Circuit de la Sarthe
OAK Racing rewarded with encouraging Le Mans qualifying
OAK Racing’s hard work in the lead up to this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours paid off last night with all four OAK-Pescarolo prototypes – two each in LMP1 and LMP2 – demonstrating competitive pace during qualifying.
The French team’s first foray into the premier LMP1 category at the twice-round-the-clock enduro proved a great success with the #15 car driven by Tiago Monteiro, Guillaume Moreau and Pierre Ragues lining up 11th overall but fourth of the petrol-powered runners despite a small electrical glitch, while the #24 machine of Jacques Nicolet, Richard Hein and Jean-Francois Yvon starts three places further back in 14th.
It has been a fight against the clock to be ready for this week after the accidents at the Test Day.
OAK Racing’s tried and tested LMP2 contender meanwhile is also in the thick of its class’ action with #49 (Shinji Nakano, Nicolas De Crem and Jan Charouz) fifth, just 0.5 seconds shy of third place, and #35 (Andrea Barlesi, Frederic Da Rocha and Patrice Lafargue) tenth. These were especially positive results for the outfit, based but a stone’s throw from the circuit at the Le Mans Technoparc, after a less than perfect build-up to this year’s race which included big accidents at the official Test Day and Spa-Francorchamps Intercontinental Le Mans Cup round.
Francois Sicard (Managing Director): “It has been a fight against the clock to be ready for this week after the accidents at the Test Day and Spa’s ILMC round. The entire team has worked really hard to have four cars properly prepared for this week but they succeeded. We worked hard last night and gathered a lot of information for both classes. I would have liked to be higher up the timesheets but then you look at our situation and have to be satisfied. The cars have an excellent balance and our drivers are providing great feedback. In LMP2 we are two seconds off pole position, which is generally considered a lot in motorsport but not really that much at Le Mans. In previous years we have been further down the order before coming good in the race. In fact, our LMP2 is generally better in race trim and is easy on its tyres. I think it will be competitive come Saturday.
“We are also happy with the LMP1 entries. It is very close in the unofficial petrol class between us, the car of Henri Pescarolo and Rebellion Lolas. There’s no point comparing ourselves to the diesels as they are untouchable and we are still learning the ropes in LMP1.”
Guillaume Moreau (driver, #15 LMP1): “I am happy with where we are at this stage. On Wednesday we set some good times despite not trying too hard as we worked through a set-up programme. Instead, we had planned to post a time on Thursday but found the balance wasn’t as good. We still managed the fourth fastest lap though which is reasonable considering we lost 30 minutes with the electrical glitch and I’m sure there is a lot more time to find. For a new car it hasn’t really completed that much mileage ahead of the hardest race in the world, so I think it’s a good effort. Our attention has now switched to race strategy which is OAK’s strong suit.”
Jean-Francois Yvon (driver #24 LMP1): “The team has done an amazing job this year moving factories, preparing the cars for Sebring, recovering after the setbacks and still having four entries ready for Le Mans. I take my hat off to them. As with every year, it is fantastic to be back here with a car that has evolved over the last 12 months. It feels like there is more power, especially on the straights where the new revised aero is certainly making a difference. For the past two days we have worked on setting a consistent pace that will serve us well in the race.”
Andrea Barlesi (driver, #35 LMP2): “The last couple of days have been a journey of discovery for me after only completing ten laps on the Test Day. So I’ve taken it step-by-step, improving my speed and confidence lap-by-lap in order to avoid mistakes as the circuit is quite mentally demanding. Along with my team-mates, we decided to find a comfortable race set-up rather than single lap pace. This is obviously a big race but we are also fighting for the ILMC championship which makes a finish here, where there are double points on offer, imperative.”
Shinji Nakano (driver, #49 LMP2): “I am very happy to be back at Le Mans after two years away. I would like to thank Jacques Nicolet who has given me a great chance with a car that feels really good and with which I have a lot of confidence. I didn’t drive the car during the Test Day so Wednesday was my first time behind the wheel of any racing car for over a year, but I was still on the pace right away, which is partly down to having a lot of confidence in the LMP2.”
Despite no track action, OAK Racing will continue to prepare all four cars throughout Friday ahead of the traditional Drivers’ Parade in Le Mans town centre. Warm-up kicks off at 9am on Saturday morning before the 79th Le Mans 24 Hours begins at 3pm local time.
-source: oak racing