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Category: World Endurance Championship

OAK RacingThe teams entered in the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship arrived at the Paul Ricard HTTT circuit in the south of France for a 2-day official test session (29-30 March) in view of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship.

OAK Racing brought along three Morgan-Nissan LM P2s (#24, #35 and #45), all of which are entered for the first three rounds of the World Endurance Championship. Overall, the damp weather provided difficult conditions for the twenty or so cars that turned up, and they did not manage to run through as many options as they would have wished. On the other hand, the weather gave the drivers the opportunity to race in fluctuating conditions before the start of the season with rain, a drying track and finally a dry layout. The sun put in an appearance on the final afternoon and this helped the French team to progress and prepare for the first race of the season. OAK Racing had a trouble-free test with no technical problems which, allied to the Morgan-Nissans’ pace, means that the team is tackling the first round of the championship, the 6 Hours of Silverstone, on April 14 in the best possible conditions.

During the first day Olivier Pla and Alex Brundle in #24 set the second-quickest time in the LM P2 category with a lap of 1m48.828s, only 0.3sec off the #25 Delta-ADR Oreca-Nissan. During the nighttime practice Pla topped the timesheets, although many teams including OAK Racing decided to cut short the session because of fog.

On Saturday morning Brundle set the quickest lap in LM P2 with a 1m48.070s to finish just in front of the #49 Pecom Racing Oreca-Nissan. In the afternoon #35 in the hands of Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez went even quicker to clinch the fastest time of the test thanks to a lap of 1m47.398s. That was followed by #24 in second with a 1m47.589s.

Sébastien Philippe, OAK Racing Team Principal: “We’ve had a very productive two days, maybe more so for the drivers than for the team as we were unable to validate as many technical options as we would have liked due to the weather conditions. In #24 Alex and Olivier tested various technical set-ups and they had a good run. In #35 the driver line-up’s learning the ropes and getting to know one another: there’s a good ambience between them and they exchanged a lot of information. I’m pleasantly surprised by #45: Jean-Marc Merlin doesn’t have much experience, but he adapted to the circuit very quickly like Philippe Mondolot who comes from VdeV, and who got to grips with the car in almost no time even if it was his first real outing in the Morgan. The times were pretty good and very consistent so we can look forward to Silverstone in a confident frame of mind.”

Alex Brundle, #24 Morgan-Nissan LM P2: “This test has been a positive one for us. Obviously every time we have been on tyres with representative mileage we have been very close to the pace or the pace, which is fantastic. I feel very at home in the car now thanks to the testing we have done. The sister car appears to be very competitive which is good for our own data and the analysis of the balance and the driving for the two cars. It is nice to get up and running, the car’s livery looks great this year and there is a happy team around us!”

Martin Plowman, #35 Morgan-Nissan LM P2: “It was a good two days’ testing. The conditions were not perfect with the weather changing so much but it is good experience for Silverstone because more than likely it will be bad there too. I do not think we were too focused on the performance of the lap times here. Everybody is doing something different so it is not a true test of speed. I think overall we ended the second day quite happy with the feeling of the car, which is the most important thing and gelling as a team. I am sure Silverstone will be exciting to see where we truly are.”

Jacques Nicolet, #45 Morgan-Nissan LM P2: “We’ve had two very encouraging days’ testing. Our driver line-up gelled very quickly and everybody immediately hit it off! Jean-Marc Merlin and Philippe Mondolot both know how to combine speed, safety and consistency and were on the pace despite the tricky track conditions – rain, cold, fog and sun! Overall, it was a faultless performance and that bodes well for the Le Mans 24 Hours. Personally speaking I got back in the groove and was able to maintain a good rhythm. I felt good in the car and very much at home with the new driver line-up.”

Photo by Philippe Laurenson/DPPI

Lotus teams up with Czech manufacturing company Praga and becomes Lotus Praga LMP2 in the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship.

The team will enter the series with two Lotus Praga T128 LMP2, powered by Praga engines. The whole project was developed jointly by Kodewa, Lotus, Gravity Charouz Racing and Praga, where the legendary Czech company Praga has a big appetite for success in other motorsport discipline. In recent years they have become the leading producer of go karts and besides excellent results in many national and international championships, they clearly demonstrated their position by winning the world champion title in the KZ1 class.

Lotus Praga LMP2 also signs Jan Charouz for FIA World Endurance Championship. The 25 year-old race driver from Prague (CZE) completes the line-up for car #32 and will race alongside German Thomas Holzer and Austrian Dominik Kraihamer.

Between 2010 and 2012, Charouz was official test and reserve driver for Lotus F1 Team. The Czech participated six times in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans and won the Le Mans Series in 2009 with the Aston Martin LMP1 works team.

Charouz already competed for Lotus in the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship and has proved that he is a talented driver. Together with his team mates in car #32, James Rossiter and Kevin Weeda, he started from LMP2 Pole Position into the 6 Hours of Shanghai.

Lotus bids welcome to Praga and Jan Charouz and is pleased about working with them throughout the whole season.

The 2013 FIA World Championship will be the second season for Lotus in endurance racing. The team will contest with two new Lotus T128 sports cars in the legendary black and gold colours. The squad will contest with a strong line-up, having former Formula One drivers, experienced and talented endurance racers in their own ranks.

The new season starts with the 6 Hours of Silverstone on Sunday, 14th April 2013.

OAK Racing, who are contesting the full 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship with their #24 and #35 Morgan Nissan LM P2s, will enter a third car in the opening three rounds. The #45 machine will be present at this week’s official WEC test at Paul Ricard (29/30 March) where Jacques Nicolet, Jean-Marc Merlin and Philippe Mondolot will all appear behind the wheel.

The strong gentleman driver line-up, which maintains the original ethos of the Le Mans 24 Hours, will see Nicolet and Merlin share the car at Silverstone and Spa before being joined by Mondolot at La Sarthe in June. With an average age of 54 the crew will be counting on their experience and consistency.

This will be OAK Racing President and ‘silver’ grade driver Nicolet’s seventh season of racing sports-prototypes having notched up a class podium at Le Mans and a further five top-threes in LM P2 throughout 2012.

Like Nicolet, Merlin came to sports-prototypes through historic racing, VdeV, Group C and Classic Endurance Racing, among others, before successfully competing in the modern Porsche Cup Asia, VdeV, Dubai and Spa 24 Hour races, and Formula Le Mans. He has been an active racing driver since 2000.

Meanwhile Mondolot might have only begun his competition career in 2004 but the driver from Nantes has already made a big impression by winning three consecutive VdeV Proto Endurance Challenge titles (2009, 2010 and 2011) and finishing as runner-up last season. He has already made a strong start to this year’s campaign after winning last weekend’s season-opening 6 Hours of Catalunya in Barcelona aboard a Norma M20 FC.

Sébastien Philippe, OAK Racing Team Principal: “This represents a very big challenge but also an opportunity for OAK Racing to run a trio of cars in the first three WEC races. For the ‘gentleman Morgan’ the key word is ‘fun’, although the team will manage the car and drivers in the same professional manner as our other two entries. The goal is to always have a good race and score the best possible result. Jean-Marc and Philippe are making their LM P2 debuts and have a lot to learn, but can count on their knowledge of other categories and a big asset in the form of Jacques, whose experience in this class will be invaluable. I’m sure there will be great moments ahead.”

Jean-Marc Merlin, #45 Morgan LM P2: “My passion for the Le Mans 24 Hours began at the age of 14 when a friend invited me to attend the 1978 race with his father François Servanin, a true gentleman driver who contested the event twelve times. My fascination with this race lead me to participate in every edition of the Le Mans Classic, which I won on corrected time in 2006, and over the years I’ve been able to drive some of the event’s most iconic cars. I love the human adventure of racing over 24 hours and have the great pleasure to share the occasion with my team-mates Philippe and Jacques. I cannot wait to fulfil my childhood dream by contributing to a genuine gentlemen driver crew at the 90th anniversary race.”

Philippe Mondolot, #45 Morgan LM P2: “I caught the motorsport bug in my childhood by regularly attending the Le Mans 24 Hours with my father, so this is a dream come true. I began by racing GTs, which seemed more accessible and are beautiful cars, as you can see on the road. But after tasting a prototype it would be difficult to backtrack! LM P2 is the logical conclusion. I can appreciate the great potential of the Morgan and my experience of CN prototypes will help me understand their driving style. However, the difference between going fast and very fast in these machines is a big step that I hope to achieve as successfully as possible.”

Jacques Nicolet, OAK Racing President and driver of the #45 Morgan LM P2: “I am very pleased to be contesting the Le Mans 24 Hours with a crew of gentlemen drivers who are passionate and effective. I also welcome the human experience aspect this adventure will provide alongside my team-mates Jean-Marc and Philippe, whose attitudes I appreciate as much as their driving abilities. We all share the same passion and enjoying ourselves is the main objective, albeit in the spirit of competition and with a desire to score the best possible results.”

The trio of gentleman drivers compliments OAK Racing’s pair of full-time Morgan LM P2 WEC entries that see Olivier Pla (FRA), Alex Brundle (GBR) and David Heinemeier Hansson (DEN) unite in the #24 car, and Bertrand Baguette (BEL), Martin Plowman (GBR) and Ricardo Gonzalez (MEX) sharing the #35. Both crews appear very competitive which, allied to the strong package of Morgan chassis, Nissan engine and Dunlop tyres – for whom OAK Racing has been selected as an official partner team for a fifth consecutive year – should allow them to fight for victory in the coming campaign.

Dominik Kraihamer is going to compete with Lotus in the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship. The 23-year-old Austrian will drive alongside German Thomas Holzer in the Lotus T128 sports car #32.

Kraihamer is a young and talented race driver, who has gained experience in FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and also at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. “Dodo”, as he is called by his friends and colleagues in the paddock, participated two times in the endurance classic at the Sarthe. However, he could not finish the race yet. At his third attempt at Le Mans, Kraihamer is keen on racing until the end with Lotus.

The aspiring young man from Salzburg (AUT) was already contesting in the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship and has proved that he is a fast and intelligent driver with great potential.

Lotus is pleased to team up with Dominik Kraihamer and is looking forward to working with him in the 2013 season.

Dominik Kraihamer commented: “I am extremely happy to compete with Lotus in FIA WEC this year and I am glad that this cooperation came into being with the help of my sponsor ‚Eat the Ball‘. Lotus is a myth in motor racing and especially for me as an Austrian, the history that Jochen Rindt used to have with the make inspires me. I followed the team last year and I am very pleased to work with such an experienced and professional squad throughout the whole season. I grew up in endurance racing and I know that team spirit is very important. I will give my best to help the team and I am looking forward to having those great results that I failed to achieve in the last two years due to many technical problems. I can’t wait to be in the car for the first time and to do the first quick laps.”

Benoit TreluyerDespite not being included as a round of the FIA WEC this year, the 12 Hours of Sebring signals the true start of the endurance racing season. Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler, who will be without regular team-mate André Lotterer, are hoping to christen their 2012 World Endurance Championship title with victory.

While both would have liked André to be joining them in Florida, a need to balance race programmes means that the German will be back alongside the pair from the opening round of the world championship, the 6 Hours of Silverstone, on April 14. At Sebring British driver Oliver Jarvis completes a trio that will be aiming to win with last year’s Audi R18 e-tron quattro, while the 2013-spec car will be in the hands of Di Grassi/Kristensen/McNish. “There are two slightly different objectives,” reveals Benoît. “By using the previous specification we are there to finish the event and win it. For our team-mates in the 2013 version their goal, as well as victory of course, is to test in proper race conditions the technical upgrades introduced during the winter months.”

Since the final round of the 2012 season Audi and its drivers have remained flat-out. Tyre testing before Christmas was followed by additional mileage during January that concentrated on set-up work. All has been aimed at improving the R18 e-tron quattro – an evolution of last year’s car – ahead of this season’s mission to beat Toyota, who have decided against racing in Florida.

“It is going to be a much tighter championship and certainly even more exciting than last year’s, as well as less stressful within the team. Since the start of 2012 we knew that the title would be decided between Audi’s two cars due to it being very hard for Toyota to catch up after not contesting the opening rounds and therefore having fewer opportunities to score points. There was greater tension. This year we need to work together more in order to meet Toyota’s challenge right from the start. I personally prefer this mentality! And we won’t be short of work either as there has already been a lot of focus towards 2014 and the arrival of brand new regulations.

“But that doesn’t mean this is a season of transition as it is very important to properly prepare for 2014,” insists Benoît. “Everything we learn this year will be helpful for the following season, which will involve a lot more than simply starting with a known quantity: there is the challenge of a brand new concept. We are satisfied with the developments brought to the R18 e-tron quattro but now we need to learn how to optimise them and make the most of their benefits.”

With this in mind, Sebring’s demanding layout is an ideal proving ground for new machinery. The Frenchman knows all too well about its challenging characteristics after being forced to spend a lengthy period in the pits last year. Needless to say he’s hoping for payback this time around…

“Of course I would like to win. It’s a difficult race with a lot of traffic, and there are different strategies compared to European events. On top of that, this is the last time we can contest the race with an LMP1 prototype so it’s something I would like to add to my CV. It’s a bit of an old fashioned race that takes place on a circuit partly constructed of concrete. Both the surface and track width vary, while there are some corners that we enter very quickly right next to the walls. It’s just incredible! This is a special race, a bit like the Le Mans 24 Hours, although it does not have the same aura.”

This first meeting of the season also represents Benoît with the opportunity to christen his world championship title. “It gives you a confidence boost,” he says modestly. “We know how difficult it is to win a championship and the slightest mistake can have serious consequences. Last year, especially at Sebring, we were unable to finish at the front and lost many points. That forced us to push really hard throughout the year without making errors. We are approaching the new season with the same philosophy.”

This measured, realistic but no less enthusiastic approach is one shared not only by the Normandy-based driver and Audi, but also a number of new personal partners. GT Bikes, cycle equipment specialists Sram (derailleurs, brakes, etc.) and off-road motorcycle manufacturer KTM have all joined forces with Tréluyer. “All of my partners are linked to my physical training,” he concludes. “Cycling and enduro motocross are the base of my physical preparation throughout the winter, so it is a huge pleasure for me to welcome these respected brands alongside my existing and faithful partners Ellip6 (professional racing simulators), Michelin, Motul, Alpinestars and Arai.

12 Hours of Sebring timetable*

Thursday 14 March
Free Practice 1: 10.15 – 11.15
Free Practice 2: 15.15 – 16.15
Free Practice 3: 20.00 – 21.45

Friday 15 March
Free Practice 4: 09.20 – 10.20
Qualifying: 13.15 – 14.35

Saturday 16 March
Warm-up: 08.00 – 08.25
12 Hours of Sebring: 10.45 – 22.45

LotusLotus successfully completed the 2012 season of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The team showed a strong performance at its first year in endurance racing. A pleasant conclusion of the season was the start from Pole Position at the 6 Hours of Shanghai.

At the end of January, the team has announced its participation in the sports cars championship that includes the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. After a first roll out, Lotus was ready for its debut in endurance racing.

The inaugural season of the FIA World Endurance Championship started off with the 12 Hours of Sebring in March, where just one Lotus LMP2 car was in action. Thomas Holzer, Mirco Schultis and Luca Moro were at the wheel of #31. The three drivers showed a good performance in the opening event of the 2012 season and finished the race in sixth position in LMP2 class and tenth overall.

At the 6 Hours of Spa, Lotus was running two of its LMP2 cars for the very first time. Kevin Weeda and former Formula One test driver James Rossiter joined the team in Belgium. The quick and talented Briton Rossiter qualified car #32 outright in the front row of the LMP2 class, just four hundredths of a second behind the Pole sitter. Due to a start from the pit lane after an engine change, Rossiter and his team mates Kevin Weeda and Luca Moro made their way through the field and finished the race in eleventh position. Thomas Holzer, Mirco Schultis and Renger van der Zande in car #31 were able to achieve their best qualifying result of the season and started from fifth position. The race came to a sudden end for them after a crash one hour before the lapse of time.

The team continued its journey to the biggest race on the calendar, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which also marked the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Because of sporting regulations and limitations, just one Lotus LMP2 car was allowed to participate in the legendary endurance classic. So, Thomas Holzer, Mirco Schultis and Luca Moro represented the black and gold Lotus colours at the Circuit des 24 Heures. The event was interfered by technical problems and led to a retirement early in the morning. Until that time, the car was running well in the race and all drivers showed a solid performance at their first participation at Le Mans.

The FIA World Endurance Championship went into a two-month break before the starting field was back in action for the fourth event of the year at the home of British motorsport. From the 6 Hours of Silverstone, Lotus was contesting with two of its LMP2 cars at every round of the FIA WEC. Former Formula One racer Vitantonio Liuzzi joined the team and was driving alongside Kevin Weeda and James Rossiter in car #32. The weekend of the Italian Liuzzi and his team mates went off anything but ideal having suffered engine failures in the practice sessions and the race. With Christijan Albers, a familiar face was back in a race car. The Dutchman replaced Luca Moro in #31, who could not be with the team because of private reasons. Albers enjoyed being back in a race car after a two years absence and together with his team mates Thomas Holzer and Mirco Schultis he finished the race in 12th position.

The second half of the FIA World Endurance Championship started off with the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo. The fifth round on the calendar was the first of four oversea races in a row and Lotus was in good condition in Brazil. After six hours, both Lotus LMP2 cars took the chequered flag. Car #32 was fighting for the podium, but after an unreasonable decision by the marshals, the crew lost valuable time in the garage and finished the race in sixth position. Car #31 was running trouble-free and was eight in LMP2 class.

Lotus was travelling with a positive feeling to the 6 Hours of Bahrain after the strong performance in the previous race. The round in the desert was special as the race started in daylight and finished at night. Unfortunately, Mirco Schultis was ill and could not take part in the sixth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. So, just Thomas Holzer and Luca Moro were driving in car #31. The duo did well and Holzer had its best qualifying result until then. That it is very close in LMP2 category demonstrated the crew of car #32. James Rossiter qualified in sixth position, but just one tenth of a second behind the competitor in third position. In the race, Kevin Weeda, James Rossiter and Vitantonio Liuzzi were battling for a podium finish and proved once again that the Lotus LMP2 is competitive. The squad finished the race in fourth position just 30 seconds off from the second place.

The penultimate event of the inaugural season of the FIA World Endurance Championship took place at the foot of the Mount Fuji. The weekend started off with some problems for Lotus, but the team was able to change tack. Vitantonio Liuzzi qualified car #32 in third position, Thomas Holzer in car #31 repeated his best qualifying result with a start from eighth place. The 6 Hours of Fuji race started off well for both Lotus LMP2 cars. #32 was leading its class for a long time, but crossed the finish line in fifth position as a consequence of several collisions with competitors and an unplanned but requested change of the rear end. Thomas Holzer and Mirco Schultis in car #31 were on a solid run and had the pace to finish the race in sixth place. However, an alternator failure forced the German duo to retire. Nevertheless, the team was able to show another strong race performance before heading to the season final.

The 6 Hours of Shanghai marked the last event of the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship. Lotus was coming highly motivated to China and wanted to end the season on a high note. LMP2 class winner Jan Charouz joined the team as Vitantonio Liuzzi was not able to race in Shanghai. It was a good weekend for the entire Lotus team with Thomas Holzer (#31) being second in the first practice and James Rossiter (#32) in front of his competitors in the second practice session. Both race drivers continued their trend upwards and achieved their best qualifying result of the season. Thomas Holzer qualified sixth in LMP2 class, whereas James Rossiter put his Lotus LMP2 car on Pole Position, which was a big success for the whole team. It was the first Pole Position in Lotus’ young history in endurance racing and a worthy reward for everybody’s hard work. In the race, Briton Rossiter was on a good pace and used his tyres not too hard, so he could keep up with the competitors. Unfortunately, the race for car #32 ended prematurely due to brake problems. Thomas Holzer and Mirco Schultis in car #31 had a strong race and achieved their best result of the year by finishing in sixth position.

It was a good and exciting first season for Lotus in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The squad improved continuously and was a serious competitor in the LMP2 category. The drivers and team members did an incredible job and worked very hard for good results. The Pole Position in Shanghai was the icing on the cake for a challenging but also successful first season in endurance racing.

Lotus is using the winter break to get ready for the new challenges in the FIA World Endurance Championship and is looking forward to competing with its own and brand new sports car, the Lotus T128.

After two consecutive wins in Asia at the Mount Fuji and Shanghai circuits, Larbre Competition was crowned LMGTE Am Trophy title winners for the inaugural FIA World Endurance Championship season.

This on-track performance was the culmination of a year’s domination by the Larbre-entered cars in endurance racing that included LMGTE Am class victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

During the course of the 6 Hours of Interlagos in Brazil, an off-track excursion damaged the front of the #50 Larbre Corvette. This led to discussions in post-race scrutineering after the ride height was found to be insufficient by the technical officials and the car was subsequently excluded from the results of the race by the Stewards of the Meeting.

Citing force majeure, an appeal was lodged with the FIA’s International Court of Appeal on September 18 by the FFSA (French Federation for Automobile Sport) on behalf of the entrant, Larbre Competition.

Discussions between the parties have revealed difficulties in the schedule for hearing the appeal.

Now that the world title has been secured by Larbre Competition, team manager Jack Leconte has decided, with the agreement of the FFSA and ACO, to withdraw the appeal.

Jack Leconte: “We wish to clear the decks to allow everyone to get on with preparing for the second season of the WEC in 2013 and so have decided to turn the page.”

The team is scheduled to visit Corvette Racing on December 1 and will then attend the meeting for teams competing in the WEC in Paris on December 1. Larbre look forward to hearing the organiser’s detailed arrangements for the championship which will be presented to the team’s partners. After studying the proposals, Larbre Competition will finalise its plans to compete in either the WEC or ELMS.

Larbre Competition will announce its 2013 programme on January 1.

Benoit TreluyerBenoît Tréluyer narrowly missed out on the top step of the podium in Sunday’s 6 Hours of Fuji (October 14) after on-track contact and a stop-go penalty left the Frenchman and his #1 Audi Sport team-mates just shy of victory. However, their second place finish ensures that the double Le Mans 24 Hours-winning crew of Tréluyer, André Lotterer and Marcel Fässler increase their lead atop the FIA World Endurance Championship ahead of the season finale in China later this month.

“I really enjoyed driving here,” said Benoit on Sunday night, still smiling despite the frustration of narrowly missing out on a tenth career win at the Fuji circuit. “We enjoyed an incredible welcome from the Japanese fans. During the autograph session it was suggested that André, Marcel and I left earlier than planned as there was not enough security to match the size of the crowd – it was crazy! They waved flags and chanted the Audi name.” After receiving such support from the Japanese fans Benoît wanted to keep his disappointment in check, but the Alençon native could not help but wonder what might have been.

“Qualifying went well thanks to some fantastic teamwork. We hit upon a set-up that allowed us to run within a good operating window and had an aggressive race strategy. André took the start and kept the leading Toyota well within reach throughout his time in the car. I replaced him for my double stint and managed to pass Nicolas Lapierre for the lead. After making my pit-stop I dropped back a little and was losing too much time passing traffic, perhaps due being a touch over-cautious. I began pushing hard but became stuck behind the #97 Aston Martin. It was being passed by another LMP1, so I looked to follow through only for the Aston to move across on me. The door was opened and then slammed shut just as quickly.” The GTE Pro machine driven by Stefan Mücke made contact with the Audi and spun, dislodging the #1 car’s nose in the process.

“I thought something was broken, but it was just a section of bodywork caught beneath the wheel. Once that was gone everything was fine. Leena (Gade, the #1 crew’s race engineer) came over the radio and told me to pit at the end of the lap, but I knew Marcel would not be ready and that we would lose a lot of time. With that in mind I asked to complete one more lap. When I stopped the new nose was waiting to be fitted and Marcel was ready to take the wheel.”

With debris on the circuit the safety car was soon deployed, allowing the #1 to remain in the hunt for victory, but their luck would quickly turn again as the stewards issued them with a stop-go penalty.

“We were a little surprised to be hit with a stop-go as other drivers making contact throughout the race only recieved warnings,” said Benoît. “But we just got on with it and revised our strategy a little. We decided not to switch drivers during the final stint and wanted to have the option not to change tyres. As it was too much to ask Marcel to run three sucessive stints André took the wheel for the last stretch of the race. He didn’t change tyres and went on the attack, but it wasn’t quite enough. Without the penalty victory was definitely within reach, but after such a delay it wasn’t possible.”

Having already collected victories at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, 6 Hours of Silverstone and 6 Hours of Bahrain the #1 crew would have to settle for a runner-up finish in Japan, a result that neverthless extends their lead in the drivers’ championship to 16.5 points over the sister Audi R18 e-tron quattro pairing of Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish.

“Even a win in Fuji wouldn’t have been enough to seal the championship this weekend, so it doesn’t change a great deal from our perspective,” Benoît reflected. “Now we know that a top-three finish in China will seal the title. Of course, André, Marcel and I are a touch disappointed as we really wanted to win here for our fans and the Audi team. They deserved victory for their hard work and for preparing our R18 e-tron quattro which was once again fast, fuel-efficient and extremely strong.”

It is these vital qualities that the three team-mates will carry into the final encounter of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship at Shanghai International Circuit on October 28.

To keep up to date with Benoît on and off the circuit please visit www.benoittreluyer.com, follow him on Twitter @BenoitTreluyer and like his Facebook page.

OAK RacingA battling performance helped OAK Racing score their third FIA World Endurance Championship LM P2 podium of the season at the 6 Hours of Fuji today, while its LM P1 machine came home eighth in class on its series return.

Despite the #24 Morgan-Nissan 2012 LM P2 being less suited to the Fuji Speedway than other circuits, the French squad was confident that its pace over a longer stint could make it a podium contender in race conditions. And Olivier Pla immediately proved the point by jumping from sixth to fourth on the opening lap before engaging in a short, intense battle for third place.

Matthieu Lahaye, who took over just before the end of the opening hour, continued to demonstrate the car’s excellent race pace throughout a rapid double stint that saw the Frenchman relentlessly hunt down and pass those ahead to run second in class before making way for Jacques Nicolet.

But not for the first time this season an unfortunate safety car period would compromise the team’s strategy. Despite Nicolet maintaining position when racing resumed, the crew’s early hard work had been eroded after the chasing pack took advantage and closed in, leaving OAK Racing’s ‘silver’ grade driver battling with the other teams’ professionals.

The #24 car was down to sixth by the time he made way for Pla with one-hour 40 minutes remaining. The Frenchman was able to steadily move back into podium contention thereafter and picked up third when the #49 Pecom Racing Oreca lost time in the pits. At the finish he was just over a minute behind the winning #25 ADR-Delta Oreca and #44 Starworks Motorsport HPD, which clinched the LM P2 title.

Meanwhile, the #15 OAK-HPD LM P1 proved fast but a little fragile on its racing return to come home eighth in class and 17th overall. Bertrand Baguette took the opening stint before handing over to home hero Takuma Sato for his first competitive sports-prototype appearance.

The Japanese ace acquitted himself well throughout his double stint but was powerless to prevent the car being wheeled back into the garage for a new starter motor. When the OAK-HPD emerged after 20 minutes Dominik Kraihamer was behind the wheel, the young Austrian beginning a dogged fight back that would see the car cross the line, now in the hands of Baguette, 17th overall.

Sebastien Philippe, Team Principal: “In terms of the LM P2 result, I think we probably achieved our maximum with third. All three drivers were excellent and the team performed flawlessly during the pit-stops. Unfortunately we struggled to find an ideal set-up for the car on this specific layout. The LM P1 meanwhile is still a new package and there’s much we still have to learn. There’s two weeks between now and Shanghai so we’ll analyse the data and come back stronger. The HPD engine is very powerful so we are confident of making further improvements.”

Jacques Nicolet, #24 Morgan-Nissan 2012 LM P2: “It was a tough race for us but to be honest we were expecting that after the test. The car isn’t well suited to the circuit, especially the slow-speed final sector. It took a lot of hard work to finish on the podium so the team can be proud of their achievement.”

Matthieu Lahaye, #24 Morgan-Nissan 2012 LM P2: “Olivier made a very good start to move up the order and I took over with the car in fourth. I really enjoyed my double stint but had to be careful not to overuse the tyres. Jacques also did well so this was an all-round team performance at a circuit where we knew we would not be as competitive.”

Olivier Pla, #24 Morgan-Nissan 2012 LM P2: “Third was the best we could have hoped for I think. The post-qualifying set-up changes worked in this morning’s warm-up so I knew that a clean race was vital if we were to have a chance of making the podium. It’s a good result given the circumstances but I would like to be challenging for the win at Shanghai in a couple of weeks.”

Takuma Sato, #15 OAK-HPD LM P1: “Racing a sports-prototype for the first time was a fun new experience even though we still need to improve the car. Coming from a single-seater background you have to change your approach. Traffic management is crucial as it takes one or two laps to clean up the tyres if you run wide onto the marbles. But it was good fun and I’m looking forward to helping make the car faster for Shanghai.”

Bertrand Baguette, #15 OAK-HPD LM P1: “The first stint went well and it was clear to see that we had taken a step forward since the test on Wednesday. Of course we’re not where we want to be yet but there’s a lot of potential still to unlock. If we can put into practice everything we’ve learned here we’ll be more competitive in China.”

Dominik Kraihamer, #15 OAK-HPD LM P1: “We need to improve the car in every area but it’s important to say that the team worked very hard this weekend. I got in after the starter motor issue and just concentrated on making no mistakes so that we could get to the finish. Hopefully we can make a big improvement in China.”

The final round of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship takes place in Shanghai on October 27/28.

Photo by DPPI/Gregory Lenormand.

#31 Thomas Holzer (GER) – Mirco Schultis (GER)
#32 Kevin Weeda (USA) – James Rossiter (GBR) – Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA)

Race
#32 Position 5
#31 retired

The 6 Hours race of Fuji started off well for Lotus when Vitantonio Liuzzi took the lead in LMP2 class. Car #32 was in second position for half of the race. But after several contacts with competitors, a stop and go penalty and a Stewards request to change the rear end, the team lost positions in the last three hours of the race. Nevertheless, after all these incidents, the team managed to finish the race with car #32 in fifth position.

Car #31 had to retire because of a failure of the alternator. Until then, Thomas Holzer and Mirco Schultis showed a strong performance and climbed up to sixth position in LMP2 class.

All in all, it was a promising weekend for Lotus as the team is able to fight for the podium. The team is now heading to the season final in Shanghai and wants to have another good result with both cars.

Thomas Holzer, Race driver #31:
“Unfortunately, we had to retire after the alternator failed. Until then, we had a good race and showed a good performance. We have to focus now on the next and final race of the season. Hopefully we can have a better result in China.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Race driver #32:
“I had a good start and was first in LMP2 class for a while. But then I was hit a several times by some other cars and lost many positions. After this, I was able to make up for positions again and was back in second place. It is a shame that we did not finish on the podium but with these damages it was not possible today.”