Circuit de la Sarthe
OAK Racing’s podium run ends in challenging Le Mans 24 Hours
OAK Racing’s hopes of a fourth consecutive podium finish at the Le Mans 24 Hours ended in a challenging race for the French team as the #49 OAK-Pescarolo proved to be its best finisher with a solid fifth place in the LMP2 class.
... we must continue working hard for the rest of the year to do well in the ILMC.
Running four cars in the event for the first time, OAK Racing lost both of its LMP1 challengers during the night time hours on Saturday/Sunday with mechanical problems.
The #15 car, shared by Guillaume Moreau, Pierre Ragues and Tiago Monteiro was plagued by several issues in the first hours of the race before eventually succumbing after several long spells in the pits following a recurring power steering problem. The #24 car of Jacques Nicolet, Richard Hein and Jean-Francois Yvon was running strongly until a small fire after midnight which saw it retire at the side of the track during a long Safety Car period.
Things were more positive in LMP2 despite both cars joining numerous others in suffering punctures throughout the weekend. After surviving those scares both were pushing for the top three before they then had issues on Sunday. Car #35 of Frederic Da Rocha, Andrea Barlesi and Patrice Lafargue lost time in the pits due to broken suspension after Da Rocha went off on cold tyres, while #49, shared by Jan Charouz, Shinji Nakano and Nicolas De Crem suffered with some gearbox management issues which ruled out a top three finish.
Nevertheless, both cars made it to the chequered flag at the end of an enduring contest, with #49 fifth in LMP2 and 14th overall, despite suffering broken rear suspension on the final lap, and #35 taking a seventh-in-class finish, 25th out of the original 56 starters.
Francois Sicard, Managing Director, OAK Racing: “It has been a difficult weekend for us. We had higher expectations in LMP2 after our three consecutive podiums since 2008. We were even hoping for a win. Unfortunately we had several problems during the race and couldn’t do better than fifth. The #35 machine needed to finish as it is competing in the ILMC, so third place in class among the cars registered for that championship is a good outcome, especially as only one of the three drivers had done Le Mans before.
“It was a learning year in LMP1 and I hope we digest all the lessons from it. It’s a shame that neither car finished, particularly as our pace and performance was good compared with the other petrol cars in the class. It has been a busy start to 2011 for the team and now we will regroup, analyse what we’ve learned and find our way back to the podium!”
Jacques Nicolet, Team Owner & Driver: “We had very specific problems on both LMP1 cars. For #15 it was the power steering as a steering rack blew up almost straight away and on the #24 it was some kind of fuel injector leak which started a fire between Tertre Rouge and the first chicane.
“This year has been a new cycle in the team’s development and I think the experience we gain in 2011 will benefit us enormously in the future FIA championship. The season isn’t over yet and we must continue working hard for the rest of the year to do well in the ILMC.
“I’d like to say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone at the team for having prepared four fantastic race cars and for all their hard work this week at the track. We will push on from here!”
Nicolas De Crem: “The main thing is that we finished the race. It was a bit touch and go at the end, as we had a rear suspension failure just prior to the chequered flag which cost us a place on the last lap. However, fifth in my first race here is absolutely great. For a 20-year-old this is like a victory for me! Despite all the technical issues I had a great time and really enjoyed it.”
Shinji Nakano: “I’m very happy and would like to thank Jacques and the team for giving me this great opportunity to do Le Mans. The team did a great job and I am so pleased because this is my first finish in the 24 Hours. I have to admit that when I saw we had suffered a suspension failure on the last lap I did think ‘oh my god!’”
Jan Charouz: “It was a tough race. We had a good driver line-up and the car was really consistent and easy to drive. Unfortunately, we encountered some problems with the suspension and ECU. We didn’t make any mistakes with our driving, but Le Mans is a long, long race and sometimes things break. Hopefully we will do better next year.”
Patrice Lafargue: “It was difficult for us because this was my first Le Mans, but it was a great day. It’s fantastic to finish the race and I’m happy to have done it for the team because they worked so hard throughout and really suffered all the way until the final hour. It wasn’t easy so this is for them. We could have done better, but I’ve finished my first Le Mans and we are satisfied. Life is beautiful!”
Frederic Da Rocha: “Of course, we would have liked a better result, but we are delighted to finish. I didn’t reach the end in my first Le Mans 24 Hours and even though we are well down the classification, it is still a great privilege to get the car home. When you look at the quality of the entry list, the fact that us gentlemen drivers get the chance to compete in the same event as the professionals is fantastic.”
Andrea Barlesi: “We followed the team’s strategy and despite some technical issues, the race went well. I now have the ILMC in Imola next month where we hope to challenge for the ILMC. Le Mans is unbelievable, but I’m glad this week is over! It’s very tiring because you sleep late on Wednesday and Thursday and now I am totally exhausted. It wasn’t easy, but I will come back to this race until I win it!”
-source: oak racing