Team ORECA-Matmut: So close to the podium... The No.4 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP battle for a podium position in the 24 Hours of Le Mans until 80 minutes from the finish... The drivers were among the quickest on track, authors of the fastest lap of...
Team ORECA-Matmut: So close to the podium...
The No.4 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP battle for a podium position in the 24 Hours of Le Mans until 80 minutes from the finish...
The drivers were among the quickest on track, authors of the fastest lap of the race!
Olivier Quesnel had said it: Team ORECA-Matmut represented 25% of Peugeot's chances at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team showed that it was worthy of the confidence shown by the Peugeot Sport Director: the No.4 was the last 908 HDi FAP on track. Until about 1:15 to go until the checkered flag, the podium was possible for Olivier Panis, Nicolas Lapierre and Loïc Duval. The dream was close to reality until the No.4 was forced to stop for good at Arnage.
Since 3 p.m. on Saturday, the team has experienced all the emotions. From satisfaction at the start, seeing the Peugeot closely follow the lead cars, to joy, when the 908 HDi FAP slid onto a provisional podium spot in the third hour. Then there was disappointment, during a transmission problem at mid- race. But, far from giving up, Olivier, Nicolas and Loïc rejoined the race with a fight to climb the leaderboard into fourth place. A fantastic duel was forming between the No.4 and the No.7 Audi. At this point, the podium was possible, especially when Loïc set the fastest lap of the race at 3:19.074 and was only eight seconds behind when the terminal problem was encountered. Against Audi and alongside Peugeot Sport, the Team ORECA-Matmut proved itself. And although disappointment was obvious at the end, the team and its drivers proved that they have the ability to fight with the big boys.
Race recap. After qualifying in fourth place, Nicolas Lapierre held on to his position despite pressure from the Audi No.7 at the start. He then follows the pace set by the three leading Peugeots. After a quick spin behind the safety car that forces the team to shift their strategy, the 908 HDi FAP No.4 remains in fourth place. The No.4 slides into third place after problems for the No.3 Peugeot. Still on pace with the leaders, the Panis/Lapierre/Duval trio gain another position to find second place before the first third of the race is complete. The car would run in this place until about mid-race when, as the No.4 is only 1:10 from the lead car, the ORECA-Matmut Peugeot is forced to pit: a change of the right rear assembly after a transmission problem.
After 13 minutes, the Lion rejoins the race almost five laps behind. Olivier, Nicolas and Loïc begin a superb comeback, as they are among the fastest on track. They reach sixth place during the 13th hour and find fifth position at the start of the 20th hour. Then they set their sights on the No.7 Audi. From two minutes, the gap is reduced to one minute. However the gap grows again after a safety car period, but the drivers don't give up. They continue their attack, and the gap to the Audi goes from more than two minutes to less than 50 seconds, with three hours to go! Nicolas and Loïc continue at qualifying pace until they sign the fastest lap of the race. Only eight seconds behind with 80 minutes to go in the race and the podium is possible. But in the 373rd lap, with 1:15 to go, the Team ORECA-Matmut Peugeot stops at Arnage with engine trouble.
Hugues de Chaunac, President of ORECA Group: "It was a bitter disappointment. After a superb performance, we were headed toward the podium. We were in second place for a long time before the transmission problem. Then we came back at a blazing pace to catch the Audi. We feel like we passed so close to the podium and it hurts. This disappointment is partly offset by the great race from the ORECA 01: our in-house built and designed prototype finished fourth overall and first in the petrol-powered cars."
David Floury, Technical Director: "First, I feel a great sadness for Peugeot Sport. They worked very hard to have such a competitive car. They didn't deserve this. That's the race and that's what makes Le Mans. That's why a good result is so special when we get it. On Wednesday, we made a small mistake, but we were able to regroup and that's what I remember as it was not easy. The team was perfect, as were the drivers. We showed that we are able to fight with the big boys."
Olivier Panis: "Unfortunately that's racing. It's the magic of Le Mans, and also the difficulty of Le Mans. During the whole race, we were fighting for the podium. ORECA proved what it was capable of. The team and engineers did a great job and the drivers were awesome. We are just missing the result. It's not just for us that it is difficult."
Nicolas Lapierre: "What to say? The team did a very good job. We said we'd be in the fight, and we showed it from the start to the end. Without the transmission problem, we would have been fighting for the win. ORECA performed perfectly and nobody should have regrets. We deserved the podium. To stop in this fashion, with 1:15 to go, is infuriating and hard to swallow. I think we made an impression, more so than people thought we would."
Loïc Duval: " I think we can only be fatalistic: when it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be. The team had a perfect weekend as well as the driving squad. I think we ran a really good race and that's why this disappointment is so bitter. There was the disappointment with the transmission problem, but to end our hopes after having fought so hard to catch the Audi, it's cruel. From another perspective, it will remain a strong moment. Fighting so hard, so close to the finish, it's rich in emotions. I hope we will come back as strong in 2011, and that we'll win it!
Nicolas Lapierre : " Quoi dire ? Le team a fait du très bon boulot. Nous avions dit que nous serions dans le coup, nous l'avons montre du debut à la fin. Sans le problème de transmission, nous nous serions battus pour la victoire. ORECA a ete parfait dans l'exploitation et personne n'a rien à se reprocher. On meritait le podium. S'arrêter de cette manière, à 1h15 de la fin, c'est rageant et très difficile à avaler. Je pense que nous avons marque les esprits. Plus que ce qu'imaginaient les gens. "