OAK-Pescarolo LMP2 scores podium on debut at Sebring
OAK Racing made a fantastic start to this season’s Intercontinental Le Mans Cup at the world famous Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday where its brand new Pescarolo prototype scored an LMP2 class podium finish on debut.
It was a sensational result for the crew of Andrea Barlesi, Frédéric Da Rocha and Patrice Lafargue, andparticularly rewarding for the independent Le Mans-based team, which has designed, built and developed the car to a tight timescale for the start of this season.
The team’s pair of new LMP1 machines meanwhile endured a more frustrating event. The #15 car of Matthieu Lahaye, Guillaume Moreau and Pierre Ragues showed impressive pace to run fourth overall and second highest of the petrol cars after eight hours of racing when Lahaye was forced into retirement with a fuel leak. Jacques Nicolet, Richard Hein and Jean-François Yvon were also going well when, after the five hour mark, a valve spring issue forced the gentlemen driver trio out of the race.
François Sicard, Managing Director: “We are delighted with the LMP2 podium. The car is totally new but it has gone round and round like clockwork. It is an excellent result which rewards the huge effort of the entire team and places us second in the class’ provisional ILMC standings. Had we not lost those 22 laps at the start of the race with the starter motor problem, we could have won the class as we only finished eight and two laps behind first and second.
“It certainly gave us something to smile about following the two LMP1 retirements. The #24 had an alternator issue at the beginning of the race and then, after five hours, Jean-François Yvon had an engine problem. It is a shame as the three drivers had settled in nicely and were maintaining a good rhythm which could have led to a top seven or eight finish.
“The #15 car had completed two thirds distance with the drivers maintaining a really high rhythm. We were fourth, fair and square, while running a safe race but still maintaining contact with the leaders. “The whole team and all nine drivers have done an extraordinary job; our level of performance proves that OAK Racing was not too ambitious stepping up to LMP1. This demonstrates the excellent work of the Design Office which laid the foundations for, and developed, three competitive cars, including the new LMP2, in a short timeframe.”
Matthieu Lahaye, (#15, LMP1): “The race started well considering it was our first experience of Sebring and we were in the hunt for the podium places. But this circuit is always very demanding on the equipment and I was forced to stop on-track before I could get back to the pits. We are close to the Audis, Peugeots and Acura which is good news for the season ahead.”
Pierre Ragues (#15, LMP1): “The entire team has progressed a lot during the week. We worked hard on set-ups during the tests of Monday and Tuesday as Sebring is very different from most European circuits and extremely bumpy. The pre-season’s hard work materialised, allowing us to fight amongst the leading LMP1 ‘petrol’ contenders. We had a good car for the race. I am happy with my two stints and to have made a successful return to the OAK-Pescarolo fold.”
Guillaume Moreau, (#15 LMP1): “While our potential has not been rewarded, we have proven the LMP1 car’s raw performance. My triple stint went well and I am happy to have discovered Sebring and the incredible atmosphere around the circuit. We are now heading back to Europe where we will continue to prepare for the Le Mans 24 Hours test day on 24 April and second ILMC round at Spa-Francorchamps on 7 May. If we continue to progress as we have done this week, we will enjoy a great 2011 season.”
Andrea Barlesi (#35, LMP2): “The race was complicated from the first stint when we had a starter motor problem. The entire team did a great job in order to allow us to rejoin the track as quickly as possible. We continued to improve the car throughout the race and our tenacity has paid off in the end. The last 15 minutes were very long for me and it was a great moment to see all the members of the team on the side of the track at the chequered flag.”
Frédéric Da Rocha (#35, LMP2): “We were a bit worried before this week as we would be racing a brand new car at a circuit new to the team. Sebring’s reputation as a tough challenge precedes it. I am very happy with how well Andrea, Patrice and I gelled over the week. The new car is fantastic and I hope that this podium is just the first in a long line throughout 2011.”
Jacques Nicolet, (#24, LMP1 and Team Owner): “The entire team has accomplished a great deal this week by not only attending but also being competitive with three new cars. For a small, private team this is simply exceptional as the winter has been extremely short. Car #15 and its crew have shown all their potential by staying in contact with the leaders. This gives us a lot of hope as the LMP1 is not yet running in full 2011 configuration.
“The greatest satisfaction however is that our new LMP2 car, which only completed 200kms before flying to the US, has finished on the podium with a crew in the spirit of the class – two gentlemen and one young driver.
“Okay, the #24 was forced to retire, but Richard Hein also had the pleasure of leading the 12 Hours of Sebring for two laps!”
OAK Racing now return to France for the upcoming Le Mans test day on April 24 ahead of the ILMC’s second round at Spa-Francorchamps on May 7.
-source: oak racing