Team ORECA-Matmut race report

Honda 12 Hours

Team ORECA-Matmut wins 12 Hours of Sebring !
Nicolas Lapierre, Loïc Duval et Olivier Panis win the legendary Floridian event with the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP.

Class winners podium: P1 and overall winners Nicolas Lapierre, Loic Duval and Olivier Panis celebrate with Hugues de Chaunac
Class winners podium: P1 and overall winners Nicolas Lapierre, Loic Duval and Olivier Panis celebrate with Hugues de Chaunac

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Team ORECA-Matmut loves racing in America and the feeling is mutual. In 2000, in its last participation in the 12 Hours of Sebring, the team finished 1-2-3 in GTS. Hugues de Chaunac’s team returned to Florida in the best possible way: overall victory for Nicolas Lapierre, Loïc Duval et Olivier Panis. The No. 10 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP – carrying the message “I Love U.S. Racing” crossed the finish line first, in front of the Highcroft Racing Honda and the No. 8 Team Peugeot-Total Peugeot 908 with Audi Sport completing the top five.

Nicolas, Loïc, Olivier and the rest of the team realised an excellent performance to win an animated 59th edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring. Firstly, the drivers completed a flawless race, avoiding problems with traffic while mixing quickness and consistency. For their part, the mechanics were among the quickest on pitlane. And finally, the engineers knew when to make opportune decisions at key moments in the race. To end the day, Team ORECA-Matmut is enjoying the fruits of their labour over the course of the week and notch another historic victory in America along with the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2000.

Racing action. Fifth in qualifying, the Team ORECA-Matmut got a good start. While the two factory Peugeot 908s are leading, Nicolas Lapierre follows the No. 1 Audi’s rhythm. He takes over fourth place after two flat tyres for the R15. Loic Duval takes over at the controls and reaches third place in the second hour. At Olivier Panis’ turn, the team is forced to pit twice when the safety car comes out, as the rules oblige. Now in fifth, the No. 10 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP slips into third when two of the leading cars are involved in an incident during the fifth hour.

As the safety car periods get more frequent, strategy becomes more and more important. Team ORECA-Matmut manages these periods well and briefly takes first place before the halfway point. During the last quarter of the race, the French trio elevated the rhythm and the lead is swapped several times between the No. 8 Peugeot and No. 1 Honda. The gaps are reduced between the three prototypes, all on different pit strategies. At the start of the tenth hour, Loic Duval consolidates his lead after the No. 8 Peugeot makes a stop.

Nicolas Lapierre then takes the controls for the third time, fighting to increase the lead over the No. 1 Honda before making a splash and go. The gamble pays off and after a final stint from Loic Duval, the Team ORECA-Matmut wins the 12 Hours of Sebring in the Florida night!

Hugues de Chaunac, President of Groupe ORECA: “It‟s a historical result! We built this victory step by step. We finished ahead of three factory teams and the drivers and team were perfect. I had asked them to be quick and make no mistakes: it wasn‟t easy, but they did it! We were able to count on a car – the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP – that‟s competitive and reliable. I‟m very pround of Nicolas, Loic, Olivier and the rest of the team. The engineers made the right decisions, including the last „splash‟ that was done at the right moment. Really, it was a perfect race. We weren‟t the favourites, but we are the winners. It‟s awesome!”

Nicolas Lapierre, winner of the 2011 Sebring 12 Hours: “It‟s a heck of a victory! After qualifying, we didn‟t expect to be so good in the race. Our strategy was to stay on the lead lap until the last quarter of the race. It went well, notably because of the good work from the team, and afterwards we attacked. The last laps were simply nerve-racking! The team really deserves this win…It‟s a very special victory and the first for me at such a legendary endurance race.”

Loïc Duval, winner of the 2011 Sebring 12 Hours: “We attacked a lot: at the beginning, we probably had more difficulties with the traffic than others, but we had a good rhythm. When it was time to start my last stint, I was really stressing. To be honest, I hadn‟t imagined that I would be in that position! With ten laps to go, things got better: I wasn‟t taking any risks and I knew it was going to happen. I still don‟t believe what‟s happened! I think we did something big and it will sink in during the coming days. And to share in this victory with the team and my teammates, it‟s great.“

Olivier Panis, winner of the 2011 Sebring 12 Hours: “I’ve won before with the Team ORECA-Matmut, but this time it’s not the same. We had a great car in the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. It’s a great reward for everyone. I’d like to thank Hugues, the crew and my teammates, who were excellent. Sebring will stay an important moment in my career. Now, we need to continue working to arrive ready at Spa and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This first place, we didn’t luck into it, we went to get it!” David Floury, Technical Director Team ORECA-Matmut: “I hope this victory is more a step rather than an end in itself. But what a great step it is! We did it with finesse and panache. We had to come through and the whole team did just that. The drivers were excellent, as were the mechanics who were the best today. We tried to optimize the strategy. We struggled with the first and third safety car periods, but we worked well afterward. The team deserves this victory.”

-source: team oreca-matmut

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Olivier Panis , Nicolas Lapierre , Eric Gilbert , Loic Duval , Hugues de Chaunac
Tags alms, matmut, sebring oreca