MG aims for outright win in 2002

British marque MG believes it can challenge for overall victory in next year's Le Mans 24 hour race after an impressive debut from its EX257 prototype at the French endurance classic last weekend

MG aims for outright win in 2002

The LMP 675 cars headed to La Sarthe having experienced a problematical run up to the famous race. Engine problems had blighted the team during the official test session in May and the car had completed limited long-distance running.

As a result, reliability was always going to be the team's weakest link, but the pace of the cars was the surprise of the weekend.

"We've always reckoned a 675 car could win this event outright and now we're even more confident," managing director of MG Sport and Racing, Rob Oldaker told this week's Motorsport News. "We new it would fundamentally be quick, but it was great to prove it on track."

The brace of Lola-built machines qualified 14th and 17th overall with the number 34 car of Anthony Reid, Warren Hughes and Jonny Kane ahead of Mark Blundell, Kevin McGarrity and Julian Bailey in the sister car. But the real pace came in the race.

"We think we were pretty much the moral victors," said Oldaker. "Our cars lasted much longer than we expected, and they were always fast. There were times when our car was the fastest in the field."

Reid and co were forced to drop back after three hours with brake problems and a cracked exhaust. But it was the Blundell/McGarrity/Bailey car which lasted longer in the race and survived through until the early hours, before a leaky oil tank brought the team's race to an early end.

"Even before retiring," said Oldaker, "we had decided to come back to Le Mans next year with cars developed for better durability, but based on this year's model. It's been a great year for us. We've had a huge party - and next year we're going to do even better."

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