Team ORECA-Matmut: A long road back to the top 10
Fourth at the start, Nicolas Lapierre, Loïc Duval and Olivier Panis finish tenth after coming back from the 46th place.
Leaders of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup after its victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Team ORECA-Matmut finished tenth in the second round, the 1000km of Spa- Francorchamps. After settling into seventh place, the #10 Peugeot HDi FAP lost seven laps because of a fuel pump problem. Rejoining the action in 46th position, Nicolas Lapierre, Loïc Duval and Olivier Panis pushed to climb back up the running order. The race was won by Peugeot Sport Total, who finish in the top two places with its new Peugeot 908.
In the Belgian Ardennes, Team ORECA-Matmut had several different missions to accomplish – preparing for Le Mans was the primary objective, without hurting the car. This goal was met, as the trio had a convincing showing which could have put them further up in the leaderboard, behind the three official Peugeot 908s and Audi R18s. These 1000km of Spa, run over six hours, was an opportunity for teams to rehearse before the twice around the clock classic in la Sarthe: traffic management for the drivers, who managed this well, pitstops and strategy on the part of the technical team. At the end, a positive result considering these points despite the disappointment of the 10th place finish.
Fourth on the grid, Loïc Duval is held up slightly by an Audi at the La Source hairpin. Sixth after the first corner, he manages to regain fourth place by the end of the first lap. After the official Peugeot 908s have made their way up the running order, the Team ORECA- Matmut runs in 7th place. Loïc begins his second stint but is forced to pit after a fuel pump problem is discovered. Olivier Panis gets behind the wheel and rejoins the action 7 laps behind the leader. He pushes during his double stint and moves from the 46th position to 20th, despite being helped into a spin by a competitor. Nicolas Lapierre takes his turn during the only safety car period, shortly before the halfway point. He continues to push, avoiding any problems to reach the top 10. Loïc retakes the controls for a double stint: he maintains a good rhythm while being careful in traffic. The #10 Peugeot HDi FAP takes the chequered flag in 10th place.
Hugues de Chaunac, President of Groupe ORECA: “It’s a frustrating result. The team did a very good job, as did the drivers. Taking into account what happened, we could have been in the top 5. Reliability is key, we saw this at Sebring and it’s the same here. We know we’ll have to have a flawless race at Le Mans, at all levels. If this is the case, we’ll play a part. Congratulations to Peugeot Sport for its maiden victory with the 908.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “We couldn’t go get the three Peugeot 908s and three Audi R18s. We could have maybe put a little pressure, but we don’t need to be ashamed of the race we ran. The three drivers we close in speed, which is good for Le Mans. We want to prepare well for Le Mans and it would have been even better if we had finished a little higher in the order. I attacked in order to gain some points for the ILMC, but it wasn’t easy to catch the other LMP1 cars.”
Loïc Duval : “My start was pretty good, but the Audis muscled their way through. I was unable to brake like I wanted to and lost two places. The car was pretty complicated to drive. It got better, and I found a good rhythm. Then our objective was to continue lapping the track in preparation for Le Mans. We’re coming away with good information, especially in terms of the tyres.”
Olivier Panis : “Generally speaking, I had a good double stint. Despite our problem, the team stayed focused and, as always, did a good job. The Peugeot 908 HDi FAP was handling well, and only the traffic was difficult to handle. I did my best, and the rhythm was pretty good. I was hit by another competitor – these are things that happen and I didn’t lose too much time. It was a preparation for Le Mans and this allowed me to find my marks especially considering I was not at the Test Day.”
David Floury, Technical Director, Team ORECA-Matmut: “We met 50% of our goals today, in that we prepared for Le Mans while conserving the car. That was the main goal. Without that issue, we could have been in fifth, even fourth place. The drivers and team were flawless and that’s the big positive. Bravo to Peugeot Sport, who had a good top two result. Bravo as well to TDS Racing and Boutsen Energy Racing who gave an LMP2 win and podium finish to the ORECA 03.”
-source: team oreca-matmut