LMP1 Retrospective EP4 - 2001 Dome S101
While more well known for its involvement in other motorsport events, Dome’s history at Le Mans runs back almost as far as the company itself. In 1979, after struggling to turn the Dome Zero into a production car, the company fielded the Zero RL at Le Mans for the first time. It was a less than glamorous start to Dome’s Le Mans history, as in the three attempts between 1979 and 1981 the team finished only once.
Over the course of the 1980s and 1990s Dome went on to make a few more appearances at Le Mans, most notably in contributing to the construction of several of Toyota’s entries. 2001 saw the return of the Dome name to Le Mans once again, though this time with an entirely new car for the LMP900 class. The S101 was the first independent Dome entry at Le Mans in over 15 years, and from the start looked to have more promise to it than some of the company’s early attempts. A 4.0 litre Judd V10 was the engine of choice for the new entry, which initially produced around 600hp.
The S101 made its debut in the FIA Sportscar Championship, in the first round at Catalunya. Sixth place was the best result for the two S101s entered, though it wouldn’t take long for Dome to improve on this. The first podium for the car came in its second race with a third place at Monza, and its first win came at Brno in only its fourth race. At the end of the season, Danish team Den Bla Avis picked up second overall in the standings, while Racing for Holland finished third. Between the two teams there were three victories and a further five podium finishes, which marked a highly impressive debut campaign for the S101. Le Mans did not go as well in 2001 however, with both teams failing to finish; though Racing for Holland had qualified in fourth.
Racing for Holland returned to the FIA Sportscar Championship in 2002, and had an even better season than the previous year. A championship win and a constructor’s title for Dome cemented the potential of the S101, and an eighth place at Le Mans rounded off a memorable year for Racing for Holland and Dome. 2003 saw a two car entry in the FIA Sportscar Championship from Racing for Holland, and once again the team took the championship and the constructor’s title. A one-two finish at Lausitzring was a notable high point, as the S101 dominated in the last year of the championship. Three S101s were entered into the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2003: two by Racing for Holland, and one by Kondo Racing. The latter entry was an all-Japanese team, and opted to run a 4.0 litre Mugen V8 in their car. Racing for Holland achieved a sixth place finish for their main car, though their other entry failed to finish; Kondo Racing finished 13th.
2004 was a season of change, as LMP1 regulations came in and the S101’s previous championship of choice to compete in folded. Kondo Racing chose to enter the Le Mans Endurance Series (or European Le Mans Series, as it is now known), but only competed in the first round of the championship and did not finish the race. The Le Mans 24 Hours itself was the main focus for the year, as three S101s once again lined up on the grid. Racing for Holland had a similar race to the year before, with one car finishing seventh and the other failing to finish. Kondo Racing also did not finish this time around, as 2004 proved to be a far less noteworthy year for the Dome.
For 2005 there were two S101s in the Le Mans Endurance Series, with Racing for Holland and Japanese team Jim Gainer International both entering a car for certain rounds. However, neither achieved any particularly significant results, aside from a fourth place at Spa for Jim Gainer International. The Japanese entry was also the first use of the newly developed S101hb, which was a slightly tweaked version of the S101, and ran with a Mugen engine as Kondo Racing had used before them. Eighth and ninth in the standings for Jim Gainer International and Racing for Holland respectively was not overly impressive, but Le Mans was again a greater source of optimism. Racing for Holland matched their result from 2004 by finishing seventh, to make it four top 10 finishes in a row for the team: a very respectable record. The other entry had qualified all the way up in fourth place, but failed to finish. 2005 was also the last year that the S101 was the fastest car through the Mulsanne speed trap; a feat it had managed every year since 2002.
More changes took place at the Racing for Holland team ahead of the 2006 campaign, as they upgraded to the S101hb and changed engine to a 5.0 litre Judd V8 (though a Mugen V8 was used for the first couple of events). The Le Mans Series again did not provide much excitement for the team, and a third place finish at the Nürburgring 1000km was the highlight of the year. Le Mans itself wasn’t any better, with the team failing to finish after qualifying in sixth, which brought their impressive run of results to an end.
There was another new evolution of the S101 for 2007, as the car became the S101.5. Racing for Holland was the only team with the car, and this time opted for a 5.5 litre Judd V10. Once again the team had a rather underwhelming season, finishing bottom of the team’s standings in the Le Mans Series and coming home in 25th place at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. An LMP2 spec S101.5 also ran at Le Mans this year, but it failed to finish. This would prove to be the final season for the S101, as it was retired at the end of the year.
After the S101, Dome introduced the S102 as its new LMP1 contender. The new car had a troubled career however, and only actually started three races over the course of five years. This would mark the end of Dome in LMP1 as their next car, the S103, was designed for LMP2. While the S101 was never one of the front-runners in its class, consistent top 10 finishes at Le Mans and back-to-back titles in an FIA championship showed its ability, especially as it was run by relatively small teams.
This is the fourth instalment in a series of retrospective articles covering various cars that have competed in the LMP1 class at Le Mans. 2019 will be the last year that the class runs in this event, so this series highlights some of the interesting competitors from the history of the category. There are still two more parts to come over the next two days, and you can check out the previous articles here: