After a double podium finish on Saturday for the European Le Mans Series debut, the ORECA 03 started its FIA World Endurance Season with a well-deserved victory !
Authors of the pole position, G-Drive Racing by Delta-ADR took the LM P2 class win with drivers Antonio Pizzonia, Tor Graves and James Walker.
The two other ORECA 03 chassis, powered by the Nissan V8 prepared in the ORECA workshops at Magny-Cours, showed their competitiveness.
After experiencing a difficult start to the race, Pecom Racing claimed on the third step of the podium. The second G-Drive Racing by Delta-ADR car led the first two hours of the race before falling victim to an accident, but also signed the fastest race lap.
After taking pole position the day before, the G-Drive Racing by Delta-ADR No. 25 ORECA 03 holds the lead from the start.
Behind the wheel, Antonio Pizzonia attempts to widen the gap between himself and his adversaries, while the No. 49 Pecome Racing ORECA 03 makes contact with a competitor on the fifth lap.
The Argentinian team rejoins the race three laps down. The sister Delta-ADR car, the No. 26, is on the attack to secure second place : after a great battle with the No. 24 Morgan, Mike Conway makes it stick after 40 minutes of racing.
The strategies differ starting with the first round of pit stops. Four after the pit stop, the No. 26 ORECA 03, with fresh tyres, passes two Morgans in one lap, before taking the upper hand on the No. 25 ORECA 03 in the middle of the second hour.
At the controls, John Martin pushes to winden the gap, which reaches up to a full minute in the second third of the race. Unfortunately, the rain makes its arrival and the Australian is caught off guard by the changing conditions. The accident costs him five laps.
At the halfway point, G-Drive Racing by Delta-ADR leads the event as the No. 25 enjoys a minute’s lead on second place. After Antonio Pizzonia, it’s up to Tor Graves and James Walker who have solid stints to keep the car in first place.
Meanwhile, and as the No. 26 loses time after making contact with a slower GT, the Pecom Racing ORECA 03 is on a mission to gain positions.
The trio Perez Companc/Kaffer/Minassian rejoins the top five during the fourth hour, and even the third position as the last hour of racing comes into view.
The running order is shuffled with the last pit stops but G-Drive Racing by Delta-ADR never falters and takes the win with the ORECA 03 driven by Pizzonia/Graves/Walker.
Pecom Racing comes home with the third place of the podium after a post-race penalty for the No. 41 Zytek, while the Martin/Conway/Rusinov trio finishes seventh, with the fastest lap of the race.
Hugues de Chaunac, ORECA Group President: "Bravo to G-Drive Racing by Delta-ADR who begin their season perfectly with a superb victory ! Already last year, Simon Dowson’s team won at Silverstone.
Once again they had a great performance, with the No. 25 driving squad running a flawless race. In all conditions, the ORECA 03 showed its performance this weekend, with the fastest lap of the race to prove it.
Add to that good reliability, and this top step of the podium is a real satisfying achievement and confirms the objective set by our various teams : win the LM P2 title in the FIA World Endurance Championship."
Simon Dowson (Team Manager G-Drive Racing by Delta-ADR, ORECA 03-Nissan No.25), 1st LM P2 : "It’s a great way to start the season.
During the first pit stop we decided to follow two different strategies : I don’t know if it was the best choice, but we certainly made the right call when the race arrived.
It’s a shame that the No. 26 fell victim to an off-track accident : we were in a position to finish 1-2. On paper, we know we have two driver lineups that are capable of winning. We confirmed that today.
We also showed that our ORECA-Nissan-Dunlop package will allow us to fight for the series title. With the pole, fastest lap and win, it was a positive weekend."