Just a week after collecting the Team and Driver LMP2 trophies for the 2010 Le Mans Series, RML AD Group is pleased to confirm the team’s intention to defend these titles in 2011 with an HPD ARX-01d chassis, powered by the new HPD 2.8 litre twin turbo V6. In addition, the team is delighted to confirm that the driver-line up for the new season remains unchanged, with Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos joined for the full season by Ben Collins.
The team will be contesting this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours with the same car and driver package, and believes this combination offers RML AD Group the best possible platform for retaining the Le Mans Series titles and regaining LMP2 honours at Le Mans.
New Engine/Chassis Package
The decision to move to the Honda Performance Development (HPD) chassis comes after eight enormously successful years with Lola, during which the team won the LMP2 class twice at Le Mans (2005, 2006), took the Le Mans Series titles twice (2007, 2010) and finished as runners-up in the championship (by a single point) in both 2005 and 2006.
Last season may prove to have been a transitional year, when the combination of Lola Coupé and HPD 3.4 Litre LM-V8 offered competitive reliability and a championship title, despite being regularly outpaced by the HPD ARX-01c. “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.”
Mike Newton, CEO of AD Group, shares the sense of separation, but also recognises the need to change. “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.” Mike is also relieved to be back in an open cockpit. “The aero on the Lola Coupé was a compelling argument, but I’m looking forward greatly to being more ‘in touch’ with the environment once again!”
The ARX-01d is a direct development of the original and highly successful Acura-badged LMP2 racecar that has campaigned with great success in the American Le Mans Series since 2008. Updated to meet the ACO’s latest technical regulations, the car will feature a newly homologated aero package and the latest HPD 2.8 Litre twin-turbo V6. In accordance with regulations, the engine is based on the same production unit that powers the Honda Accord and Acura ZDX road cars. As such the engine meets the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s (ACO) stringent low price targets for the LMP2 class, yet retains the traditional Honda values of performance, efficiency, and reliability.
Mike Newton’s regular driving partner, Thomas Erdos, recognises the wisdom of the move. “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.”
Ben Collins Returns
Ben Collins, the former BBC Top Gear’s Stig, joined RML AD Group in 2010 for the final three races of the season, and shared in the squad’s run to victory in Round 3 of the Le Mans Series 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 Ben “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,” comments 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,” suggests Tommy 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.”
The AD Group Perspective
“The synergy between video surveillance and endurance racing play a significant part in making the race programme a firm marketing platform for the AD Group,” states Pauline Norstrom, Marketing & Motorsport Director for AD Group “Our clients depend on the endurance and reliability of our video surveillance systems, which are developed to perform at their optimum, 24 hours a day, non-stop. We apply the same principles in our choice of the engine and chassis as we do in our own business; critically, HPD’s track record of endurance and reliability in this extreme environment played a major part in the selection process.”
“We are also delighted that Ben will be joining the long-standing driver team of Mike Newton and Tommy Erdos. Ben’s performance, when he joined us in the latter half of the 2010 season, established him in our eyes as a highly skilled driver with great potential. His contribution helped RML AD Group to the trophy, and we hope to repeat that in 2011.”
“The race programme remains at the centre of our marketing strategy to develop long term relationships with high end professionals who specify, design and install video surveillance systems worldwide. Over time, we have developed the format of our events to create a highly professional business networking environment for our clients and their clients. We provide an experience to our guests that not only informs them of our new video surveillance innovations from the Group, such as Closed IPTV, but also allows them to have direct interaction with the senior directors and product specialists within our company. The programme builds lasting and fruitful relationships which are sealed by the fact that our guests essentially become part of the RML AD Group team for the weekend, where they learn about the high level of professionalism and synergy between AD Group, RML and the extreme demands of endurance racing.”
The RML Group comprises six divisions; Motorsport, Automotive, Engines, Historic, Events and X-Pro. Based in Northamptonshire, England the company’s 4,300 square metre facility includes design, development, manufacturing and operational support for international race/rally programmes and automotive engineering projects including performance engine development.
Since its formation in 1984 RML has achieved success in a diverse range of motorsport categories including GT/sportscars, touring cars, rally cars, single seaters and oval speedway cars. RML currently holds the LMP2 team and drivers titles in the Le Mans Series with Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos. RML also secured the 2010 British Touring Car Championship drivers title with Chevrolet and Jason Plato and the World Touring Car Championship manufacturers and drivers titles with Chevrolet and Yvan Muller.
About AD Group
AD Group was formed in 1997. AD’s primary objective is to develop and bring to market new CCTV technologies. One of the first companies to embrace the concept of video over IP (Internet Protocol), AD’s interests now include CCTV for aircraft, transport, smoke detection, together with camera technology and digital video recorders and multiplexers.
About Honda Performance Development (HPD)
Honda Performance Development is the Honda racing company within North America. Founded in 1993, and located in Santa Clarita, California, HPD is the technical operations centre for Honda high-performance racing cars and engines. In an open-wheel racing history that dates to 1994, Honda has recorded 166 race victories, 12 drivers’ championships, 10 Manufacturers’ Championships and seven Indianapolis 500 victories. HPD sportscar chassis, developed in association with Wirth Research of Banbury, Oxfordshire, have dominated LM prototype competition in the American Le Mans Series for the past two seasons, and in 2010, recorded a class win and the highest-ever LMP2 finish in the Le Mans 24 Hours, as well as the first outright endurance victory by an LMP2 chassis in Europe. In addition to its sports-car efforts and its role as single engine supplier to the IndyCar Series, HPD is active in a growing number of grassroots motorsports activities.