6 Hours of Imola: OAK Racing on the right track

All three OAK Racing prototypes made it to the finish of the 6 Hours of Imola today as the team continued to build on the progress demonstrated in earlier in rounds.

This was especially true of the #15 LMP1 OAK-Pescarolo, the squad’s only premier class entry in Italy, which recaptured its Sebring-form by showing good pace throughout the weekend. Guillaume Moreau underlined the car’s speed in qualifying to lap in 1:34.746 – just two seconds shy of the Le Mans 24 Hours-winning, diesel-powered #2 Audi – and line-up first of the petrol-powered runners in fifth.

Come the race, electrical issues ensured the #15 car faced a 25-minute delay in the pits which ended its hopes of mounting a concerted challenge, finishing eighth in class and 33rd overall.

#41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek Nissan: Karim Ojjeh, Tom Kimber-Smith, Olivier Lombard, #15 Oak Racing Oak Pescarolo - Judd: Guillaume Moreau, Pierre Ragues
#41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek Nissan: Karim Ojjeh, Tom Kimber-Smith, Olivier Lombard, #15 Oak Racing Oak Pescarolo - Judd: Guillaume Moreau, Pierre Ragues

Photo by: DPPI

Guillaume Moreau driver #15 LMP1: “We did not make a single mistake during practice and qualifying with an excellent car. Even with one still in its first year of development, it’s important to show the competition what we’re made of. On a personal note, I was very happy with my stints during the race. Despite encountering a few problems which delayed our progress, the team really deserved to see the chequered flag!”

Pierre Ragues, driver #15 LMP1: “We had good pace compared to the other petrol LMP1s. The performance was definitely there so we now need to concentrate on finding better reliability in order to benefit from the car’s fast lap times.”

The team’s LMP2 contingent faired a little better with the Sebring podium-finishing #35 machine looking good during Andrea Barlesi’s opening stint. After starting from 11th in class, the Belgian was up to fifth by the first round of scheduled stops having also clocked the car’s fastest lap of the race, a 1:41.76. The good work would go unrewarded however after a problem with the car’s starter motor while in the pits left the trio down in ninth at the finish, even if the points did help them retain their top three position in the ILMC standings.

Andrea Barlesi, driver #35 LMP2: “I had a great time at the beginning of the race as there were a lot of battles for position which I managed quite well. Unfortunately Patrice, who took over from me, had a problem re-starting the car which cost us a lot of time.”

Patrice Lafargue, driver #35 LMP2: “We again showed good performance during the race even if we did encounter some mechanical issues. But the team worked hard to solve them which was at least one positive we can take away.”

Frédéric Da Rocha, driver #35 LMP2: “I suffered from tendinitis in my left arm and had to fight against the pain. Nevertheless we still finished ninth in LMP2, even if we could have realistically hoped for a much better result.”

While #35 showed glimpses of the OAK-Pescarolo’s pace, the team’s second #49 LMP2 prototype, making a one-off appearance at Imola, proved a podium contender throughout. Alexandre Prémat, who had just 15 laps behind the wheel prior to qualifying, produced some magnificent overtaking manoeuvres during his opening stint to climb from eighth to second.

Unfortunately, two punctures and a power steering issue during co-driver Jacques Nicolet’s time behind the wheel eventually saw the duo take the chequered flag a creditable fifth in class.

#35 Oak Racing Oak Pescarolo - Judd BMW: Frederic Da Rocha, Patrice Lafargue, Andrea Barlesi
#35 Oak Racing Oak Pescarolo - Judd BMW: Frederic Da Rocha, Patrice Lafargue, Andrea Barlesi

Photo by: Jean-Philippe Legrand

Alexandre Prémat, driver #49 LMP2: “I am really happy with my race, which was fantastic from start to finish and featured some great battles during the fight for the podium. Our raw pace was excellent and certainly good enough to have delivered a top three finish had we not suffered from the problems. This was my first experience with OAK Racing. Jacques Nicolet has been a very motivated team-mate who can produce competitive lap times.”

Jacques Nicolet, driver #49 LMP2: “Our start and lap times, especially those of Alex who set a 1:40.1, meant we had the potential to score a strong result, even if it didn’t work out that way in the end. I am nevertheless delighted to have shared the cockpit with a driver as talented as Alexandre Prémat and also personally enjoyed racing at this circuit.”

The Italian round also confirmed the OAK-Pescarolos’ performance even if further work is still required.

Sébastien Philippe, Team Manager: “We have a very competitive engine-chassis-tyre package but there remain problems with reliability which has been a recurring theme. We have nevertheless shown that we are serious competitors in both classes, with quick cars and efficient, as well as motivated, drivers capable of producing very good stints whatever the circumstance. While this is satisfying, we still need to work on making our prototypes more reliable. Hopefully that’s something we can address over the summer period so that we are ready to return stronger at Silverstone in September.”

By: oak racing