Job well done for Team ORECA-Matmut-AIM !
Fifth place for Nicolas Lapierre, Olivier Panis and Romain Dumas at Road Atlanta and ahead of Acura!
After their victory at the1000km of Silverstone, Team ORECA-Matmut-AIM had chosen to cross the Atlantic to prepare for the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours and to compare themselves to Acura. At the conclusion of a Petit Le Mans interrupted at the end of the fifth hour due to a persistent rain, the team and its drivers - Nicolas Lapierre, Romain Dumas and Olivier Panis - reached the goals set out by Hugues de Chaunac. Despite difficult conditions, the three drivers had an excellent showing, regularly dominating the two Acuras. For their first time at this difficult track, the ORECA finished in fifth place: first of the petrol-powered prototypes, only dominated by Peugeot and Audi.
Race action. Starting sixth, Nicolas Lapierre kept his position under a light rain, following the De Ferran Motorsports Acura, before pitting earlier for new tyres. He leaves the pits just under two laps behind after being slowed by another competitor in pitlane. At the end of the first hour, the team decided to put on slick tyres and proves to be a good choice as the drying track helps Nicolas to climb from 10th to fifth place as he pushes and the team manages the yellow flags well. As Romain Dumas takes over at the wheel, his goal is to widen the gap between him and the Highcroft Acura. Mission accomplished as he puts Scott Sharp a lap down and even when the rain makes it's appearance, the ORECA 01 stays competitive. But as the rain gets harder and soon after Oliver Panis had taken over, the red flag flies 11 minutes before the halfway point. The event would not restart..
Hugues de Chaunac : "The race unfortunately ended sooner than scheduled due to the weather, but for us, it was a positive race. We came here to measure ourselves against Acura and we won our fifth place on the track. It's the proof that the team worked well. The first objective was to avoid errors. This was reached as the ORECA 01 was one of the only cars not to commit one. Our second objective was the battle with Acura. We are ahead of these two cars, which is good. On a track that we were learning, we showed some interesting things! Now we look ahead to the Asian Le Mans Series which is the next step to our Le Mans 2010 preparations. We look forward to continuing our good end of season at this event."
Nicolas Lapierre (ORECA 01, 5th) : "Our American experience has been enriching. We didn't have very easy conditions during the week, but we answered the call. We continued to progress. In the race, the car's handling was pretty good, but we had to pit earlier because of tire wear. We were then one of the first teams to go on slicks, and this was the right decision the ORECA 01 was really good on a drying track. We were faster than the Acuras on a difficult track, both on the drivers and the car, which is good."
Romain Dumas (ORECA 01, 5th) : "ORECA came here to prepare for Le Mans and I think this happened. Before the race, we were hoping to beat the Acuras and we finished in front. That's one of the positives. The team also managed the yellow flags well. When I took the wheel, the objective was clear: widen the gap on the Highcroft Acura. Like Nicolas, I was able to pull away, but this time the safety car didn't negate our efforts and I was able to go up a lap on them. Afterwards, I was sort of between two waters: on one hand, I really wanted to attack, but on the other hand I needed to think about securing fifth place and avoiding risks. In the dry, the car was quite good, especially in the fast sections. But on a wet/dry track the car was even better!"
Olivier Panis (ORECA 01, 5th) : "If the race hadn't been stopped, all of the cars would have ended up in the gravel trap on the next lap! It's too bad for everyone, but it was a logical decision for safety. Even if first, we were sliding! I've never seen such a heavy and long rain shower during a race. Of course, I would have preferred to drive more, but that's the way it is. We came here to learn and that's what we did. In the race, we can be proud of our accomplishment compared to the Acuras. Nicolas and then Romain showed it."
David Floury (Technical Director) : "There was a lot of knowledge gained during this trip across the pond. We learned a lot, whether it's race strategy, the track and the setup of the car. It's also an important experience looking forward to an eventual participation at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Two drivers were discovering the track while the other was coming to grips with the ORECA 01. It wasn't easy but we advanced step by step without hurry. As is often the case, we had a good balance on the car during the race. We didn't show our speed during qualifying, but we are more than satisfied with our performance in the race. With equal rules, we were able to see how we measure up to Acura and we showed that the whole team, drivers and car continue to progress."