The penultimate round of the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup has been a week full of challenges for OAK Racing. After both the Le Mans-based team’s LMP1 OAK-Pescarolos were involved in major free practice incidents, their mechanics and engineers worked flat-out to ensure that both cars were able to line-up in the best possible condition for the American sportscar classic alongside the sister LMP2 machine.
That effort was rewarded last night at Road Atlanta, Georgia, where all three cars took the chequered flag after 1000 miles of racing. The #24 entry of Olivier Pla, Alexandre Prémat and Jean-François Yvon finished just outside the overall podium places in fourth – second in the unofficial petrol class – whilst Matthieu Lahaye, Guillaume Moreau and Pierre Ragues in the #15 came home sixth in LMP1 (fourth in the ‘petrol’ category). Meanwhile the #35 car of Frédéric Da Rocha, Patrice Lafargue and Jacques Nicolet picked up fourth position in LMP2.
The combination of 50 crews competing over a reasonably short circuit made for an extremely congested race with regular incidents calling for a number of Safety Car periods. Despite the difficult conditions, all three OAK Racing driver squads delivered mistake-free performances even though mechanical woes for the #15 (broken front left shock absorber) and #35 (puncture, diffuser replacement and two starter motor changes) stymied the prototypes’ progress. Free of such problems, the #24 crew could showcase their car’s true performance to deliver a fantastic result just behind the slightly faster factory Lola-Aston Martin.
François Sicard, General Manager of OAK Racing: “First of all, I would like to thank all team members for their hard work and commitment throughout the entire week. The objective in LMP2 was to repeat the result of last year, which was possible. The car was well adapted to the three gentlemen drivers who were able to maintain a good rhythm without making any mistakes in traffic. Unfortunately, mechanical issues dictated otherwise. Our two LMP1s also put on a great display even if the #15 was not suitably rewarded. That’s a shame for the drivers who produced great stints one after another. The #24 did not encounter any mechanical issues and deservedly reaped the rewards of our week-long labours.”
Alexandre Prémat, driver of the #24 LMP1: “This weekend can be considered a success as we were always on the pace of the leading teams. It was a hard race for everyone but we did not make a single mistake which in the end contributed to our fourth place overall finish. We have clearly demonstrated the car’s potential in race conditions and in qualifying with Olivier Pla. Jean-François Yvon is a very safe pair of hands capable of consistent, mistake-free laps, while OAK Racing’s tight-knit and highly motivated team displays a fantastic dynamic. We have continued in the right direction following the result achieved at Silverstone.”
Pierre Ragues, driver of the #15 LMP1: “We executed a good race and I am happy with my performance during each stint. I was able to exploit the car’s maximum potential in very dense traffic whilst taking calculated risks. The set-up was excellent but ultimately we were let down by mechanical issues. A third or fourth place overall would have been a great result for us! We’re a young driver trio so I would have been delighted to score a result that mirrored our potential.”
Jacques Nicolet, driver of the #35 LMP2 and Team Owner: “#35 started the race well and we were third in LMP2 when the subsequent starter motor problems began. As a driver I can only be frustrated! At the same time, as team boss, I am delighted that the four OAK-Pescarolos entered at Petit Le Mans were still there at the finish, two with strong results: a fourth place overall and runner-up in LMP2 for the #22 car entered by United Autosports. Once again that confirms the LMP2’s potential.”
OAK Racing’s last appearance of 2011 comes at the seventh and final ILMC round at Zhuhai in China on 13 November.
Petit Le Mans classification
1 No.8 / Peugeot Sport Total / Montagny/Sarrazin/Wurz / 394 laps
2 No.10 / Team Oreca Matmut / Lapierre/Minassian/Gené / 389 laps
3 No.007 / Aston Martin Racing / Fernandez/Mucke/Primat / 388 laps
4 No.24 / OAK Racing / Yvon/Pla/Prémat / 384 laps
5 No.12 / Rebellion Racing / Prost/Jani/Belicchi / 381 laps
6 No.15 / OAK Racing / Lahaye/Moreau/Ragues / 370 laps
1 No.033 / Level 5 Motorsports / Tucker/Bouchut/Barbosa / 375 laps
2 No.22 / United Autosports / Brown/Johansson/Patterson / 367 laps
3 No.26 / Signatech Nissan / Mailleux/Ordonez/Vernay / 357 laps
4 No.35 / OAK Racing / Da Rocha/Lafargue/Nicolet / 324 laps