OAK Racing targeting fourth consecutive Le Mans 24 Hours podium
OAK Racing is targeting a fourth consecutive podium finish at next weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours as the French squad enters the world’s most famous endurance race with an unprecedented four-car line-up.
The team, which this year opened brand-new premises at the Le Mans 24 Hours Technoparc adjacent to the iconic 13.629-kilometre Circuit de la Sarthe, has received four invitations to compete in the 2011 event from race organisers the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, more than any other single squad.
With two OAK-Pescarolo prototype cars in the premier LMP1 class and two more in the competitive LMP2 category, as well as strong driver line-ups boasting youth and experience, OAK Racing is hoping to at least match its podium results of the past three years.
In LMP1, Frenchmen Guillaume Moreau and Pierre Ragues are joined by Portuguese ace and former F1 and WTCC driver Tiago Monteiro, a replacement for the injured Matthieu Lahaye, in the #15 car, while gentlemen drivers Richard Hein, Jacques Nicolet and Jean-François Yvon are re-united for the third time in car #24.
The team’s LMP2 assault will see Frenchmen Frédéric Da Rocha and Patrice Lafargue joined by Belgian-Italian youngster Andrea Barlesi in car #35 and another former F1 driver, Japanese Shinji Nakano, racing with Belgian hotshot Nicolas De Crem and Lotus Renault GP reserve driver Jan Charouz in car #49.
Meanwhile, the injured Lahaye is set to join the team for the week to play an advisory role on the sporting side.
Three of the team’s cars, #15, #24 and #35 will defend the iconic orange-and-blue racing colours of Gulf Oil International, while #49 will be liveried in OAK Racing’s traditional pink-and-black scheme. While sizeable accidents for both the #15 and #24 cars in the weeks leading up to the legendary endurance race has been far from ideal preparation for the high-profile event, OAK Racing has shown all its resilience, experience and expertise to be ready on time for its podium push.
Jacques Nicolet, Team Owner and Driver: “2011 has been exceptional for many reasons. We’ve handled a very large workload in the first few months of the year, not just because of our four entries to the Le Mans 24 Hours, but also in the face of the challenges thrown up by the accidents suffered by the #15 and #24 cars. Nevertheless, we arrive at the Circuit de la Sarthe well prepared and ready to go and our objective is a podium in the LMP1 ‘petrol class’ and a podium in LMP2, at the very least.”
2011 has been exceptional for many reasons.
François Sicard, Managing Director: “In LMP2, obviously our aim is to continue the run of podium results achieved since 2008 and, if possible, go one step further. In LMP1 meanwhile we are still learning the ropes so we have a single objective; instead of targeting the large manufacturer teams we will aim to compare favourably with the established privateers running petrol prototypes. This will also be our first Le Mans 24 Hours defending the famous racing livery of Gulf Oil International, which is sure to be a proud moment for the entire team as well as the drivers.”
Jean-Félix Bazelin, Dunlop Motorsport Managing Director: “We are always full of enthusiasm each time we go to Le Mans and in 2011 Dunlop will supply the highest number of cars for many years. We rely on our partnership with OAK Racing and, despite the obstacles that have fallen in the team’s path, it is still well placed to challenge for podiums. Hopefully all the bad luck and misfortune is now out of the way so that we can concentrate on targeting a Le Mans 24 Hours podium finish together.”
-source: oak racing