OAK Racing in contention as Le Mans qualifying concludes OAK Racing Team Mazda France will line up 5th and 8th on the LMP2 grid for this year's Le Mans 24 Hours following two rain-interrupted final qualifying sessions on Thursday...
OAK Racing in contention as Le Mans qualifying concludes
OAK Racing Team Mazda France will line up 5th and 8th on the LMP2 grid for this year's Le Mans 24 Hours following two rain-interrupted final qualifying sessions on Thursday evening.
Heavy rain fell ahead of the day's first session and even though times tumbled dramatically throughout as the track dried, neither the #35 Pescarolo-Judd of Matthieu Lahaye, Guillaume Moreau and Jan Charouz, or the sister #24 car driven by Jacques Nicolet, Richard Hein and Jean-Francois Yvon could improve on Wednesday's provisional best laps.
Indeed, it took nearly 30 minutes of night-time running in the third and final session before either crew bettered their own benchmarks, Lahaye setting a 3m41.310s and Hein a 3m52.008s which could have been quicker had he not encountered traffic.
A sprinkling of rain soon after put paid to further quick-fire runs. Unfortunately, an electrical fault for the #24 Pescarolo forced Yvon to stop out on track with 40 minutes of the session remaining, his crew's work over for the evening.
OAK Racing's approach throughout all three qualifying sessions has been to find an optimum race set-up instead of one-lap supremacy, a strategy that has yielded consecutive podium finishes at the world's toughest endurance race over the past two years. Despite this, Team Manager Francois Sicard was pleased with the car's raw pace in comparison to their rivals.
Francois Sicard, Team Manager: "The track was much better at the start of the second session so we sent Richard out with new tyres and he would have improved further had he not been blocked. We were hoping for a lap below 3m50s but had to make do with a 3m52s. Traffic is an integral part of Le Mans though.
"On the #35 car we had some small telemetry problems which cost us a bit of time in the first session. Then, at the start of the second, we sent Matthieu out on new tyres and he managed a great time. On his second run the rain began to fall which made the section from Dunlop Bridge to Tertre Rouge very slippery. I'm sure without that we could have beaten the Zytek and been the first non-HPD entry. I'm happy we showed we were competitive even though the start isn't that important at Le Mans.
"Guillaume is feeling much better and full of enthusiasm after suffering from the flu yesterday. Jan also did a great job and has integrated himself well in the team. He is very quick and helps form a formidable trio."
Matthieu Lahaye: "I am happy as we improved the lap time by one second tonight and managed to get ahead of Olivier Pla in the Quifel ASM Zytek before he set a better time. I was getting ready for the second set of tyres but it started to rain in the first sector so we could not improve. It isn't super important but it would have been great to out-qualify the Zytek and be the first non-HPD car. We know what we have to do and will maintain our rhythm in the race. We will be right there if our rivals hit trouble and have a great chance to score a strong result. I can't wait for Sunday night."
Richard Hein: "I was waiting to take over from Jean-Francois and go out with another set of qualifying tyres to set a fast time when the car failed to make it back. I only completed three laps at the beginning and the plan was to do further running at the end in an effort to improve the time. It's not that bad as the race is very long but I felt capable of going quicker. But it's better to have this sort of problem now than during the race. It looks like a general electric failure which has never happened in three years."
Although the team will not hit the track again until Saturday's morning warm-up, all six drivers will be present in Le Mans' town centre today for the traditional Drivers Parade.
-source: oak racing