As the only Peugeot costumer team, Team ORECA Matmut is clearly an important underdog competing for the win in next weekend's Le Mans 24 Hour race. The team's primary entry will be exactly the same car as Peugeot's works team, and will be driven...
As the only Peugeot costumer team, Team ORECA Matmut is clearly an important underdog competing for the win in next weekend's Le Mans 24 Hour race. The team's primary entry will be exactly the same car as Peugeot's works team, and will be driven by an all-French driver line-up: Olivier Panis, Nicolas Lapierre and Lo?c Duval.
Team ORECA Matmut took delivery of their Peugeot 908 HDi FAP early in the winter, which gave the team plenty of time to get familiar with the car.
"The Peugeot is a completely new car for us and for us it's also a big difference that it's not our own car, it's build by Peugeot," Lapierre said. "We had to know how it's made, so it was very important to have plenty of time to learn the car."
The Peugeot wasn't just a adjustment for the ORECA team, but also for its drivers. Lapierre, Panis and Duval all have a history of driving open-wheel cars, while the Peugeot had a closed cockpit.
"The car is a huge difference compared to the cars I've driven in the past!" Lapierre continued. "As a driver, the biggest difference is that the Peugeot is a closed car, while I was used to drive open cars. The car also requires a different driving style, because the rear is much heavier compared to last year's car. This weight is compensated by the extra power of the engine."
"Even though we're sort of a costumer team of Peugeot, we've got exactly the same equipment as the other Peugeots. We're allowed to make our own decisions, the only disadvantage we've got compared to the 'factory team' is the experience we have with the car and the number of people working for the team."
In their first outing with the new Peugeot, ORECA made a flying start at the Le Mans Series season opener, the 8 hours of Castellet at Paul Ricard. While the Peugeot factory teams weren't competing in this event, the Lapierre was able to beat Audi's veteran Rinaldo 'Dindo' Capello for pole in qualifying.
The race, however, wasn't as successful. A mechanical problem halfway during the race made the #4 car drop back to 35th position. In the second half of the race Lapierre, Panis and Duval were able to show the competitive spirit of ORECA to fight its way back to a fourth position at the finish line.
In the 1000 km of Spa Team ORECA Matmut proved again it will be a force to be reckoned with for Le Mans by qualifying in fourth position, beating two factory Audi's and one of the factory Peugeot teams. The race which had to be used as final preparation for Le Mans ended however very in tears when Olivier Panis was hit by a competitor in Eau Rouge and crashed his car heavily after only having competed four laps.
Even though the race results were far behind the teams expectations, Team ORECA Matmut has proven to be able to get most of the potential out of their Peugeot. Compared to Peugeots factory team, ORECA might not have as much funding, staff or a large hospitality unit at the track, but if luck is on their side the team will certainly give the big factory teams a run for the money.