After several months of hard labour which resulted in the birth of the ORECA-01, Team ORECA-Matmut-AIM is gearing up for this year’s objective: Le Mans 24 Hours.
Shortly after the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours; Group ORECA began concentrating their efforts on the 2009 event with one objective: move up to the next level in the “Le Mans Endurance Challenge”. In order to compete with the top manufacturers – they developed the ORECA-01, the first prototype ever to be entirely developed in Signes!
Barcelona and Spa proved to be perfect testing grounds for the new car with the implementation of mechanical evolutions, and then a new aerodynamics package. After these two “preparation” races which resulted in a podium finish, TEAM ORECA-Matmut-AIM organised a successful test at Magny-Cours with two cars and their six Le Mans drivers: Bruno Senna, Stéphane Ortelli and Tiago Monteiro in n°10, and Olivier Panis, Nicolas Lapierre and Soheil Ayari in n°11. “We had numerous objectives during these tests and we have achieved them,” declared David Flouty, Technical Director. “We wanted to allow our trios to really familiarise themselves with the new car especially during night conditions. We were able to fine tune the car’s set – up, better understand the new aerodynamics and confirm the evolutions. In addition, we carried out 2008/2009 tyre comparisons, as well as some pit stop training. We spent a great deal of time together and the testing was very positive which puts us in good position for the upcoming race.
Hugues de Chaunac’s team is motivated and extremely determined with a healthy mixture of humility and ambition and more than ready to take on the Le Mans challenge: “This is the Mount Everest challenge of motor sport,” explained David Floury. “Our first main objective is for both cars to successfully complete the race, but also with the very best results. We need to maximise the potential ofour cars and team and do not have room for error.”
After the weighing in session at Jacobins (Tuesday at 14H00) that kicks of the start of the big week of the Le Mans 24 Hours, the practice session will commence on Wednesday featuring a brand new format (6 hours), followed on Thursday with the qualifying sessions (2 – 2 hours sessions) The team will use these qualifying sessions to focus on preparing the two ORECA-01s for the race: finding the optimal set-up, and making that crucial decision of all – the appropriate tyre selection.
Bruno Senna (ORECA 01 n°10): “The greatest challenge!”
Bruno, this is your first Le Mans. What does this race mean to you?
“It’s probably the greatest challenge a driver could have in his career. It’s so different to any other event: the race distance, the varying conditions, especially the night driving. Every driver wants to participate in this race and I’m no different!”
You first experiences in Endurance racing were at Barcelona, followed by Spa. Doyou think you are ready?
“As much as possible… In my first two races, I learned a lot: the traffic, conserving the tyres, etc. But Le Mans, it’s something completely different. In any case, I feel great, really motivated. I think we can do much better than our first two outings.”
What are your expectations for the race?
“I think that we might do much better than people expect! At Spa, we demonstrated just how competitive we are and proved it by keeping pace with the Aston Martins. In order for us to obtain results we must be competent and consistent. All the various elements have to come together.”
Olivier Panis (ORECA 01 n°11): «Moving up to the next level»
Oliver, how did the last tests go?
“Very well! At Spa we were competitive but the car was a bit nervous. During this last test the car was much better, more consistent. These tests, especially those run in night conditions proved very constructive.”
How are you feeling right now?
“I’m feeling quite positive. The first two races weren’t easy: we just missed a podium finish, but that just reaffirmed our resolve. We all want a good outcome. We have to move up to the next level and in order to achieve that the two cars must to cross the finish line.”
Last year was your first Le Mans. How is this year going to be different for you?
“I am really motivated to be back at Le Man, and this year I have the advantage of being in familiar territory. I know where the traps are; am familiar with the conditions and am very comfortable with both the team and the prototype. My past Le Mans experience changes a lot for me. I’m truly ready!”