OAK Racing began their European Le Mans Series campaign with a top-six finish at the 6 Hours of Le Castellet in France today in spite of several mechanical problems plaguing the team throughout the race.
The driver crew of Jacques Nicolet, Guillaume Moreau and Dominik Kraihamer were forced to overcome an overheating engine, triggered by falling water pressure, to bring the Onroak Automotive-designed and built #24 Morgan-Judd 2012 LMP2 home sixth overall.
A trouble-free opening stint from Kraihamer initially suggested the team would be in contention for a podium finish. Those hopes were dashed however after the opening round of pit-stops when, following a tactical decision not to change tyres, the Austrian’s pace suffered dramatically as degradation took its toll.
An earlier than scheduled second stop saw fresh rubber and Moreau installed. On new tyres the improvement in pace was immediate but, having already lost valuable time, the team’s problems were compounded further by the falling water pressure that required a top-up at subsequent stops, costing further precious time.
But despite their various setbacks, the crew were still able to show flashes of the Morgan 2012 LMP2’s undoubted potential en-route to valuable points at this early stage of the season.
Sebastien Philippe, Team Principal: “It was a difficult race and we had a lot of problems. Dominik made a good start and enjoyed a fast, consistent opening stint. But we gambled by double-stinting the tyres which were degrading. We played our hand and lost. There was excessive wear on the front left tyre that contributed to a slow second stint and us losing a lot of time. There were also several engine problems for us to contend with, chief among which was the loss of water pressure. That lead to the engine overheating and time lost in the pits due to us having to top-up throughout the race. It is a shame as the overall performance was quite good. It was a weekend where everything went wrong. Hopefully next time will be better.”
Dominik Kraihamer, driver #24 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “I made a good start and managed to avoid contact before completing a decent first stint despite using the same tyres from qualifying, which began to degrade. When we didn’t change them at the pit-stop it became very difficult. Finding a good set-up was also a challenge and that was before the engine problems developed. There is still work to do. It’s a shame because we are strong and the crew enjoys a great working relationship even if I still have much to learn. Each kilometre is important to me.”
Guillaume Moreau, driver #24 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “I was pretty happy with the car in the race following practice and qualifying. The chassis has become very competitive again so it wasn’t the car’s pace that was the problem but the issue of repeated water pressure loss without knowing the source. Replacing it at every pit-stop cost us a lot of time. It was beyond our control and frustrating to know the car had greater potential. We just have to solve these reliability problems.”
Jacques Nicolet, Team Owner and driver #24 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “From a personal viewpoint I am more satisfied with my performance here than at Sebring [round one of the World Endurance Championship]. It was not easy but I was able to maintain my position despite the car’s difficulties. As team owner though I am disappointed. The result obviously does not at all match our high expectations. The car seems quite competitive even though we did not find the correct set-up. Perhaps we struggled with the schedule of free practice, qualifying and the race inside two days. It’s a timetable that leaves little room to work between sessions and one that we are unaccustomed to. We should be able to better anticipate problems and avoid them happening again.”
OAK Racing’s next outing is round two of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship – the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps – on May 5.
6 Hours of Le Castellet classification:
1. Thiriet by TDS Racing / Oreca 03 Nissan / Beche, Thiriet / 189 laps
2. Sébastien Loeb Racing / Oreca 03 Nissan / Sarrazin, Minassian, Marroc / -1 lap
3. Status GP / Lola B12/80 Coupé Judd HK / Buurman, Sims, Stirling / -1 lap
4. Greaves Motorsport / Zytek Z11SN Nissan / Brundle, Ordonez, Kimber-Smith / -1 lap
5. Race Performance / Oreca 03 Nissan / Hirschi, Frey, Meichtry / -3 laps
6. OAK Racing / Morgan-Judd 2012 LMP2 / Nicolet, Moreau, Kraihamer / -4 laps
7. Pecom Racing / Oreca 03 Nissan / Perez-Companc, Kaffer, Bruni / -6 laps
8. Extreme Limite ARIC / Norma M200P Judd / Rosier, Thirion / -14 laps
9. Jota / Zytek Z11SN Nissan / Hancock, Dolan / -15 laps