KCMG's FIA WEC driver Matt Howson spoke exclusively to Motorsport.com after three days of testing the new ORECA 05 LMP2 cars.
He and teammate Richard Bradley completed over 200 laps during the three-day test at Paul Ricard, the first of which saw Stephane Sarrazin put an initial 500kms of running on the car.
The Frenchman set the best time during this running with a 1:47.9 lap on Monday afternoon.
Howson discussed the test with Sam Smith just after completing the final laps last night.
It must have been a very busy few days for you and the team?
"Yes. The car was in a heavy state of build on the run up to the test and both the ORECA and KCMG guys did a storming job to get the car in a state of readiness for Monday. They put some serious shifts in. We have a really close collaboration with ORECA and our guys have been here for a while including our engineer (ex-Williams and Arrows F1 engineer – Greg Wheeler).
"Also, to have the designer of the car – David Floury there working so intensively with us, along with someone of the calibre of Stephane Sarrazin too is a massive boost and a great way to start the development."
What was the program over the last few days?
"After Stephane did the initial shakedown and systems checks on Monday, Richard (Bradley) and I got behind the wheel and started the team development. Ricard is obviously a natural track to do some good aero evaluation and a good opportunity to get some aero-performance data.
"But we also did some long runs as well. At the 'Prologue' test we will be limited a little more because we will have the race engine installed, so this week it has been a good time to do some 'stint simulations'.
"The reliability has been fantastic on the car. It will be homologated very soon so really what we had at the test was what we will have all season from a bodywork perspective."
"We didn't do any qualifying simulations but we did use new tyres and did some simulated race stints. ORECA provided the car with a base set-up and then we worked through different tyre compounds, brake-discs, exploring the power steering settings, traction control, etc. It was a very productive test for us."
How did you find the change from an open cockpit LMP2 to a coupe?
"Stephane (Sarrazin) immediately commented on the good quality of view from the cockpit which was a good sign. For Richard and I, it was a change but we soon got used to it, especially as it is left hand drive and you stare straight at the carbon fibre 'A-pillar' when you turn left, but you get familiar with it very quickly.
"With regard to driver changes, we took the opportunity to try some out but we will do this more intensively at the Prologue test later this month. I didn't notice anything that will make a difference time wise in the driver changes and in fact it might even work out better for us because of the drivers' position in the actual cockpit."
What will be the aims and objectives for the Prologue test?
"We'll have Nick (Tandy) with us and possibly another driver as well because Nick is obviously doing Spa and Le Mans with Porsche. We will optimise the set-ups; find out more on specific areas of where the downforce works best on the car. So generally there will be lots to do but we have to counter that a little with the engine mileage. On the whole the ORECA 05 is a massive step forward for us this year."