Team ORECA-Matmut : First mission accomplished...
The team had set itself a goal for the 12 Hours of Sebring qualifying: the top 5. Mission accomplished for the No.10 with the fifth quickest time. Nicolas Lapierre, Loic Duval, Olivier Panis and the No.10 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP carry a message in support of the Japanese people.
After a start of the week dedicated to discovering Sebring, the Team ORECA-Matmut gained momentum during the last two days. Firstly, the team gathered a maximum of data before an important debriefing on Wednesday. The work done by the engineers and mechanics has been fruitful: since the start of the official practice sessions, the No.10 Peugeot HDi FAP has consistently run in the top five. Nicolas Lapierre, Looc Duval and Olivier Panis focused on regular progress rewarded by the fastest time in the final session.
The Team ORECA-Matmut confirmed its good disposition on the Floridian track by signing the fifth quickest time in qualifying, behind the two official Peugeot 908s and the two Audi R15 "plus" who share the first two rows. A solid way to begin the 12 Hours of Sebring. The team had set itself a first goal: qualify in the top 5 in order to be close to the competition. Now, the team must face the real challenge: once around the clock on a legendary and brutal circuit.
"Having the fastest time in practice gave us a good boost. That said, when you look at the week as a whole, we are on par with what we expected," said Looc Duval, who qualified the car. "We reached our first goal. There was little traffic: we managed it well and could have gained a few tenths, but it wouldn't have changed much. Peugeot has a new car and Audi have a huge amount of experience here. Our car is well balanced and the handling has evolved a lot since Tuesday. We've reacted well and we're in the game."
For David Floury, Technical Director, this fifth qualifying position is also a satisfaction. "We are where we need to be. Qualifying is not as important at such a race: 12 Hours is a long time! Especially at Sebring, such a demanding track. We are in a good position, we're prepared and our car is good in all conditions. We can only compare ourselves to Audi, know that they have a massive amount of experience at Sebring. Everyone worked well to analyze what was done on Monday and Tuesday. We tried to keep the good and get rid of what wasn't working. The compromise is good and that's what counts today."
The 12 Hours of Sebring will start this Saturday at 10.30 a.m. (local time).
Thinking of Japan.
Initiated by Looc Duval, who lives in Japan, the drivers of Team ORECA-Matmut Peugeot 908 HDi FAP No.10 is carrying a message for the Japanese people. Last week, Japan suffered a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that produced thousands of victims and major damage.
The entire team wanted to keep Japan in their thoughts, as Looc - who race there sicne several years and was in Japan during the earthquake - explains: "It's a real tragedy for the Japanese people. It affects everyone, at every level. We wanted to make note of the situation. It can happen to all of us. Japan has been welcoming to me and the Japanese people have done a lot for me and even if I'm not over there right now, I am thinking of them. It's a country that I greatly appreciate and I have many friends there. A message can seem petty at this time when there is so much destruction, but I know that they will like it. In these moments, you need support, however it comes. I'm thinking of them, as do my teammates and the whole team. It's our way of saying it."
Looc Duval and Nicolas Lapierre have a Japanese flag on their Hans devices along with the message "All with you Japan." Olivier Panis is carrying this same message on his helmet as well as on the top of the windshield on the Team ORECA-Matmut Peugeot 908 HDi FAP.
For the 12 Hours of Sebring, the American Le Mans Series and Sebring Raceway have put in place a donation line via text message 90999 in association with the Red Cross.