Circuit de la Sarthe
ORECA 03: Debriefing from first 24 Hours of Le Mans…
After making its first run in February, its debut in competition in March and gaining its first win in May, the ORECA 03 had another big first of its young career. The prototype designed and built in Signes participated in its first 24 Hours of Le Mans in the colours of Race Performance, Signatech-Nissan and Team ORECA-Matmut. With a second place finish, class pole position and fastest race lap, the ORECA 03 shined. David Floury, Technical Director of the Groupe ORECA, reviews this twice around the clock experience in La Sarthe. A legendary race that is often revealing…
What is the ORECA 03’s result from its first 24 Hours?
“In terms of pure performance, the results are very positive. As for reliability, it’s also a generally positive result, knowing that our car is still young, that we weren’t able to do a complete 24 hour simulation, and consequently we couldn’t gauge the reliability very well. To have two of the three cars at the finish, with the third having retire after an incident shows that the potential reliability is good.
“As for the actual result of the race, we aren’t hiding that we were hoping for better. Two of the three ORECA 03 could aim for the win with the third possibly reaching the podium. At the end, and keeping the race events in mind, there’s only one team on the podium and not on the step we were hoping for. That’s Le Mans. Even when prepared, even with the right prototype, and the right driving squads, it’s sometimes not enough in order to win.”
Signatech-Nissan’s podium is nonetheless a good result for the ORECA 03…
“Yes it is. Two “quick” flats, and three slow flats hindered the Signatech-Nissan car. The first damaged the bodywork and the second happened early in the lap, which cost time and caused the engine to overheat. Franck Mailleux showed a lot of cool. Signatech-Nissan had a good race and the team did a very good job, bravo to them. Race Performance also had a good showing.”
Team ORECA-Matmut also entered an ORECA 03 aiming to accumulate the most experience possible. Was the Le Mans week constructive?
“Of course, we learned a lot. We still need to analyse everything since we are still soon after the race. The ORECA 03s didn’t encounter any big reliability issues. We were able to learn on a number of points and on a multitude of details that we need to improve. This involves the reliability, ease of intervention and even performance. We will use all of this to develop the car for 2012 and return with our customer teams to win the class.”
From the drivers’ and teams’ feedback, the ORECA 03 seems to be a prototype that’s easy to work with…
“Keeping in mind the LM P2 class philosophy, and to the drivers and teams to which the car is aimed, we fixed this as a clear objective. The Le Mans week showed that we’re on the right track.”
Are you satisfied with the performance?
“Yes. The ORECA 03 signed the pole: that’s not a priority at Le Mans, but it’s always nice and this confirms the car’s performance earlier in the season. But more interesting was the race pace. The Team ORECA-Matmut ORECA 03 also realised the fastest race lap, only a few hundredths shy of the pole, at night, and with a rookie behind the wheel. This shows the natural competitiveness of the car.”
Specifically, the lap sector analysis shows a few “surprises”?
“I don’t know if they’re very surprising, but what’s interesting in any case is to see that the ORECA 03 is fastest behind the seven diesel prototypes in the Porsche curves. Our LM P2 is quicker in this sector than the petrol LM P1 cars. This shows the quality of the chassis, all things equal, with a significant gap to the competition.”
What is the program now?
“Firstly we will bring our support to our partner teams who are returning to competition soon with the 6 Hours of Imola. Signatech-Nissan, Boutsen Energy Racing, Race Performance and TDS Racing have a lot to play for. We will do our best to help them during this second part of the season.
“Secondly, we are preparing the development for 2012. We are waiting for the rules and regulations to see how they will evolve. Obviously, we have a lot of avenues to explore; these are directly related to what we learned at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We want to target what’s coherent, notably in terms of the cost. We are keeping in mind the teams’ operating budgets, which must be managed. The first objective is clear: to be the best while staying within the « cost cap » philosophy of the LM P2.”