Team RLR's preparations for the Le Mans Series hit high gear this week with a two day test at Estoril, Portugal for drivers Barry Gates and Rob Garofall.
The British team will use the same MG-Lola EX265 as they fielded in the final two round of the 2010 LMS season, but 2011 will see the car mated to a new Judd HK engine and bulked up from 825 to 920kg to conform with the new regulations in the LMP2 category.
The trip to Estoril comes after Garofall has completed initial testing and shakedown runs in the UK, but as Gates explains, “while we've been able to do certain things in England the fact is that at this time of year it is still pretty cold and wet, hence Portugal as our destination.”
“Over the last week or so we've had the car out doing some shakedown tests including a session at Silverstone in the hands of Rob, but that was mostly to make sure the various systems worked within the car,”
The two day test, Gates says, will continue some of the systems checking, but will also serve as the first chance to work on the handling of the new package.
“Ideally we'll have it dry and warm,” Gates adds. “But the weather forecast says a maximum of 17 degrees and rain on at least one of the days. There again, if we are going to race in the rain and the cold we might as well test in it as well!”
Gates will have the added challenge – on top of testing the car – of getting used to the former Portuguese Grand Prix venue, never having driven the track before – in contrast to both Garofall and Simon Phillips, who will also drive for the team during the year.
Gates admits; “while I've been watching a lot of in-car footage from races around that circuit, I'll be gleaning as much as I can from their experiences as well, which will be important given that the final round of the LMS will be staged around Estoril in September.”