Lapierre earns first pole for Oreca at Portimao

Nicolas Lapierre landed Team Oreca Matmut AIM their first Le Mans Series pole today at Autodromo International do Algarve circuit in Portimao, Portugal. His fast time of 1:31.020 shut the door not only on their rival from Aston Martin Racing but also on the team's No. 10 Oreca AIM.

#11 Team Oreca Matmut - AIM Courage-Oreca LC70 - AIM: Olivier Panis, Nicolas Lapierre.
Photo by DPPI.

Earlier in the day, ORECA Group president announced that the team will be coming to the U.S.A. to contest the American Le Mans Series Road Atlanta Petit Le Mans race in September. Hugues de Chaunac also said that Team Oreca would not fun the LMS fourth round at the Nurburgring but would compete at the European series finale at Silverstone prior to thir departure to America.

Lapierre's fast lap was 0.140 seconds faster than that of Stefan Mucke in the Lola Aston Martin, giving himself and Oliver Panis the point for Saturday's race that will go into the night. However that might not mean cooler temperatures has they noticed during qualifying.

"That really is a boost! The toughest part is still to come, but the fact of setting the ORECA 01's first pole position is great for the whole team," said Lapierre. "I was able to find a couple of clear laps even if I could have gone faster. In race setup, the car is consistent and we know that's one of its best qualities. It's also very quick on this circuit. It's going to be a difficult event, especially in terms of traffic."

Mucke and his teammates Jan Charouz and Tomas Enge in the No. 007 will challenge for the victory in the 1000 km endurance race on the new track that has elevation changes and corners that are tight and at times, blind.

"I am a little bit disappointed not to get pole because it would have been nice to get the extra point for the championship but second place is still good. I think it is better than we expected because this circuit does not really suit our car," Mucke said. "I am very optimistic for the race as the car is consistent and I don't think it matters too much if you are on the left or right of the front row. After all, we are racing for six hours so the most important thing is to have a clear run without any mistakes."

It was Bruno Senna claiming third on the grid, only 0.076 seconds off Mucke's best lap and just over two-tenths off the pace of his teammate in the No. 11 Oreca AIM. Tiago Monteiro and Senna hope the positive results today will help them in the long race tomorrow.

"The session was a bit frustrating. I was held up several times. Despite this, the result is good for the team," said Senna. "We've got a well set- up car for the race. We managed to improve its handling during practice and we know that the tyres will last. It's going to be our best chance since the start of the season; we can fight for victory."