Franck Montagny will return to the Le Mans 24 Hours next week (June 16/17) as cover for the injured Guillaume Moreau at OAK Racing.
The 34-year-old French ace is renowned as one of the fastest LMP1 sportscar drivers having racked up four outright podium finishes at Le Mans over the past five years, as well as boasting Formula 1 and IndyCar experience.
Montagny joins fellow former World Series champion Bertrand Baguette and Dominik Kraihamer aboard the #15 OAK/Pescarolo LMP1 vacated by Moreau, who fractured his back in a high-speed accident at the Le Mans Test Day last Sunday.
With such little time between the Test Day and start of official practice next Wednesday, the team is understandably delighted to have secured the services of such a highly rated, experienced and successful driver.
Franck Montagny, #15 OAK/Pescarolo LMP1: “I am delighted to be joining OAK Racing, a team that as an outsider looking in has always appealed to me due to its character and owner Jacques Nicolet’s passion for the sport. It has always been competitive and has run at the front regardless of the cars at its disposal down the years. On a personal note, I am pleased to be competing at Le Mans for the twelfth time. Hopefully we can do a good job and see the chequered flag.
“My only regret is the circumstance in which I have arrived following Guillaume’s accident. I have also suffered a serious accident in the past so can easily imagine myself in his position. As well as the physical injury, I know how frustrating and difficult it must be for him.”
Jacques Nicolet, OAK Racing Team Owner: “Ever since Sunday, this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours has taken on a different perspective. The entire team has been invested with an additional responsibility: to operate at the level of talent, courage and determination displayed by Guillaume. In order to help us rise to this new challenge we have enlisted the services of Franck Montagny who, on behalf of the team and Guillaume, I would like to thank for accepting the task. I understand how difficult it can be for a driver to integrate with a new team in such conditions, but I am also confident, having followed Franck’s career since his karting days in Brignoles, that he is the man for just such a job. The team is united in its welcome and support of him.”
Sébastien Philippe, Team Principal: “Franck has accepted the challenge of replacing Guillaume, which is not an easy decision under such circumstances. We have known each other for nearly twenty years so I am particularly delighted to welcome him into the OAK Racing fold at this difficult time. He is a very talented driver who boasts much experience and knows Le Mans very well indeed. We could not have hoped for a better driver to replace Guillaume.”
As well as the team’s WEC-registered LMP1 entry, OAK Racing will field a pair of Onroak Automotive-designed and built Morgan 2012 LMP2s.
Both have the potential to challenge for class victory after Olivier Pla, who will share the #24 Judd-powered car with Matthieu Lahaye and Jacques Nicolet, recorded the class’ fastest time during last Sunday’s Test Day while aboard the sister machine.
The team’s second #35 LMP2 prototype, powered by a Nissan engine and driven by Bas Leinders, Maxime Martin and David Heinemeier Hansson, should also pose a threat for victory, although as a non-WEC entry it will not be eligible to score double points.