no. 35, Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez were 4th quickest, while in no. 45 David Cheng, Jacques Nicolet and Keiko Ihara ended the session in 9th place.
The Shanghai 6-Hours race, the second-last round of the 2013 season, has all the makings of a decisive rendezvous for OAK Racing battling for the LM P2 Drivers’ and Teams’ Championship titles. Qualifying was as hotly-contested as ever in LM P2 and Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson clinched second place in the category. In no. 35, Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez were fourth quickest, while in no. 45 David Cheng, Jacques Nicolet and Keiko Ihara ended the session in ninth place.
The Shanghai 6-Hours race differs from the other WEC rounds as it is packed into two days, so Friday was very busy with two free sessions followed by qualifying. During free practice the nine OAK Racing drivers in their three cars had two aims, namely: to find the optimum setup for the Morgan-Nissan LM P2s on Dunlop tyres, and also to enable the newcomers to find their marks on the Chinese circuit. Both sessions went off without a hitch for the Sarthe-based team and Baguette-Plowman-Gonzalez topped the time sheets during the second one!
They were relayed by Brundle in no. 24, Plowman in no. 35 and Ihara in no. 45. Once again the gaps were tiny and the positions kept evolving as the two men and the young woman driver confirmed the excellent performances of their team-mates. Thus, no. 24 qualified in second place in front of no. 35, which is leading the LM P2 drivers’ and teams’ classifications, in fourth position. No. 45 in the colours of Total and the OAK Racing Costa Art car was ninth fastest.
Sébastien Philippe, Team principal: “In terms of results it was a satisfactory qualifying session as with second and fourth places we’re in a good position for this long race. On the other hand, in terms of sheer performance G-Drive Racing is in front of us for the moment. So we’ll have to work hard to find the right solutions. David Cheng did a good job in his first qualifying session in the world championship, and I think he enjoyed himself like Keiko Ihara.”
Olivier Pla, no. 24 Morgan-Nissan LM P2: “I had a few little niggles on my two flying laps. On the first one I had some engine cutouts when changing gear. I managed to solve the problem by disconnecting the traction control on the second lap, but it made qualifying a bit more complicated. Alex then did a fantastic job and it’s great starting in second place even though it’ll be a long event. We can still improve the car for the race and we can achieve a really good result.”
Bertrand Baguette no. 35 Morgan-Nissan LM P2: ” We made solid progress since free practice and overall it was a pretty good qualifying session. The track was quicker than in practice. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, in particular in terms of managing our Dunlop tyres. First of all, we’ve got to make a good start and then aim to score the maximum number of points in the championship.”
David Cheng no. 45 Morgan –Nissan LM P2: ”Qualifying was a ding-dong battle! The level in the WEC is very high. Keiko and I can be satisfied with what we did even if we would have liked to have had a bit more track time. It was a big challenge and we improved our times in each session, which was the main objective. Together with Jacques Nicolet we form evenly-matched driver line-up, which is important for a six-hour race. First of all, we’ve got to bring the car home to the finish and continue to progress as we’ve been doing. I have to find out how the Dunlop tyres behave and how to look after them. It’s going to be an interesting race.”