RML has announced that it has agreed a deal with Mazda for the 2009 and 2010 seasons, bringing an end to its long partnership with MG.
The deal will see the team running an evolution of the Mazda MZR-R engine as used in the American Le Mans Series during the 2008 campaign for its first full season with the Lola Coupe introduced for the final Le Mans Series event of the year at Silverstone.
"Everything is signed and sorted and we are very happy to have an agreement for two years," team manager Phil Barker said. "We shall be running the Mazda unit in 2009. It will be an evolution of the current Mazda MZR-R engine raced this year in the American Le Mans Series. It is a two-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine developed exclusively for Mazda by AER, and it represents not only an exciting way forwards for us, but also the continuity of our excellent working relationship with AER.
"There were merits and shortcomings to all the various alternatives we considered, but it was vital that we made a decision that was right for RML as a team. The MG engine was nearing the end of its evolutionary prospects, but by contrast, the Mazda engine has the potential for considerable further development.
"It offers tremendous scope for enhancing performance over the coming years, while simultaneously offering us the opportunity to establish a relationship with a prestigious and forward-thinking organisation like Mazda."
Mike Newton and Tommy Erdos will continue to share driving duties in the car in 2009 with the pair looking to continue the kind of form that has seen them take two LMP2 wins in the Le Mans 24 Hours and win the Le Mans Series LMP2 title in recent years.
"We're very proud of those achievements, and also for having kept the flag flying so prominently for MG throughout that period," Newton said. "Ultimately, however, the funding from MG that we'd been lead to expect for 2008 never materialised, and I can't deny that we were very disappointed by that. I shall be very sad to sever our links with such an historic British name, and I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the many MG enthusiasts who have given us their support over the years. It has been much appreciated.
"The fact that the support we'd hoped for from MG never arrived, combined with recurrent engine problems that were significantly exacerbated by the fuel this year, meant that we neared the end of the season knowing that we'd have to look for a new engine in 2009. Introducing the new Lola Coupé at Silverstone allowed us to review the upgrade on the chassis in the light of back-to-back engine testing. It was a close-run judgement call between the Mazda and the Judd options, but based upon what we've learned, we're confident that the advances made with the Mazda engine will allow us to move forward next season.
"Ultimately, we've struck a good deal that offers us an extremely competitive engine in conjunction with maintaining the excellent relationship we've always enjoyed with AER and Life Racing."