The 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours will start in a few weeks...
OAK Racing, which scored a double in the Sarthe classic in 2013, will start the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours in a few weeks with the nos 34 and 35 Ligier JS P2s. This week the team tested its sports prototypes equipped with the special Le Mans aero kit in preparation for the Test Day on 31st May.
First of all on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit and then at Magny-Cours for no. 34, the Ligier JS P2s ran both at daytime and during the night in wet and dry conditions, which gave the whole team and drivers an excellent workout. These sessions confirmed that without losing its sprint-car characteristics, the Le Mans version of the Ligier JS P2 has the necessary qualities to adapt to the Le Mans 24-Hours layout’s specificities.
Chris Cumming, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor, who are newcomers to the LM P2 category and to the Le Mans 24 Hours, had their first taste of their new car, the no. 34 Ligier JS P2-Honda-Dunlop with which they were very pleased. These tests gave the three drivers the opportunity to play themselves in at the wheel of the French sports prototype.
Chris Cumming, no. 34 Ligier JS P2-Honda-Dunlop: “Of course, we still have a lot of things to learn but our first test has been very positive. Last year, I have had the opportunity to do a few laps with the Ligier JS P2 in the United States and it’s a real pleasure to get back behind the wheel of this car, especially in the perspective of taking part in my first Le Mans 24 Hours! The car drives very well. These tests gave us an ideal opportunity before coming to Le Mans to run it in all kinds of different conditions: in the wet, in the dry, in between the two, as well as at night. I get on very well with my team-mates and the guys in the team and we form a good crew. I can’t wait to be at Le Mans next weekend for the Test Day to race on this legendary circuit.”
Kevin Estre, no. 34 Ligier JS P2-Honda-Dunlop: “I really enjoyed myself at the wheel of the Ligier JS P2. I needed a little time to adapt as driving an LM P2 is pretty different to the GTs that I’m used to racing. The carbon brakes, the aerodynamics, steering and the precision of the front drive-train are all things that I have to learn to master. But I’m finding it easy to adapt. I found my marks quickly and I improved as I racked up the laps and the sessions unfolded. Unfortunately, I won’t be at the Test Day, but even if I’ve never taken part in the Le Mans 24 Hours I know the circuit as I raced on it in one of the curtain-raisers last year. I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of the Ligier JS P2 and compete in this legendary race!”
Laurens Vanthoor, no. 34 Ligier JS P2-Honda-Dunlop: “These tests helped me to get to know the team and the Ligier JS P2 and we’re learning to work together. It all went off well even if I need a little time to get used to driving this new car and to gain a better understanding of it, in particular with the turbo engine as it’s my first time with this kind of motor. Racing at Le Mans will be very different from Spa and Magny Cours so we have to continue learning as much as possible before the race itself. I’m very happy with the relationship with my team-mates Kevin Estre, who I already know, and Chris Cumming who I met for the first time. They’re serious guys; we get on well together and I think we’ll make a great driver line-up. We’ve still got work to do and a lot to learn, but I find that our debut is very positive.”
Erik Maris, Jean-Marc Merlin and Jacques Nicolet used the experience they have accumulated since the start of the 2015 FIA WEC at the wheel of the no. 35 Ligier JS P2-Nissan-Dunlop to evaluate the advantages of the aero kit destined for the Le Mans circuit. This driver line-up, who will carry the colours of the Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque, is ready to compete in the most famous endurance race in the world in the pure gentleman driver tradition at the wheel of a car that they unanimously praise for its performance, comfort and safety.
Erik Maris, no. 35 Ligier JS P2-Nissan-Dunlop: “Our Spa session went off very well and we were able to test the car in its “Le Mans” setup in both wet and dry conditions. With the 24-Hours aero kit the car is perfectly balanced and as pleasant to drive as ever. I can’t wait to take part in the Test Day. After my first outing in GT last year, 2015 will be my first time in the Le Mans 24 Hours at the wheel of an LM P2. I’ve already had the pleasure of driving in this exceptional event, and I’m delighted to have this great opportunity to do it again.”
Jean-Marc Merlin, no. 35 Ligier JS P2-Nissan-Dunlop: ”After the Spa tests our next rendezvous is the Test Day, a foretaste of what the Le Mans 24-Hours race is all about. I’m very pleased to relive this exceptional human experience with Jacques Nicolet and the whole OAK Racing team. After the no. 45 Morgan LM P2 in the Art car colours in 2013, for me it’s an undeniable asset in terms of safety to start the race at the wheel of the Ligier JS P2, a closed sports prototype. Erik Maris, Jacques Nicolet and I are the only 100 per-cent gentlemen driver line-up in the race so we can choose our livery. Thus, we have this fantastic opportunity to wear the colours of the Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque and to help them in their actions.”
Jacques Nicolet, no. 35 Ligier JS P2-Nissan-Dunlop: “I’m very happy that the test went off so well in preparation for the Test Day and the Le Mans 24 Hours despite some pretty difficult weather conditions. The Ligier JS P2 is even more fantastic with its “Le Mans kit”! Compared to qualifying for the Spa 6 Hours at the beginning of the month I lowered my lap time by over two seconds, and I’m all the more delighted that my team-mates also improved. These very encouraging tests mean that we can tackle the test day in the best possible conditions as we feel both relaxed and confident. We’re savouring this opportunity of taking part in the greatest race in the world at the wheel of such a car!”