Nancy Knapp Schilke, ALMS Correspondent
OAK’s Nicolet and Conquest’s Bachelart team up for LMP2 privateer customer prototype
OAK Racing owner Jacques Nicolet presented the 2012 OAK-Pescarolo LMP2 today at their French-based headquarters that is not far from Le Mans. The prototype challenger was constructed under Nicolet’s newly named Onroak Automotive company that combines OAK’s design and development area with their manufacturing and sales department.
“The 2012 OAK-Pescarolo LMP2 and the creation of Onroak Automotive are the results of our large-scale interest in the class, demonstrated as early as 2008 with the creation of the initial LMP2 using the LMP1 Pescarolo chassis,” said Nicolet. “The 2012-spec car benefits from the experience we have acquired since, both as a constructor and a racing team. We believe we have achieved the best balance in terms of performance, integration of the new safety regulations and respect for the low-cost spirit requested by the ACO.”
We are delighted to have formed a partnership...
Nicolet and his staff have spent the past year testing the idea of producing a durable prototype that would draw in current teams and future teams who would contest the LMP2 class in the Le Mans Series, the American Le Mans Series and the FIA World Endurance Challenge, and of course take on the 24 Hours of Le Mans event.
At the Twelve Hours of Sebring earlier this year, they had the 2011 spec-prototype with the idea, as explained to Motorsport.com’s reporter, that they wanted to be able to supply customers with a reliable LMP2 car that would be able to be a top competitor. They did that in their first race on the Florida circuit by earning a podium finish. They returned to the United States and contested the ALMS’ season finale at Road Atlanta where again they took a podium finish at the Petit Le Mans event.
On the North American side of sportscar racing, Nicolet has found a United States partner in Conquest Racing’s team owner Eric Bachelart under his new Conquest Endurance operations. After running the 2011-spec prototype last year at selected events, the new 2012 Oak-Pescarolo has already been produced and is ready for customers, who of course will be privateer teams but with technical support.
“We are delighted to have formed a partnership between Conquest Endurance, OAK Racing and Onroak Automotive,” said Bachelart.
Nicolet added, “OAK Racing and its manufacturer division, Onroak Automotive, has resolved to develop itself in the US. For this challenge we have chosen to employ the support of Conquest Endurance for the sale of our LMP2 prototypes and are delighted to be beginning our partnership with Eric Bachelart. Alongside the benefit of his European background, Eric has enjoyed many successful years at the highest level of American motorsport as a team owner, and also had a great career as a driver. It was evident as early as our initial meetings that we had to work together - the partnership is already looking promising."
The FIA and the ACO formed a partnership last year which ended the second season of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup in 2011. The new FIA-WEC will allow the Le Mans style teams a chance at taking on a variety of tracks across the globe to crown a world champion. All new prototypes must meet the regulations for the 2012 season formed by the FIA and the ACO. Onroak Automotive has met the requirements and they have also placed an emphasis on cost-control and safety. The images they released does show shark fins above the engine and louvres which are over the wheel arches.
The OAK team is not new to prototype development and they based the new car on their past experience which was used by the design team for the newest LMP2 car. They also had input from the current OAK Racing team that has competed on the La Sarthe circuit in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. They had taken on the tricky Sebring circuit that goes from asphalt to concrete and many bumps along the way. Add their challenges at other major sportscar tracks, including Spa.
The LMP1 team is one of the top teams in sportscar racing and when they started to develop the LMP2 car, they did base the spec car on the knowledge they already had which allowed them to test the LMP2-spec car this past season and gain valuable knowledge due to the data they amassed. They wanted to increase downforce while reducing drag in order for aerodynamic performance.
Bachelart had several chances to note the performance of the 2011 spec prototype since OAK Racing contested the Twelve Hours of Sebring and the Petit Le Mans in the LMP2 class where it finished on the podium in both races.
Another plus for the privateer teams is they can use a current prototype engine like the Nissan, HPD-Honda or Judd; yet the new prototype is already setup for the soon to be available Ford powerplant. Conquest Endurance has already tested the car. Bachelart’s team will campaign the 2012 season with the new OAK-Pescarolo LMP2. The debut of the car will be at the ALMS Winter Test at the Sebring circuit in early February.
“The OAK-Pescarolo car has proven to be a success in Europe and now we look forward to showcasing its speed and reliability here in the United States. We are confident that this will be the chassis to have in ALMS for 2012 and beyond,” said Bachelart.
“For the Conquest organization this is an important step as we expand our operations and can now be a part of two of the most important racing series in North America. It will be a busy off-season but we are excited about to the challenge!”