OAK Racing in the hunt after opening day's play OAK Racing Team Mazda France's quest for a third consecutive Le Mans 24 Hours podium kicked off at La Sarthe yesterday where the team got its first taste of this year's ...
OAK Racing in the hunt after opening day's play
OAK Racing Team Mazda France's quest for a third consecutive Le Mans 24 Hours podium kicked off at La Sarthe yesterday where the team got its first taste of this year's twice-round-the-clock enduro.
The squad, currently in fine form coming off the back of successive podiums in this season's opening two Le Mans Series rounds, ended last night's first two-hour qualifying session fourth and seventh in the LMP2 class.
In a multiple red-flag interrupted session, the #35 Pescarolo Judd of Guillaume Moreau, Matthieu Lahaye and Jan Charouz did well to post their best time early on when the track was at its quietest. Indeed, Lahaye's 3m42.399s personal best was just 0.4sec shy of reigning LMS champions Quifel-ASM and over two seconds faster than the much fancied HPD-powered RML squad.
Meanwhile, the #24 entry of Jacques Nicolet, Richard Hein and Jean-Francois Yvon also enjoyed a trouble-free session, each completing the three mandatory night laps required by all drivers hoping to contest this weekend's race.
Times and positions remain provisional at this stage thanks to the two remaining sessions this evening which, weather permitting, could alter Saturday's grid. Regardless of conditions however, the team will continue to focus solely on developing a strong race set-up beneficial over 24 hours instead of an ultimate qualifying pace.
Francois Sicard, Team Manager: Last night was a good session because the two cars completed nearly 800km each. As it was dry, and not wet as expected, we were able to gather a lot of data. The drivers enjoyed it too but we have a straight-line speed deficit compared to the HPD cars which is crucial at Le Mans. We knew they would be quick and that was confirmed. Overall the cars worked very well, although there's a small worry for Guillaume who has the flu. We lightened his workload, got the night qualifying laps completed and sent him back to bed. There's another two sessions today when we'll work on reducing drag, but our development will still be aimed at finding the optimum race set-up, not qualifying trim."
Matthieu Lahaye: "I'm very happy with the way last night went. The basic set-up was good and we only need to fine-tune the aero settings to improve our straight line performance. The weather was also helpful; we completed a lot of dry mileage even though the forecast was for wet running. The early indications suggest that we've made a lot of progress since last season."
Jan Charouz: "The car and team are great. The first session went well but we're definitely a bit down on power compared to the HPD runners who were very strong. It's a little bit different to the single seaters I've been driving so far this season but I think it's easier this way round than vice versa."
Jacques Nicolet: "I'm very happy with the car's balance and performance and would like to thank the team as it's exactly the car we need at Le Mans; efficient and comfortable to drive. Like a lot of drivers, I didn't do as many laps as I wanted due to red flags but there's another four hours of running today so there's plenty more opportunity."
Richard Hein: "The circuit is as fabulous as ever! When you first come out of the pits you don't remember how good it is. I didn't get much time during practice due to the red flags but at least completed my mandatory qualifying laps. Obviously I'd have liked a few more but it was important to boost Jean-Francois' running. Apart from that, everything is perfect."
Jean-Francois Yvon: "I was a bit concerned at the beginning because I got a lot of pick-up on the tyres and found the car difficult to drive as it was sliding. Then, at night, the team gave me a different set and the car was perfect so I could settle in."
Qualifying two gets underway at 7pm local time today before a final chance to improve comes at 10pm.
-source: oak racing