RML AD Group have unveiled their 2011 plans to defend their Team and Driver LMP2 trophies for the Le Mans Series as they move away from Lola and switch to the Honda Performance Development (HPD) ARX-01d chassis. The announcement also confirmed plans to contest this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours with the same car and driver package.
Following eight successful years with Lola, RML won twice at Le Mans (2005, 2006), won the LMS titles twice (2007, 2010) and finished runners up in the championship by a solitary point in 2005 and 2006. “This has been an enormously difficult decision for us,” admits Phil Barker, Race Operations Director at RML and team manager. “We have had an excellent relationship with Lola for many years and we are enormously saddened to be leaving such good friends. However, we will also be renewing our relationship with HPD after a very successful first season with them as engine suppliers in 2010.”
CEO of AD Group Mike Newton shares a similar view: “Last year we knew the HPD was a very fast package, and we appreciated first-hand just how good the V8 engine was. The same quality of engineering applies to the chassis as well, and if the new V6 engine maintains the near-legendary reliability associated with HPD – as I'm sure it will – the total package will be another winner for us.”
Partnering Newton this year is regular driving partner Thomas Erdos who agrees with the move away from Lola: “We always study our options carefully in order to arrive at the first race of the season with the most competitive package we can afford,” he says. “Last year we recognised that, although we had a very strong combination with the Lola-HPD, the speed simply was not there to match the HPD chassis. We now have that package, so it should make for a more level playing field. That said, it will be sad not to be driving a Lola. We have collected some impressive silverware with Lola and I will be sorry to end that relationship. A big vote of thanks must go to everyone at the Huntingdon factory for their incredible support over the years. They have been a significant contributor to the success of the programme and I will miss working with them.”
Making his return to the team and series for a full season is Ben Collins who raced in the final three races for the team in 2010 and also shared victory in round 3 of the Le Mans Serie in the Algarve.
“I'm delighted to be returning to RML AD Group for a second season, and it means a lot to me personally to be driving with Mike Newton and Tommy Erdos,” said Collins. “Racing in the Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours with RML, and in the stunning HPD ARX, will be a defining moment in my career. We saw how good the HPD was last season in the hands of our competitors, and it was a credit to RML that we beat them to the title. Honda Performance Development has a stellar racing spirit and I'm sure the new V6 turbo engine will be as fast and reliable as anything else out there. The 24-hour race tests everyone's resolve to the limit and I believe the team has the right partner. I just can't wait to whistle along Mulsanne and feel the breeze, bugs, rain and everything else that Le Mans throws at you in an open-top car.”
“Ben achieved exceptional things with very limited track time last season,” commented Mike Newton. “He is a great addition to the team, and we are delighted to have him back with us for the full campaign, and to build on what was achieved last year.”
“Ben fits into the team exceptionally well,” says Erdos. “It was about time he hung up that white suit and got back to his racing career. He has proven his worth in several different disciplines and is an unquestioned winner. He did a great job for RML last year and it is just reward that he now joins us for the full season in 2011. He's a top class driver and I'm looking forward to working with him again this year.