The OAK Racing Morgan LM P2s, nos 24, 35 and 45 came home in second, fourth and sixth places in the Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hours giving no. 24 another great top-3 finish in the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
He held on to first place until his first pitstop. Nicolas Minassian in no. 49 had just gone into the lead when the race was neutralised by the deployment of the safety car after no. 25 entered by ADR Delta went off in the Raidillon. No. 24 was unlucky.
In keeping with the new regulations the safety car came out just behind the car leading the overall classification, the no. 1 Audi, which was between no. 49 and no. 24. This meant that no. 49 could close the gap separating it from the field and no.
24 at high speed. This transformed its 8-second lead into almost 2 minutes! Despite the fantastic efforts of Pla’s two team-mates, David Heinemeier Hansson from Denmark and Englishman Alex Brundle, they were never able to make up the time lost and the three drivers had to be content with second place behind Pecom Racing.
In the sister car no. 35 driven by Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez, local lad Baguette took the start and kept the car in the top 5 during his double stint.
Unfortunately, Gonzalez tagged the Strakka Racing LM P1 and he had to pit to have the splitter and front bonnet replaced, which prevented the drivers from fighting for a podium finish. They saw the flag in fourth place.
The two gentlemen drivers drove a consistent race and had only one problem, an engine restart when the refuelling procedure wasn’t over sanctioned by a stop and go penalty. They finished in an encouraging sixth place in the category.
Sébastien Philippe, OAK Racing Team Principal: “Olivier Pla made a fantastic start and led the race in his first stint, but the deployment of the safety car did us no favours. Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson both drove brilliantly to close the gap of more than one-and-a-half minutes, which opened up. They almost made it as at the flag they were only around 12 seconds behind the winner!
“On no. 35 we’ll have to analyse the data and try to understand why the drivers managed to be very quick but not consistently. Ricardo Gonzalez’s collision lost us time in the pits, and despite the speed and the great work done by the mechanics the drivers weren’t able to make up the time lost.
“The two gentlemen drivers in no. 45 both drove a very clean race and made only one small mistake that cost them a stop and go. To finish sixth with only two guys in the car, and not maybe the youngest in the field, is a great achievement when you see the level of the driver line-ups in LM P2!
“Overall, the Morgan-Nissan LM P2 proved very quick and reliable, and even if we still have more work to do, in particular getting the best out of the tyres, we can tackle Le Mans with high hopes.”
Olivier Pla, no. 24 Morgan-Nissan LM P2: “We knew that winning at Spa would be very tricky, but we fulfilled our mission by scoring the highest possible number of points. On the other hand, I don’t find it normal to lose a lap after only an hour’s racing because of the deployment of the safety car. It turns the race into a lottery, which may make some people happy but ruins the race of others. Now, we’re going to concentrate on Le Mans where we were very strong last year with a car that’s ideally suited to the Sarthe circuit.”
Bertrand Baguette no. 35 Morgan-Nissan LM P2: “I really had a tough time during the first stint on qualifying tyres that were almost completely worn. With new tyres in the second stint we were able to fight our way back to the front. Unfortunately, Ricardo had a slight shunt that lost us time. Martin was very consistent. Personally speaking I really enjoyed myself in my last stint at the end of the race.
The times were very good and we set the fastest lap in LM P2, which is some small consolation. We’ll do better at Le Mans!”
Jean-Marc Merlin no. 45 Morgan-Nissan LM P2: “We reeled off the stints without a hitch. Jacques was very quick and consistent as usual. I did my best. At the end we were marginal on fuel and the team asked me to lift off to be certain to see the chequered flag. Three corners from the finish, I was told over the radio to let the Lotus past – which I did. I’m feeling in great form and that gives me confidence for Le Mans.”