Olivier Pla and Quifel-ASM forced to retire
After qualifying sixth overall – second of the petrol prototypes – Olivier Pla was not given the chance to capitalise during the 1000km of Spa-Francorchamps, second round of the Le Mans Series. The Quifel-ASM Team’s Zytek 09SC fell victim to engine trouble forcing Miguel Amaral, teammate to the Toulouse-native, to retire with less than two hours remaining in the race.
After the 6 Hours of the Castellet, the second round of the Le Mans Series was held under the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup banner including three Audi R18s and three Peugeot 908s. Against two official teams, the challenge was set for the Quifel-ASM Team. Despite a quality field comprised of more than fifty cars, Olivier Pla did well in the sessions before the race, placing 6th in the second free practice and realising a convincing qualifying result. “Second place of the petrol cars in qualifying is an honorable result,” confided Olivier after qualifying. “We weren‟t missing much – a little top end speed – to be ahead of the Rebellion-Toyota, but our testing results gave us confidence before the race.”
At the controls of the #20 Zytek 09SC, the Toulouse-native confirmed this sentiment with an excellent start. After a few corners, he was running in third place, just behind two Audi R18s! “I took advantage of a few mistakes from others to gain a few positions,” he explained. “It was nice to be in this position, but I knew the „diesels‟ would come back and that I wouldn‟t be able to defend.” The Quifel-ASM Team driver therefore found himself fighting with the #12 Rebellion-Toyota for 7th place. Unfortunately, an engine problem rapidly developed, as he confirms: “As soon as the third lap, I was missing power. I tried to defend my position but I was more than a second slower in the first sector, and another in the second sector. It was undoable.” But Olivier Pla didn’t give up and continued to attack to compensate for the lack of power. He completed his triple stint in the top ten before handing it over to Miguel Amaral, who continued in the same spirit. Although the Portugese driver was maintaining 10th position, the engine finally gave up with 1:45 to go in the race.
“We are of course disappointed,” admits the Le Mans Series LMP2 champion in 2009. “After the good practice and qualifying sessions, we were hoping to do battle with the Rebellion-Toyota and the Pescarolo, but this problem prevented us from showing our true speed. We will have to analyse this information before the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where we know reliability will be a determining factor. Miguel did very well on a difficult track. As for the Quifel-ASM Team, they were once again exemplary. We‟ll do whatever we can to be rewarded for our hard work at Le Mans, THE race of the year. I‟d like to wish a speedy recovery to Matthieu Lahaye who had a violent accident on Friday. I hope to see him as soon as possible in the paddock and on the race track.”
Before the twice round the clock classic in la Sarthe, Olivier Pla will be on track at Dijon, May 14-15, for the third round of the GT Tour with Team Sofrev-ASP.
-source: olivier pla pr