Connor De Phillippi – What an Experience!

Written by Team USA. Posted in Connor De Phillippi, Driver Blogs

Published on October 28, 2009 with No Comments

Oxford, England (October 28, 2009) – Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit RML, the Lola Cars factory, and also had a radio interview with Le Mans Radio. The day did not start out that great due to the hot water heater not functioning at Josef’s apartment, but once we determined it was not going to work anytime soon, we got ready and made our way to RML. In case you’re not familiar with RML, it is a company that is capable of building almost an entire race car, including the engine – as it does with the factory Chevrolet team in the World Touring Car Championship – as well as running a British Touring Car team and doing private work on SLR McLarens.

We were met by Michael Mallock, who would be giving us the tour of his father’s company. Right out of the gate, we began with history. He showed us an older race car, a Mallock U2 Mk.6, built by Michael’s grand-father, that was so simple, yet was so successful! As we moved on, I got to check out their LMP2 Lola-Mazda Le Mans Series car. It was so great to be able to look at these cars closely and compare them to parts of a Formula 1 car that we had seen the previous day at the McLaren Technical Center. We made our way through the building and I noticed how everything that was done and built for the car was all done in-house! It was an entirely self-sufficient operation, including their own car body painting area and engine shop. Once we made our way to the next building, our jaws simply fell to the floor. When we entered, all that came into view was the seven built and prepped SLR McLarens. Their look was astounding, and I couldn’t stop admiring all the little details in the car. After a few pictures, I had the chance to take a seat in one and feel it out. The whole car just sat so low and it felt truly like a real race car. In the same building was their entire World and British Touring Car operations. All of their WTCC cars were in Japan for their latest round of competition, so we didn’t get to check out all of the cars, but it was still a great experience.

Next up on the list was a radio interview just about a mile up the road with John Hindhaugh from Le Mans Radio. Once we arrived at his house, he showed us a bit of his memorabilia on the walls of each room. Since he has such an immense history in motorsport, we got to hear a few stories and experiences from all of his time and dedication spent at the track. Eventually Brett and I made our way into the living room and did a taped radio interview. It went on for about 15 minutes and it was great to talk about our experiences thus far in the UK and our thoughts about the racing. Although it felt like a five-minute interview, we wanted to just keep talking about how awesome of a time we are having over here, and all the great people we have met so far. Since our interview was complete, we went and got a quick bite to eat at a Chinese restaurant, and shortly after began our journey down to Lola.

Once we arrived in the front lobby of Lola, the first car we saw was Sebastien Bourdais’ championship-winning Champ Car. We knew right away that this was going to be once of the visits at the top of our list. Sam Smith gave us the complete tour of the factory. I had no idea of what to expect but I had a feeling that this was going to fulfill all of our expectations. First of all we were shown the complete process of how they go about making a carbon-fiber piece from start to finish. It was very interesting, and I didn’t realize all the tiny little precautions that are necessary for making all of these pieces. As we continued, he showed us in order all the steps that the parts will go through before they are sent off to the purchaser. Each piece goes through a number of tests for its strength, and also it goes through a laser process that checks for fractures. After we were finished with the assembly area, we made our way to where they do all the of the designs and R&D. In their upstairs office, they had their entire design team. Sam had one of his main CFD engineers give us a little presentation so we could understood the basics of Computational Fluid Dynamics, and how they use the software to design complete cars. It was amazing how much they can do on the computer, before they even take the car – or any other piece – to the wind tunnel. Then we moved onto the wind tunnel, which was a great experience in itself. The presentation we had seen earlier gave us a much better understanding of how it all works. As our visit came to an end, Sam showed us a few more machines, including the seven-post rig which is used to replicate laps on a car’s suspension through an amazing system of hydraulics. The entire experience was a thrill. Now to we had a little over an hour driver back home to bring our day to a conclusion.

Thank you to Jeremy Shaw and the Team USA scholarship for all of these great opportunities and experiences. Also, many thanks to all of the supporters, as well Sam Smith at Lola, Michael Mallock at RML and John Hindhaugh from Le Mans Radio.

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