OAK Racing will start this year’s 80th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours from the front row of the LMP2 class field on Saturday after the #24 Onroak Automotive designed and built Morgan-Judd 2012 LMP2, driven by Olivier Pla, set the second fastest time.
The team’s #35 Nissan-powered Morgan was also amongst the frontrunners before finishing with the class’ seventh fastest time, courtesy of Maxime Martin, in what is an incredibly competitive LMP2 field. Meanwhile, a late effort from Dominik Kraihamer helped the #15 OAK/Pescarolo LMP1 finish 12th overall.
The team’s LMP2 contingent appeared strong candidates for top-spot ahead of Thursday evening’s final qualifying after Pla, who shares the car with Matthieu Lahaye and Jacques Nicolet, secured provisional pole position at the end of the penultimate session. His best lap of 3m38.598s would remain the car’s fastest throughout the final two hours of running but wasn’t quite enough to maintain pole.
The sister #35 machine of Martin, Bas Leinders and David Heinemeier Hansson also enjoyed three trouble-free sessions but, like the #24, could not improve on its fastest time – 3m39.899s – that was set during the second session.
In the premier class, Bertrand Baguette appeared well set to claim the #15 car’s benchmark by improving upon his fastest Q2 time this evening. Two late efforts from team-mate Dominik Kraihamer however – the fastest a 3m35.584s – ensured that accolade went to the Austrian, while Franck Montagny continued to acclimatise to his new surroundings.
Sebastien Philippe, Team Principal: “I was pleasantly surprised by Dominik’s lap at the end because I think we still have a lot of time to find in the LMP1. The target wasn’t to set a fast time and I’m more confident for a strong race result. Concerning LMP2, on the one hand I’m a little disappointed because I think pole was a strong possibility but it’s not that important for the race. As we were in the fight it would have been nice but just after the start on Saturday it will be irrelevant! At least both cars are in the top eight and appear well set up.”
Dominik Kraihamer, #15 LMP1: “We had quite a promising qualifying session actually. I was held up quite a lot while on new tyres during my first five-lap stint and then had to pit with the red flag. When the session resumed I knew I could do three timed laps. I saw that my last run would be largely traffic-free so I tried to push. It ended up being compromised but overall I was happy. It’s near our maximum.”
Olivier Pla, #24 LMP2: “All in all it’s not bad! The car was really good, especially the balance. I was a little unlucky in traffic and if you put all of my best sector times together there was a good chance to set the fastest time. It’s nice to demonstrate the car’s potential but qualifying is one thing and the 24 Hours quite another. Our race pace is perhaps even better than qualifying, which we worked hard on during practice and the Test Day. We’ll see where we are on Sunday.”
Maxime Martin, #35 LMP2: “We’re happy with that as for us it’s not about starting on pole. I think we could have been in the top two or three but we didn’t have much luck in traffic, although it’s the same for everyone of course. The most important thing is the race. We have a good driver line-up and there’s a lot of confidence in the car’s ability so it should be good.”
Friday sees the traditional Driver’s Parade take place through the centre of Le Mans before the serious business of this year’s 24 Hours begins at 15:00 local time on Saturday.