By racking up eleven top-3 finishes during the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship, OAK Racing has scored two stunning doubles in the LM P2 category. The nos 35 and 24 Morgan-Nissan LM P2s designed and built by OAK Racing’s construction department, Onroak Automotive, and shod with Dunlop tyres finished in the first two places in the 2013 campaign.
Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez won the drivers’ title from Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson. It is yet another success for OAK Racing, the first team to score a double in LMP2 in the Le Mans 24 Hours. In the final event of the season, the Bahrain 6 Hours, the no. 24 Morgan-Nissan LM P2 saw the flag in second place in its category, and fourth overall. The nos 35 and 45 Morgan-Nissan LM P2s came home in fourth and fifth places in their category.
Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez arrived in the Persian Gulf leading their category with the aim of winning the title. During the free practice sessions the drivers in the no. 35 Morgan-Nissan LM P2 concentrated on finding the best setup to have a consistent and reliable car. While for the no. 24 Morgan-Nissan LM P2 of Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson, the idea of endurance was the priority, they also had to find enough speed to defend their second place in the FIA LM P2 Endurance Trophy. Jacques Nicolet, Keiko Ihara and David Cheng, the drivers in the no. 45 Morgan-Nissan LM P2, whose livery was inspired by Fernando Costa’s Art Car for the 90th anniversary of the Le Mans 24 Hours, continued to improve throughout the practice sessions.
On the grid, the cars lined up in third place (no. 24, Pla), sixth (no. 35, Baguette) and eighth (no. 45, Ihara) in LM P2. When the lights went green they tried to cut a path through the field, and in the melee in the first corner the OAK Racing drivers managed to avoid incidents while two other LM P2s stopped in the early laps.
Baguette and then Pla pitted to refuel after 40 minutes. Ihara in the no. 45 Morgan-Nissan LM P2 handed over to David Cheng after a great stint. When the gong struck for the first hour the three OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan LM P2s were in fifth, sixth and seventh positions with Pla in front of Baguette and Cheng.
Just before nightfall, Alex Brundle, Martin Plowman and Jacques Nicolet got behind the wheel of nos 24, 35 and 45 respectively. Brundle immediately upped the pace becoming the quickest LM P2 driver on the track as he took fourth place.
At half distance, David Heinemeier Hansson in no. 24, Ricardo Gonzalez in no. 35 and Ihara began their stints (the second for the Japanese).
After consistent drives they handed over to Pla in no.24, Baguette in no.35 and Nicolet in no. 45.
Pla was particularly incisive and taking advantage of the no.49 Pecom Racing Oreca’s off, he took second place in LM P2 just before the start of the last hour. A final pit stop and a bonnet change forced the Frenchman to push right till the end to retake second place, a result he shared with Brundle and Heinemeier Hansson, which helped OAK Racing to score a double in the FIA LM P2 Endurance Trophy.
Baguette, Plowman and Gonzalez finished fourth clinching the much sought-after title after their victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.
OAK Racing rounded off its performance with the fifth place of the no. 45 Morgan-Nissan LM P2 in the hands of Nicolet, Ihara and Cheng, who all drove a fault-free race.
Sébastien Philippe, Team principal:
“The start was pretty chaotic for everybody. I was asking myself a lot of questions in the early stages of the race as our setups weren’t the best to make the tyres work well on the hot track. When night fell we were on the pace. The no. 24 Morgan-Nissan LM P2 had a great race and almost clinched victory. No. 35 was running well within its capacities to score the points necessary to win the title. And no. 45 finished in the first five! That was our aim and I’d like to congratulate our drivers for being so competitive. We’ve bagged a double for OAK Racing in the World Championship. And in the final race we had three cars in the top 5. We couldn’t have dreamed of better!”
Jacques Nicolet OAK Racing President:
“It’s a fantastic result for OAK Racing, all our drivers and all those who’ve been working at Onroak Automotive. With the double in the Le Mans 24 Hours, the teams’ and drivers’ doubles in the World Championship, we’ve pulled off a clean sweep! It’s an exceptional result. I can’t find another word to describe it. It’s a marvellous reward for OAK Racing and for Onroak Automotive. We still have another result at stake at Sepang where our team will be fighting for the Asian Le Mans Series title. For Onroak Automotive it’s already assured as the other team has also entered a Morgan.”
Bertrand Baguette no. 35 Morgan-Nissan LM P2:
“We can be proud of what we’ve achieved. We just did the necessary in the last race by avoiding all the kerbs. We wanted to clinch the title to end a really great season.”
Martin Plowman no. 35 Morgan-Nissan LM P2:
“Last March I didn’t even know if I was going to be racing! So I have to thank Jacques Nicolet, Sébastien Philippe and the whole team for having given me the opportunity to live this adventure, win the Le Mans 24 Hours and a World Championship title!”
Ricardo Gonzalez no. 35 Morgan-Nissan LM P2:
” Our aims were to win Le Mans and the championship. We knew that we had the team and the drivers to achieve them. Our victory at Le Mans and our performance throughout the season helped us to have a race without additional stress here. I’m probably going to need at least a month to realise what we’ve achieved!”
Olivier Pla, no. 24 Morgan-Nissan LM P2:
“Bravo to the no. 35 Morgan-Nissan! It’s great for the team as everybody has worked so hard all year. We’ve scored five second places this season. My biggest regret isn’t the championship, it’s Le Mans. I hope we’ll be able to continue in the same vein and do even better!”
Alex Brundle, no. 24 Morgan-Nissan LM P2:
“It’s our fifth top-3 finish in eight races. Congratulations to our team-mates in no. 35 who won the title. Finishing first and second at Le Mans and first and second in the championship is a great result. We can also be satisfied that we brought no. 24 into second place at Le Mans and in the FIA WEC.”
David Heinemeier Hansson, no. 24 Morgan-Nissan LM P2:
“Yet another second place! It’s a great result but it’s also frustrating not to have been on the topmost step of the podium. We were very consistent, but we just lacked that little extra. I’m slightly disappointed, even though I’m very happy with this double for OAK Racing.”
David Cheng, no. 45 Morgan–Nissan LM P2:
”We had a difficult start to the weekend. This circuit doesn’t really suit our Morgan-Nissan. The team did a fantastic job to enable us to be on the same level as our rivals. For me being in the top five at the finish in only my second WEC race is a great result. And I’m counting on keeping up the good work next week in the quest for the title in the Asian Le Mans Series.”
Keiko Ihara no. 45 Morgan–Nissan LM P2:
“I’m very happy. The car OAK Racing gave me was perfectly set up. The team did an amazing job. I got on very well with David and Jacques. It’s my best result in the world championship!”
However, OAK Racing’s 2013 season isn’t over yet! On 8th December the french team will be racing in the Sepang 3 Hours, the final round of the 2013 Asian Le Mans Series. The OAK Racing Team Total and young Chinese driver David Cheng will be fighting for the title with the KCMG team, which has also entered an Onroak Automotive Morgan LM P2!
(OAK Racing, photo: Clement Marin/DPPI)