OAK Racing again demonstrated the raw pace of its Morgan 2012 LM P2 at the Six Hours of Bahrain today after the #24 car fought back to finish fourth of the WEC entries and sixth in class following a difficult start to the race.
The French team had harboured high hopes of a strong result prior to round six of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship having seen its pair of Onroak Automotive designed and built Morgan prototypes top all three free practice sessions and then annex row two on the grid.
Following a sensational opening lap that saw the #24 car move from third to first, Olivier Pla was able to steadily increase his lead over the chasing Starworks Motorsport HPD to 11 seconds before pitting.
Jacques Nicolet continued the good work throughout his double-stint, running in the top five throughout as differing strategies saw him battling cars that had changed to fresh tyres. But just as the race entered its third hour the Frenchman was tagged by the #26 Signatech Oreca, which broke the Morgan’s steering rack.
Lengthy repairs ensured it lost over 14 minutes to the leaders and re-joined ninth before a sensational double stint by Matthieu Lahaye, who was consistently the fastest man on track, helped it claw a lap back.
After Pla maintained the incredible pace to move up to sixth by the end of his double stint, Nicolet took over and reeled off the final 40 minutes.
Meanwhile bad luck struck the #35 sister machine which retired with suspected suspension failure just 30 minutes into the race. Dominik Kraihamer, who was due to share with Bertrand Baguette and Alex Brundle, had been running a solid fifth when he was powerless to prevent the car from going straight on into the gravel at turn one.
Sebastien Philippe, Team Principal: “It’s been a day of mixed emotions but I am very disappointed for the #35 driver crew. We haven’t got the car back yet so I still don’t exactly know what happened, but it looks like suspension failure. We have been very unlucky with the car all season. Nothing happens in testing, only at the races, which is very strange. Meanwhile #24 again showed good pace but we couldn’t do much after the steering rack was broken in the contact with another car. LM P2 is very close and you cannot afford to lose any time in the pits. As always we will try to understand, learn and prepare for the next race in Fuji.”
Matthieu Lahaye, #24 Morgan 2012 LM P2: “The team did fantastically well to repair the damage after we were hit so it was satisfying to fight back through the field for them. Having said that we are all disappointed with the result, especially as once again we had the pace to fight for victory. The car felt good and I was very comfortable lapping quickly during my double stint. We will take the positives and hope to put everything together at the final two rounds.”
Dominik Kraihamer, #35 Morgan 2012 LM P2: “We’re all bitterly disappointed to have retired so early. The car just went straight on at turn one with suspension failure I think, and there was nothing I could do to slow it down. I got stuck on the outside at the start and lost a couple of places but was back up to fifth and running strongly. I wasn’t pushing too hard and just concentrating on saving the tyres in this heat. I’ll be back in the LMP1 at Fuji so hopefully that will trigger a change of luck too.”
The FIA World Endurance Championship continues in Japan with the Six Hours of Fuji on October 13/14.