2003/2004 – FIA GT and the move to RML
Following on from his triumphant year in 2002, the 2003 season proved to be a challenging time for Erdos, but also one that saw him turning a corner in his career. Long-term recognition of his talents within the industry was now complemented by widespread acclaim from supporters and race fans alike, while the opportunity to drive new and exciting machinery also raised his profile yet further.
Backed by a confidence born from their success in the British GT Championship, GNM ventured onto the international stage. Two of their Saleen S7-R racecars, one co-driven by Thomas with Mike Newton, and the second shared by Portuguese drivers Miguel Ramos and Pedro Chaves, became front runners in the FIA World GT Championship. Thomas’s participation in this ten-round series was heightened by a number of other high-profile events overseas, including the Sebring 12 Hours, the Spa 24 Hours, 1000 kilometer races at Spa and Le Mans, and the Bathurst 24 Hours. It proved to be a busy year for the Brazilian.
Part way through the FIA season it became apparent that the competition facing GNM was far stronger than they’d faced in the British series, and they turned to Ray Mallock Limited for advice and support. RML had been responsible for the original design of the Saleen and had a greater understanding of the car than anyone else. With the benefit of RML’s input, the car’s performance began to improve, culminating with a season’s first front-row start for Tommy at Anderstorp.
Having established a link with RML the bonds steadily strengthened. Late in the season it was announced that two of Mike Newton’s four Saleens would be moving to RML for the 2004 season, and with them would go Thomas Erdos as Number One driver. The move was further enhanced when Newton confirmed that RML would also be running his MG Lola EX257 sports prototype in the (then) new Le Mans Endurance Series, starting with the inaugural event at Le Mans in November 2003; the Le Mans 1000 kilometers.
Although new to prototype racing, Erdos placed the car on pole. It was an impressive debut. He subsequently raced the MG several more times, including the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2004, and the Monza 1000 kilometers, where he finished seventh.
Squeezed in amongst this busy schedule, Thomas joined Balfe Motorsport for the 2003 Spa 1000 kilometers. Co-driving a Mosler GT with the regular pairing of Jamie Derbyshire and Shaun Balfe, Thomas took class pole, second overall. In the race he established such a lead that an outright win looked a certainty . . . until the car inexplicably ran short of fuel on the last lap.
Continued . . .