RML has elected to switch to a closed coupe prototype for the final round of the Le Mans Series at Silverstone, with the team having completed a shakedown of its new car at Snetterton ahead of the race.
More than 70 per cent of the MG Lola EX265 has been carried over from the car that raced in the last round of the season at the Nurburging, but the team has now made the bold move to not only switch to the closed coupe chassis, but do so in the short space of time between races.
“We have been considering the way forward for several months,” Adam Wiseberg, director of motorsport for AD Group, principal sponsor of the RML sports prototype programme said. “It became clear very early in the current season that the latest incarnation of what started life as the EX257, whilst having been tremendously competitive for the last three years in the LMP2 class, has reached the end of its useful life.
“As a consequence we have been examining very carefully all the possible options open to us for the future, and we arrived at the conclusion that upgrading the chassis to a closed-cockpit configuration was the most effective.
“The championship has already been won by Jos Verstappen and Van Merksteijn Motorsport. Doing the change at this stage gives us considerably more time with the car prior to the start of next season, and running at Silverstone offers a significant opportunity to compare the performance of the enclosed MG-Lola against other chassis configurations.”
The gleaming MG Lola EX265C took to the Snetterton track for the very first time yesterday for its first run, with Erdos getting the chance to turn the initial laps behind the wheel – the car amassing hours of virtually trouble-free running over the course of the day.
“We've experienced a few of those new-car gremlins, just as you'd expect,” team manager Phil Barker said, “but nothing in any way major. This has been an incredibly quick build and lots of people have been involved all along the way, not only at RML, but also at Lola. The potential to drop the ball in situations like that is huge, but the car has run throughout the day without any significant problems at all. To achieve such a level of basic reliability has been excellent, and what little issues there have been, we've largely been able to iron-out during the course of the day.”
Despite the impressive nature of the early test, Erdos admitted that the team wouldn't be getting too carried away at Silverstone, with the event effectively being a huge test session looking towards next year.
“Silverstone will be very much like an extended six hour test for us,” he says. “If all we do is aim to learn as much as we can about the car ahead of next season, then that has to be our primary objective. All this – the shakedown today, the free practice sessions at Silverstone, and the race itself – all this is just development track time in advance of 2009 as far as we're concerned. That's what we need to focus on.
“There are some minor issues that we'll have to sort out between now and Silverstone, of course there are. It's a new car, after all, but we should be able to address most of these before we even get to Silverstone; it's just a case of prioritising the list of things to do. The set-up on the car isn't ideal just yet, but overall, this has been a really positive day. I'm confident that next time we go out on track at Silverstone, it will be much better again.”