Top 5 after the perfect race
ORECA 01 No 11, finished fifth, mixing with the manufacturer teams
Less then two months after its first testing miles, the ORECA 01 finished the Le Mans 24 Hours at its first attempt - conquering its very own Mount Everest.
Olivier Panis, Nicolas Lapierre and Soheil Ayari enjoyed a perfect race in the No 11 car, taking the chequered flag in fifth place. The perfect ending for the legendary race around the clock...despite the presence on the grid of nine nine factory-backed diesel-engined prototypes. Thanks to perfect reliability, ORECA's first 100% designed and built prototype, ended the race with over 5000km on the clock. Is there a better way of demonstrating the qualities of this LMP1 sports car, which has been developed in less than a year?
Hugues de Chaunac and his team's wise race strategy was to remain careful, stay out of trouble and spend as little time as possible in the pits. The ORECA 01 did exactly that. The brilliant work achieved by Panis, Lapierre and Ayari helped to overcome the disappointment of the sister car, the No 10 driven by Bruno Senna, Stephane Ortelli and Tiago Monteiro. This clearly demonstrated its potential but after three incidents the team was forced to retire the car after 15 hours.
After taking the first steps in 2008, Team ORECA-Matmut-AIM moved up to the next level: ending the race as the highest-placed petrol-powered car.
The two ORECA 01s started side by side on the eighth row of the grid. They got off to a good start and quickly moved up towards the top 10. In the second hour the No.11 car pitted briefly to remove a rubber lining on the throttle pedal, and car No.10 had a spin at Tertre Rouge. The two cars were split up after that.
For the next 22 hours the No.11 ran like clockwork. Panis, Lapierre and Ayari took turns doing triples stints... while staying under control in order to preserve the car, while at the same time improving the performance all the time. The mechanics were only needed to change tyres and refuelling. Early in the morning the three drivers upped the pace and slowly moved into the top five. From the 16th hour onwards, they were among the frontrunners. The No.11 stopped in the 19th hour for precautionary changes of the brakes pads and the extractors.
Olivier, Nicolas and Soheil kept up the pace all the way and were able to resist the attacks of No.7 Peugeot to finish fifth.
After hour 16, they never left the front runners. No.11 was in the garage for just one short moment: for a precautionary intervention (changing the extractor and brakes pads during hour 19). The No.10 car had a more difficult race. Senna, Ortelli and Monteiro. The first accident occurred just before the end of the second hour at Tertre Rouge. Repairs were made and the car went back out in 23th place. The three drivers then battled back to 12th but at 00.23 suffered a second accident at Maison Blanche. Repairs were completed in record time, just 20 minutes being needed to change the spitter, the front and rear bodywork, the undertray and the rear axle! Having falling back to 21st position the drivers attacked again and were back up to 14th when the car was involved in a collision at the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight. After assessing the rear-end damage the ORECA- Matmut-AIM team decided to retire the car.