has battled through to lead the
Drama at the top of the screens. The #8 Peugeot pits, and
stays there. Allan McNish sails through in the #2 Audi to
take third. Villeneuve then pits in the #7 and hands over
to Marc Gene, but not before McNish has closed the gap considerably.
Then the leader is black flagged for having an inoperative
headlight, and will have to pit.
The #9 Peugeot pits. The front of the car is removed so
that the headlight can be repaired. While the Peugeot is
stationary in the pits, Allan McNish cruises by to claim
second from the #7. The #9 heads back out, but the lead
is significantly reduced.
Incident at the Ford Chicane where the #16 Pescarolo tries
to outbreak one of the Epsilons into the first element,
loses control, hits the Epsilon, spins, and then beaches
itself on the kerbs. Emanuel Collard is driving. After some
delay, he manages to regain the track, and presses on.
The #14 Creation hobbles into the pitlane with a puncture,
Stuart Hall driving. Mike comments over the radio that the
track is very greasy at the moment.
McNish takes the lead. Shortly afterwards, Lucas Luhr in
the #3 Audi also moves through into the top three, so Peugeot's
stranglehold is broken.
#8 Peugeot being wheeled out of the garage after lengthy
repairs. It rejoins in 28th place overall.
Mike continues to make steady progress, and has risen to
49th overall, having overtaken the #80 GT2 Porsche, which
is still in the garage undergoing repairs. His next "target"
is the #10 Lola, which recently rejoined, but is travelling
much, much quicker. More realistic is the #24 Courage, which
is not only in the pits, but also not as quick as the Lola
For the last half hour, Jos Verstappen has been leading
the LMP2 class. As predicted, he overtook Elgaard, and has
now eased out a lead of 30 seconds over Nielsen, now at
the wheel of the #31, although the Dane is now the quicker
of the two.
Pitstop for Mike Newton. Straightforward and quick.
Nielsen sets new fastest lap for #31: 3:38.422
Enge in the #10 has overtaken Terada in the #24, so the
Japanese Courage genuinely becomes Mike's next target.
The #50 Saleen, which was 31st overall and 7th in GT1, has
beached in the gravel near the Esses, apparently having
lost a rear wheel. Without the wheel it seems hard to determine
how, or if, the car can get back to the pits. Wheels dropping
off Saleens has been a regular problem in the past.
Somehow the Saleen is mobile again, but travelling very
slowly through Tetre Rouge.
Mike crosses the start-line and passes the #24 Courage,
with Terada languishing in the pits, reason unknown. He's
now up to 48th position overall.
and Nielsen celebrates the start of the fourth hour with
a new fastest lap in the #31. His 3:38.367 is four seconds
quicker than Verstappen's last lap, and is now only half
a minute behind the Dutchman.
in LMP2 overall has Verstappen leading from Nielsen, with
the #33 Speedy Lola back up to third, but nearly two laps
down on the Porsches. Fourth is the Embassy WF01 Zytek,
17th overall, with the #32 Zytek fifth, just three seconds
behind. Nineteenth overall, and next up in the class, is
the #35 Saulnier Pescarolo, with the #40 ASM Lola seventh
(20th overall). There's a lengthy gap then to the #44 Kruse
Lola 29th overall, followed by the Bruichladdich Radical,
Ben Devlin driving, in 32nd. That leaves Mike tenth in class,
Verstappen pits. Nielsen will take the lead - no, they both
Mike having a dynamic on-track battle with the Kruse Lola
- not for position, but to unlap himself.
The #59 Team Modena Aston Martin is reported as travelling
slowly. I appears to have a left-rear puncture, but not
clear how this was caused. It is heading slowly back to
Confirmed that the #41 Zytek is another retirement, having
made contact with the #12 Muscle Milk Lola at the Ford Chicane
earlier in the race. The car cannot be repaired.
Driver change: Newton-Wallace)
Mike into the pitlane. Car is refuelled and fitted with
fresh tyres, and Andy Wallace is strapped into the cockpit
and away in under a minute. Out at the sharp end, the #7
Peugeot has regains the lead, via pitstops, and as an advantage
of 39 seconds over Capello in the #2.
Nielsen is on a charge, and not only does the Team Essex
Porsche now lead LMP2 from the Van Merksteijn car (the man
himself at he wheel), but he's just posted a new fastest
lap for the metallic blue car; 3:37.277.
As a result of various retirements and problems, the MG
is now in 46th position overall, but still 10th in LMP2,
although the #26 Bruichladdich Radical is in the pits, and
has been for some time.
Big-ish accident for Amanda Stretton in the #19 Synergy
Lola on the exit of Tetre Rouge. It's her out-lap, and there's
a suspicion her tyres may not have been up to temperature.
She's made heavy contact with the armco on the inner edge
of Tetre Rouge, and is now struggling to get back, but the
car is clearly difficult to control, having sustained serious
suspension damage both front and rear down the right hand
Amanda has pulled over part-way down
the first section of the Mulsanne, surrounded by white smoke.
It's not clear if this is from fouled tyres or an engine
issue. Hugh Chamberlain has said that something failed on
the car, and the accident was no fault of Amanda's.
now in the #34 Porsche, and a new fastest lap of the race
from Montagny in the #9 Peugeot, from third overall, with
a time of 3:21.22. After its earlier problems, the #8 (blue)
Peugeot is up to 16th overall.
Andy reports that the car is "perfect". he's just
set a lap of 3:46.724. It's one of his quickest, and he
is now closing rapidly on the #94 Spyker for 45th position
and Andy is on good form, although the radio signal occasionally
breaks up, making it hard for the team to understand what
he's saying. There's no change in position, but he's circulating
consistently in the mid-forties.
Andy pits for fuel only.
are now three confirmed retirements, with the #41 Trading
Performance Zytek quoted as completing 22 laps, ten more
than the #83 Risi Ferrari, but four fewer than the #76 Imsa
After his pitstop, Andy is shown as having passed the stricken
Synergy Lola, Amanda Stretton unable to recover the car
from the Mulsanne, although it must be assumed she's still
trying. The MG is now 45th.
A puncture for the #14 Creation, Johnny Mowlem at the wheel.
He manages to get back to the pitlane. Elsewhere, Allan
Simonsen, making his debut as a prototype driver, sets a
new fastest lap for the #44 Kruse Mazda of 3:47.217.
Amanda Stretton gets the #19 Synergy Lola back to the garage,
where it is hauled back inside for repairs. Being under
Hugh's care, be certain it will be running again soon.
For the first time there appears to be a distinct gap between
first and second in LMP2; the Team Essex car now forty seconds
clear of the #34. The #33 is third, and the #45 retains
fourth. Simonsen follows his first "new fastest"
with another; 3:46.061.
Andy has closed to within half a minute of the #23 Creation,
and is narrowing the gap typically by five seconds a lap.
The #14 is back in the pitlane, and this time is hauled
back into the garage for more extensive attention.
The gap between first and second in LMP2 has grown steadily,
and Maassen now has an advantage over Bleekemolen in the
#34 of more than 70 seconds. The #33 Lola still has a hold
on third, but the battle between Embassy and Saulnier for
fourth is closer, with a new fastest lap for Lahaye in the
#35 (3:44.690) suggesting that the green and white car is
up for the challenge. Close on his heels, however (by a
generous 73 seconds) is Olivier Pla in the #40 Quifel ASM
Lola, who is consistently quicker even than Lahaye's best
Andy is preparing for his next pitstop, and complimenting
the tyres on their consistency throughout his double-stint.
(Pitstop. Driver change: Wallace-Erdos)
Andy into the pits, and hands the car over to Tommy, who
begins what is expected to be his second double-stint. Simultaneously,
the Bruichladdich Radical pulls over just after the second
There have been various changes in order around the MG,
both as a result of others' misfortune, and the pitstop.
The #14 Creation remains in the garage after its earlier
stop, and the MG has now eased ahead and holds 42nd overall,
but looks set to take two further places in the near future,
one being that previously occupied by the #53 Vitaphone
Aston Martin. The elegant DBR9 has now been in the box for
about twenty minutes - reason unknown.
Tommy's first lap takes him ahead of the #53 Aston, and
he is now in line to overtake the still-stationary '#26
Another succession of pitstops has revived the battle for
the LMP2 lead, with the two Porsches now mere heartbeats
apart. Less than a second in fact.
The MG moves ahead of the Bruichladdich Radical, which still
remains stranded out on track. It is not yet a retirement,
but the prospects don't look good.
The #44 Kruse Lola is in the garage, and Tommy eases ahead
to take 39th position overall. The MG now lies 8th in LMP2,
although fourteen laps down on the leading pair.
Marc Rostan gets the Bruichladdich Radical moving again,
and he makes a slow return to the pitlane.
Chris McMurry pits the #23 Creation, and Tommy passes him
for 38th position. It's a scheduled stop for the LMP1 car,
and with another pitstop due for the MG, the situation is
likely to be redressed shortly.
Tommy into the pits. Fuel only this stop, so it's a very
brief pause for the #25 MG Lola, and within about fifteen
second or so, Tommy's on his way again. He did have 45 seconds
over McMurry, but it may not have been enough to retain
Timing screens confirm that McMurry has regained 38th slot,
but only by nine seconds, so confirmation of a very quick
pitstop by the RML crew.
The number of confirmed retirements has risen to four (although
others are expected to join the list shortly). To hose listed
previously is added
Just as the #53 Aston pulls over at Indianapolis, Gunnar
Jeanette sets a new fastest lap for the #26 Radical; 3:46.031,
but he's eight laps behind Tommy.
Chris McMurry pits in the #23 Creation. His advantage over
Tommy was just 25 seconds last time they crossed the line,
so the position is likely to swap again.
LMP2 leader, the Team Essex Porsche, sustains a puncture
and leaves a smoky trail. The Van Merksteijn Porsche, #34,
retakes the lead. Tommy, meanwhile, has recovered 38th from
Driver change: Erdos-Newton)
Tommy pits for fuel and tyres. He hands over to Mike. This
time McMurry also pits - out of sequence - and it looks
as if the position won't revert to the #23 Creation. During
the pitstop the additional lighting pod, built into the
front damper cover, are replaced, having been lost in the
first-hour accident. As the darkness continues to descend,
the extra light will become more important. For now, it
remains light enough for these to be largely unnecessary.
Their turn will come.
. . . . but not just now. After a couple of laps the cover
works loose, and Mike notifies the crew that he's going
to "pit this lap". He manages to make it back
to the pitlane without losing the cover, although it is
noticeably not in the right position. The team refuels the
car and then draws the car back into the garage to ensure
correct refitting of the lighting cover.
McMurry is still in the pits, and is now five laps down
on the MG, but in danger of losing 39th to Jeanette in the
A spin for Michael Vergers in the #32 Barazi Zytek. He pulls
over and stops beside marshals' post 117, which is beside
the bridge at the early part of the Porsche Curves.
The order in LMP2 has just changed with the #40 ASM Lola
passing the #32 Zytek for 24th overall, and 6th in class.
The overall positions in the category are:
12th overall, the #34 Porsche on 112 laps
2. 14th overall, the #31 Porsche two minutes behind
3. 16th overall, and o 110 laps, the #33 Speedy Racing Team
4. 17th overall, the #45 Embassy WF01 Zytek, with 107 laps
5. 18th overall, and just 5 seconds behind, the #35 Saulnier
6. 24th overall, Guy Smith in the #40 Lola on 106 laps
7. Slipping to 28th overall, but moving again, the #32 Zytek
on 104 laps
8. 38th overall, and still in the garage, Mike Newton and
the RML MG on 94 laps
9 .39th overall, but three laps behind, the #26 Radical
10. 43rd overall is the #44 Kruse Mazda on 88 laps
other LMP2 cars are listed as running now.
Klien has a major "off" in the #9 Peugeot and
beaches the second placed 908 in the gravel, where he digs
the rear wheels even deeper into the litter. The car is
very exposed on the second element of the Ford Chicane,
but eventually gets going again under many waved yellow
flags. He loses at least one place, to Kristensen in the
Embassy back into the garage, and start slipping down the
order, losing a place almost immediately to Guy Smith in
the #40 ASM Lola.
Mike rejoins after the team completes a series of repairs,
all of which can be traced back to the first-hour accident.
Some are bodywork related, such as the mountings for the
damper cover, and others are mechanical. The additional
delay has cost several positions, and the MG rejoins in
40th overall, now two laps behind Goosens, in the #14 Creation,
and three laps adrift of Ben Devlin, who's taken over the
Mike has had an accident at the entrance to the Porsche
Curves, and reports he got airborne in the process. "I
drove across what I think was a patch of loose gravel on
the track, and the next moment I was looking over the side
of the car at the road," he said. He's going to assess
the damage to the car, but is not certain whether he can
get the car back. He's got out of the car and having a look.
timing screens suggest that Mike's accident is at the same
spot where Andy had a similar meeting with the tyrewall
in 2007, but Mike later explains that it actually originated
quite a distance before that point, but he'd just ended
up in the same place. He also says that, with hindsight,
he doesn't believe there was any gravel on the track. "I
wasn't braking hard or late," he insists. "I braked
short of where I had before. I'm thinking now that perhaps
there was a puncture." Whatever caused the accident,
the net result is well documented, thanks to the on-board
TransVu (DIR) video recording system. What appears to have
happened is that the car attempted to switch ends, but unlike
Andy's case (when he spun 180 and headed backwards into
the wall) Mike's pirouette paused half way. With the MG
side-on to the direction of travel the air was able to get
under the side, and next moment the whole car was airborne.
lifted, the car was on the point of going over onto its
back when the front right-hand corner dug into the grass
beyond the edge of the track. That immediately reversed
the direction of rotation, kicking the car back the other
way, and ending when the left rear smashed heavily into
the ground. Luckily, the car ended up resting on its wheels.
car was dragged free of the gravel by the nearby marshals,
and once in a position of safety, Mike was allowed to examine
the extent of the damage, It looked bad. "The marshals
were reluctant to allow me to move the car, but I managed
to convince them that if I could drive it three quarters
of the way along the length of the barrier, then it would
be OK to drive it back to the garage. I had no problem with
that, and just drove along the grass at the top edge of
the run-off.," he said.
brought Mike and the MG to the edge of the track, and the
start of the Porsche Curves. "I still had the mirrors,
which was fortunate, but I came down the Porsche Curves
very carefully indeed!" he added.
signalled his impending arrival to the team over the radio.
"I'm delivering a mess," he said. "Don't
worry," came the reply from Phil Barker. "We specialise
in messes!" Even so, nobody was quite prepared for
the sight of the MG as it crabbed awkwardly down the pitlane,
one headlight ablaze, the other dead.
Mike and the MG arrived back at the garage at just before
eleven, and the RML guys knew immediately that they faced
another major rebuild. They began by stripping away all
the obviously damaged components, including the rear left-hand
corner subassembly, the underfloor (both front and rear)
and nearly every body panel. There was hardly a single one
that could be used again.
all the nooks and crannies accessible, the crew embarked
upon a massive clean-up routine, using the airline to blast
away the loose particles of grass, gravel, sand and dust
that had been carried back from the accident scene, and
then vacuumed away anything that remained. It was a very
thorough process - it is essential that the components are
as clean as possible before the reassembly process can begin.
at the back of the garage the replacement body panels were
being prepared. That proved to be a bit of a challenge,
thanks to the two accidents that the car had already sustained.
With no spare bonnet to the latest 07 design the team had
no alternative but to select an older 06 nose - one that
hadn't been used for almost a year. Set aside with the spares
in a medium downforce configuration, the nose had to be
re-fettled to generate higher downforce, but with so much
work to be done on the car itself, there was no pressure.
them, Phil Barker and chief engineer Rick Perry examined
every element of the car's suspension for damage, and to
see what, if anything, could be used again. Their assessment
erred on the side of caution every time. Any questionable
components were set aside for replacement, even if it looked
OK. It was a major exercise, but the car would only be sent
out again if they were 100% confident in its integrity.
took on the appearance of a general marshalling his troops
- directing operations with brisk efficiency - and there
was no sign of panic, no rush, just the usual measured and
meticulous attention to detail. That included the drivers,
and it was suggested to Mike that he ought to take a break,
despite his assurance that he felt fine. He didn't look
as though he'd been perturbed by his accident, but Phil
wasn't taking any chances, and Adam Wiseberg agreed. Andy
Wallace would be going out next, assuming the car could
was his composure that Phil even had the presence of mind
to share a joke or two with some of the crew, and looked
relaxed, despite the frenetic activity around him. RML is
good at this recovery process, and over the years they've
grown used to the high expectations their own standards
The struggle continues. The MG has dropped to 44th overall,
and is falling perilously close to those other cars that
are already known to be non-runners, even if their official
retirements have yet to be announced.
pace of the work around the car has eased somewhat, but
there's still a spring in the step of anyone running to
find a particular tool, or collecting replacement parts.
There's even a burst of song from under the car, where Adam
Hughes declares, above the sound of cars still racing, that
"We love it!".
The car is starting to come back together again. The ear
left sub-assembly - the suspension arms, hub, brake ducts,
disk and calipers - is almost complete. Coolant and oil
hoses are being replaced with new ones, and the MG is recognisable
as a race car once more.
The new front floor section is brought into the garage from
the truck and held ready for fitment. There are fourteen
guys working on the car at the moment.
The replacement floor is slid under the car, offered up,
and then fitted.
Then engine has been drained of all fluids, and fresh oil
is being pumped into the system.
There is still hectic activity in every direction, but the
MG is finally starting to look like a car again.
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