Cameron Curwood, WEC correspondent
The new 2012 challenger by ORECA, the ORECA 03 '2012', completed its debut test runs over two days this week, with Soheil Ayari driving on both Thursday and Friday at the Paul Ricard circuit in France. The ORECA 03 will be run by several teams in the LMP2 category of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the FIA World Endurance Championship and the European Le Man series in 2012.
Over the two days the ORECA development team tested aerodynamic configurations, traction control, the engine management system, and the suspension, among other mechanical improvements.
"The tests were very positive," said David Floury, the technical director of Groupe ORECA. "We obtained good results on all levels. They are what we were expecting: it's nice to confirm a theory in practice," he said, on validation of their off-season studies.
In a global sense, the car actually improved from last year.
Ayari, the former Formula 3000 winner and Le Mans veteran driver also seemed happy with the tests. "The car immediately handled well," he said. "Despite the constant changes to the rules, the car is still very balanced, with a very stable aerodynamic package. In a global sense, the car actually improved from last year. The ORECA 03 still has its intrinsic qualities: it's very quick in the fast corners. I spent a lot of time behind the wheel. The two days were productive and it was a great pleasure!"
Ayari, and the ORECA 03 '2012' was not alone on the track. The 03's sister car, the ORECA-FML09 used in the Le Mans Prototype Challenge series was also on track, as well as three ORECA 03's used by customer teams ADR-Delta, Pecom Racing and Thirlet by TDS Racing.
"To be side by side with the three teams during their first steps with the 2012 configuration was a good thing," said Floury. "This allows us to exchange a maximum of information and give advice if needed. All the teams are close in performance. This is what we were hoping for so we are satisfied. This test allows us to go into the season with a lot of motivation."
The 2012 European Le Mans season begins April 1 at the Paul Ricard circuit, while the FIA World Endurance Championship begins March 17th in Sebring, Florida, USA. The 24 Hours of Le Mans takes place June 16-17.