RML AD Group at Autosport International. Issued January
International – General Review
venue for the first raft of major sportscar announcements
to come out of this year’s Autosport Show turned out
to be a single, if generously proportioned platform immediately
adjacent to the main Autosport stage. At just before eleven,
having just uncovered the new Subaru Impreza STI rally car,
Prodrive boss David Richards turned to the other side of
the stand to reveal the new livery for this year’s
Aston Martin GT1 Le Mans challenge car. Certainly one of
the trade’s best-kept secrets for some time, the sight
of a DBR9 in the illustrious pale blue and orange colours
of Gulf Oil drew gasps of admiration from the six-deep crowd.
The conjunction of two brands with such a lengthy Le Mans
pedigree (exactly 40 years since a first victory in the
case of Gulf) is an evocative combination and one that is
sure to attract a strong following from the 80,000 British
supporters who traditionally attend the 24 Hours.
With the works Aston Martin programme confirmed,
Richards was then happy to announce another well-concealed
development from Prodrive – the revelation that Aston
Martin has created an engine suitable for LMP1 application,
and that the company’s first customer is to be Charouz
Racing. More significant than that, the vehicle to benefit
from this innovative move is to be Lola’s new B08/60;
the first customer-available LMP1 coupe.
first announced plans for a coupe nearly eighteen months
ago, and the Huntingdon company has worked diligently in
the meantime to ensure that the company’s tradition
for designing race-winning cars will be upheld by this exciting
new chassis. With 2008 also being Lola’s fiftieth
anniversary, the debut of the B08/60 is doubly significant,
and bringing the strength of Aston Martin to the package
looks like dealing a winning hand. The marriage of the new
coupe with the V12 engine was made possible by a change
in the ACO’s regulations that permitted the use of
the heavyweight but ultra-powerful GT1-derived engines,
provided they came from a source that had seen at least
1000 units produced. Aston Martin easily exceeded that requirement,
yet also had a race-proven engine that had already won at
Le Mans – indeed, as Richards reminded everyone, all
six DB9s entered in last year’s 24 Hours went on to
finish; no mean achievement.
As prototype drivers, including Mike Newton
and Tommy Erdos have observed, the fastest GT1 cars are
every bit as quick (in a straight line) as the best in LMP2,
so the there’s no doubting that an LMP1 chassis powered
by the AM V12 will have all the power it needs, despite
the additional bulk inherent in a road-derived engine. Charouz
was the only team to give the all-conquering Peugeot 908s
a run (of any kind!) last year, so the thought of a coupe
with Aston Martin power and Prodrive know-how could, at
last, see a petrol-fuelled car challenging the diesels.
The Charouz Lola Aston Martin is expected to make its public
debut in early March at the official Le Mans test at Paul
Ricard in France.
was more news from Lola, however, with the announcement
that their new B08/80 coupe has also been purchased by Speedy-Sebah
Racing to run in LMP2. The outfit intends to compete head-to-head
with Lola’s open-topped prototypes, including RML’s
MG EX265, although the team’s choice of engines has
yet to be confirmed. Rumours persist that it might be the
Mazda-commissioned AER, the Mazda MZR-R, as employed by
B-K Motorsports for their Lola B07/40 in the ALMS and already
chosen by Quifel ASM for their Le Mans Series Lola in 2008.
area of Hall 6 hosting a wealth of unveiling was the CR
Scuderia stand, backed by one of two impressive transporters
being displayed by the recently created team. The mastermind
of racing co-drivers Chris Niarchos and Andrew Kirkaldy,
CR Scuderia had already revealed an ambitious programme
for 2008, including excursions in British GT and FIA GT
with a quartet of Ferrari 430 GTs (including the first 2008
spec GT2 car to be shipped) and single-seater Formula Renault.
the three cars on display didn’t expose any automotive
surprises, but the livery did. Prominent branding for Sky
Broadband revealed what is believed to be generous backing
form one of the world’s leading media organisations.
The FIA driver line-up has been named as Niarchos and Kirkaldy
in one Ferrari, and Tim Mullen with 2007 GT2 Le Mans Series
champion Rob Bell in the second.
interest to those who followed the MG Lola last season will
be the discovery that Graham Malyk (above left, with
Ferrari 430 tail-end and visitor) will be one of CR
Scuderia’s truckies this season. Graham was RML’s
Number One truckie in 2007, and had the misfortune to take
a hefty tumble immediately after the end of the Silverstone
race, breaking his left hand and resulting in long-term
damage to his thumb. He’ll require further surgery,
but hopes for a full recovery.
as we wrap up this review of Le Mans and MG-related news,
a rare sighting of no less than three MG SV roadcars on
stands at Autosport International 2008. Two of these imposing
cars were conspicuously positioned right beside the entrance
to Hall 6, sharing space with a monster truck.
proved to be the products of MG Sports and Racing Europe
Limited, the company set up by William Riley (of the same
eponymous automotive family) following his acquisition of
the original Longbridge-based but largely independent MGS&R
from Price Waterhouse. That followed the demise of MG Rover,
but like the gestation of the SV itself, it’s a complicated
story and many of the details are, as yet, far from clear.
The essence appears to be that the intention is to have
the SV back into production shortly from a purpose-built
manufacturing plant located just outside Blackpool. The
link with Italy, where the SV’s chassis were constructed,
appears intact, while the new factory’s workforce
is expected to comprise of many former-TVR workers.
two cars on display were badged as MGs, but Riley has declared
a hope that the re-born SV could eventually see a similar
re-birth of the Riley name in sportscar manufacture. More
on this if/when we can determine some facts.