Twelve months ago, Nicolas Lapierre gave the ORECA 01 its first pole position on the Portuguese track. A year later, the Team ORECA-Matmut driver repeated the same feat at the wheel of the Peugeot 908 HDI FAP. He dominated the rest of the pack in qualifying for the Algarve 1000 kms, and scored his second pole position of the year after that on the Paul Ricard HTTT layout in April. Thus, the 908 HDi FAP will start from the front row when the race gets under way at 17h00 (local time) today on the Portimao circuit, with one target : the win !
On Friday, the Team ORECA-Matmut covered its first laps of the track. During the three practice sessions, including a night one, Olivier Panis, Nicolas Lapierre and Stephane Sarrazin, works Peugeot Sport driver, relayed one another to adapt the car to the circuit and find the best setup. They improved throughout the different sessions setting the fastest time in each one, and they managed to find the right balance for the car to make it comfortable to drive in what looks like being a swelteringly hot race, given the high summer temperatures reigning in the Algarve.
"It's always good to get pole, which gives us another point in the championship," said Lapierre after setting the fastest time. "The gaps are small so we have to be wary of the opposition, which is closer to us than yesterday. One of the positive aspects is that we did only two laps in qualifying. What's even more important is that the Peugeot's handling really well. We've found the right balance and the car's consistent in the long runs. It'll be crucial for this event as will traffic management."
Hugues de Chaunac, the ORECA Group President, was also happy with the work done by his men: "It's always important to score pole position, as it means that we will be ideally placed for the start. This being said we have to concentrate on the race with one goal : zero mistakes to win ! The petrol-engined LM P1s are not far behind and they're serious rivals. Yesterday's practice was positive: the team and drivers have done a good job."
The start of the Algarve 1000 kms is at 17h00, local time. Panis will take the first stint followed by Sarrazin and Lapierre.