Sebring, H+6 : Team ORECA-Matmut with the leaders !
Nicolas Lapierre, Loïc Duval and Olivier Panis currently run in third place at the halfway point, not far from the leaders…
After a positive start, the Team ORECA-Matmut has continued on the right track. Loïc Duval and Olivier Panis, who took over for Nicolas Lapierre have not left the top five. Driving the No. 10 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, the trio has avoided the notorious Sebring traps, especially the traffic. The three men have been consistent and quick, taking advantage of on-track incidents to comfortably place themselves into the top three; even taking the lead for a brief period. At the halfway point, Team ORECA-Matmut is in third position.
Loïc Duval: “I had five or six horrible laps in traffic. The cars were side by side and it was really difficult to pass. Otherwise, the stint was OK. No other problems, although the track is really filthy. If you go off line to pass, the tyres get dirty and it takes time to clean them off. It’s something that’s not easy to manage. The safety car came at the wrong time for us: we absolutely had to get fuel and, by the reglement, we had to stop twice and rejoin at the end of the line. In terms of rhythm, we were in the same cadence as the No. 7 Peugeot, which is good. It’s more difficult for us in traffic, but generally, we are in the game. I’m convinced that we can do well here!”
Olivier Panis: “My stint went very well. I found myself in a lot of traffic for my first time out, and you really had to fight hard to make your way. The second part of the stint started with a restart and the No. 8 Peugeot and No. 01 Honda behind me. We had a hard time getting the temperature into the tyres, so I didn’t take any risks. It wouldn’t be smart for me to resist and risk an incident. Afterwards, I was able to follow the Honda’s rhythm. The pit windows and safety car periods haven’t always worked in our favor, but we’re still in the fight.”
Race action. After qualifying in fifth place, Nicolas Lapierre stayed in the top five, behind the two factory Peugeot 908s and two factory Audi R15s. After the first pitstops, and two problems for the No. 1 Audi, the Team ORECA-Matmut car took over fourth position. As Loïc Duval took the wheel, the No. 10 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP was in third after a little more than two hours. Loïc would hold his position, even briefly running in second. He pushed to stay within reach of the lead No. 8 Peugeot 908 – within 40 seconds. At the end of the third and fourth hours, marked by several yellow flag periods, he handed the car over to Olivier Panis. Later, the safety car was dispatched in the middle of a scheduled pitstop forcing the team to pit twice (as the rules state). Olivier rejoined in fifth place but would reach the top three after 4h22 of racing, taking advantage of an incident between the two leading cars. The Team ORECA-Matmut even held the lead as the fifth hour passed: the team opted not to change tyres under yellow, unlike the Peugeot No. 8 and Honda No. 01 who would take the position away at the restart. Olivier followed the leaders before giving the commands back to Nicolas Lapierre, still in third.
-source: team oreca-matmut