OAK CONTINUES GROWING AT PETIT LE MANS First North American race for French team full of opportunities One of the teams using the new Intercontinental Le Mans Cup to expand its boundaries is Oak Racing. The French team entered Petit Le Mans ...
OAK CONTINUES GROWING AT PETIT LE MANS
First North American race for French team full of opportunities
One of the teams using the new Intercontinental Le Mans Cup to expand its boundaries is Oak Racing. The French team entered Petit Le Mans powered by MAZDA 2 for the first time and has its Pescarolo-Judd at Road Atlanta for the weekend's battle in the LMP2 class of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón.
The new global championship from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest - governing body of the Le Mans 24 Hours - proved to be just what Oak management needed to cement its Petit Le Mans entry. And it may be the first of many to come. Already the team has said it plans on contesting the full 2011 ILMC - including Petit Le Mans and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in North America.
"There will be a lot to learn at Road Atlanta, despite our experience at the Le Mans 24 Hours and in the Le Mans Series," said Francois Sicard, Managing Director of OAK Racing. "We are not targeting a display of raw pace from the car just yet, as we're up against experienced ALMS teams, competing against a field of cars designed and prepared for the series."
That's why two days of testing over the weekend were beneficial to say the least. All three drivers - Jacques Nicolet, Frederic Da Rocha and Patrice Lafargue - plus lead pilot and driver coach Matthieu Lahaye got seat time Saturday and Sunday. It took a few laps for each to get acquainted with the circuit but after that...
"Nevertheless, I had a great moment of loneliness during my first lap of the track!" said Nicolet, who also is the team owner. "It is an atypical layout which does not resemble anything I know in Europe. One-third of the corners are blind, the walls are very close to the circuit and it is very narrow. Of some corners I have simply been told, 'You will see when you get there.' But the first day of running went well, under the sun, and I progressed as I drove."
Added Da Rocha, "During the first laps on the circuit I asked myself what I was doing out there! But, once I had memorized the track, it was a real delight. I was used to an LMP2 with less performance than this one, and I've discovered a prototype with real aero and super-efficient brakes. The Pescarolo-Judd is very reassuring for a driver. We have confidence straight away and we can very quickly get close to our own limits without any hesitation."
Sunday was the first day for Lafargue in a prototype, so it was a double- dose of learning. Plus showers came and went throughout the day.
"I arrived here with a lot of humility and a bit of apprehension, and in addition to this, the rain cost me a lot of driving time during my first day of testing," he said. "But this is a circuit which keeps its promises! In the race, we will have to keep the strategy simple and be patient, which is not necessarily my strength! But this experience will be very rewarding, as all difficulties are combined here: the circuit is short and technical, often with heavy traffic and the stress that this brings. It is a fantastic education."
The 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans powered by MAZDA 2 is set for 11:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, October 2. SPEED will air the race starting at 11 a.m., with live radio coverage available on American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche - a production of Radio Show Limited - as well as Sirius Channel 127 and XM Channel 242. Americanlemans.com will stream qualifying live starting at 3:15 p.m. ET on Friday, October 1. Visit the Series' schedule page for ticket and accommodation information. Live Timing and Scoring, track schedule, entry list and much, much more will be available on Racehub at americanlemans.com.