OAK Racing scored their second FIA World Endurance Championship podium of the season at the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo today after staging a brilliant comeback drive.
Olivier Pla, Matthieu Lahaye and Jacques Nicolet overcame a difficult opening 20 minutes that saw the Onroak Automotive designed and built #24 Morgan 2012 LMP2 fall a lap down following two spins to finish third in the highly competitive LMP2 class.
Meanwhile the #35 sister car of Bertrand Baguette, Dominik Kraihamer and Alex Brundle was forced to retire at three-quarters distance with a fuel pressure issue after fighting for victory with the #44 Starworks Motorsport HPD.
After surviving both a tangle on the opening lap and then a tap from behind 20 minutes later, Lahaye recovered well to move from eighth up to fifth by the time he handed over to Pla following his double stint. Shortly after Pla was into fourth and then third, a position he would maintain after a safety car period.
#35’s subsequent misfortune then allowed the #24 machine to move up to second place, although that would ultimately become third after Nicolet received two stop/go penalties for successive pit-lane speeding infringements.
Sebastien Philippe, Team Manager: “I felt confident after qualifying because I was sure of our race pace, and that proved the case. Only the Starworks HPD was quicker over a stint today, although Olivier did set the fastest lap. All three of #35’s drivers performed very well so it was disappointing to have the problem. As for #24, it was a great comeback drive. Matthieu and Olivier were as fast as always while Jacques did fantastically, perhaps the best in terms of outright speed I’ve seen from him. Naturally he is disappointed about missing the pit entry and being penalised for speeding but it’s important to remember that we had the potential for victory. It’s a big positive we can take from the weekend.”
Olivier Pla, #24 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “Considering everything that happened at the start third position was a very good result. Matthieu had nowhere to go but recovered well and showed great pace on old tyres. When I took over from him the fresh rubber helped us make up further ground. Ultimately it was disappointing not to finish second but when you consider our start this was a good recovery.”
Matthieu Lahaye, #24 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “It’s fair to say my first stint didn’t go perfectly! At the start I had nowhere to go and was spun around. Just after that I had a puncture and had to pit before being tapped into another spin by the ADR Delta car. Fortunately my second stint went much better and I had moved up to fifth, despite the tyres going off, when I pitted. Jacques’ problem meant that we couldn’t finish second but I think we would have been happy with a podium just after the start!”
Jacques Nicolet, #24 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “I am so disappointed to have lost second place for the team because of the two penalties I incurred after speeding in the pit-lane. It makes me angry because everyone, in the garage and on track, did a super job and deserved a better result. We would never have predicted finishing second after the difficulties at the start but we all drove very well. So my mistakes upset the driver in me as much as the team owner. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. The only positive to take is that a friendly team benefitted from our problems.”
Bertrand Baguette, #35 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “Looking at the positives we had very good pace today. I was pushed onto the kerbs at the start and lost a position but was able to work my way back up the field. Alex and Dominik continued the good work so it’s very disappointing not to finish, especially as we were running a strong second.”
Dominik Kraihamer, #35 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “The car felt great today after yesterday’s solid result in qualifying. Everything was going so well and we had a good advantage over third. But once again the luck wasn’t with us today. Bahrain will be a new experience for me and, hopefully, signal a change of fortune as well.”
Alex Brundle, #35 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “I got in after Bertrand had finished an excellent double stint and passed Enzo Potolicchio for the lead early on. But we were very unfortunate with the safety car’s timing which not only allowed the Starworks HPD to make up ground but also meant I had to defend using much older tyres. I really enjoyed it though and we were running a strong second when the problem struck. This weekend was my first time in the Morgan 2012 LMP2 and I really enjoyed the experience, especially at a circuit like Interlagos.”
The FIA World Endurance Championship continues with round six in Bahrain on September 29.
In other news, the Morgan 2012 LMP2 run by Conquest Endurance finished second in class and fourth overall at this evening’s American Le Mans Series round in Virginia thanks to the combined efforts of David Heinemeier Hansson and Martin Plowman.
(Photo: Clement Marin / DPPI)