Le Mans 16/17 June 2001

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18th June 2001


MGs return to the 24 Heures du Mans race, 36 years since MG last competed at this historic event, impressed on its first outing. Having qualified 1st and 2nd in the LMP675 class, the MG Lola reached 3rd overall within two hours of the start, and established the fastest wet weather lap, with a blistering 3rd fastest time overall.

Two MG Lola EX257 sports cars were entered into the LMP675 class - the lightest qualification group - and driven by six all-British drivers; Mark Blundell, Julian Bailey, Kevin McGarrity (car 33), Anthony Reid, Warren Hughes and Jonny Kane (car 34).

The 4pm start on Saturday opened to a torrential downpour on the farside of the track. Many cars spun and crashed in the opening laps, including MG Lola car 34, which suffered rear wing damage and later a puncture. Anthony Reid, commented: "You cannot believe what it was like. It's my fourth appearance here and I've never had an experience like it! Up to this point we'd made a really good start and overtaken a few cars and the car was performing fantastically well." Mark Blundell posted an impressive 3m 42.476s lap and by the first hour, the MG Lola car 33 was in 7th position while car 34 had slipped back to 37th following the earlier pit stops.

As the race settled into its stride, the rain was still pouring down and the pace of the MG Lola saw it climb to its best race position of 3rd place, within the first two hours. Commenting on his first stint, Mark Blundell summed up his drive: "Le Mans at its best - it throws everything at you!"

As the hours clocked up, MG Lola car 33 progressed well, lapping fast in the hands of Kevin McGarrity. Kevin who had previously qualified brilliantly in his first ever drive at Le Mans in the dark, was lapping very quickly in the appalling weather conditions. At that point he was the fastest man on the track.

Kevin McGarrity said: "It was very difficult. The water was running down the inside of my visor and there was an awful lot of spray. These were the most treacherous conditions I've ever driven in." Car 34 also lapped well, before stopping after 41/2 hours with low oil pressure, joining the Bentley No.7 car at the same time, into retirement.

Into the evening with eight hours and a third of the race gone, the MG Lola was pressing on, despite the persistent lashings of rain, which were causing electrical difficulties. Later, an oil leak necessitated repairs by the team. The MG Lola EX257 returned to the track before rising temperatures, just after the 12-hour halfway time point led to its retirement. It was an impressive performance given the limited-testing time, the extreme weather conditions and on a car that had never had the opportunity to be endurance tested.

Kevin McGarrity, MG Lola car driver said: "It's a little disappointing, everyone's worked so hard. We've done extremely well to race for this long. So what we are going to do is go testing and come back again with a vengeance. It's been fantastic. I wish I didn't have to wait another year to come back."

Rob Oldaker, managing director, MG Sport & Racing Limited: "We are immensely proud to have brought MG back to Le Mans and frankly it has been beyond our expectations to have been running as high as third and to have completed more than half the race time! This has always been our learning year and now we are confident that we will have the right package to make MG even more successful next year."

"I'd like to thank everyone on our team and also the thousands of people who have supported us here and at home."

Issued by MG Rover Group Communications

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