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Category: World Endurance Championship

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

Free Practice 3
#32 Position 4 (LMP2) Lap time 1:32.891 (Liuzzi)
#31 Position 9 (LMP2) Lap time 1:35.090 (Holzer)

Qualifying
#32 Position 3 (LMP2) Lap time 1:32.738 (Liuzzi)
#31 Position 8 (LMP2) Lap time 1:35.036 (Holzer)

Lotus will start from the second row at the 6 Hours of Fuji.

After a difficult first day at the foot of Mount Fuji, Lotus showed a strong qualifying performance.

Vitantonio Liuzzi qualified the Lotus LMP2 car #32 in third position in LMP2 class with a lap time of 1:32.738, just four tenths off of the pole position. Thomas Holzer in car #31, setting a lap time of 1:35.036, will start from eight position.

Lotus is well prepared for the race and hoping to have a good result. The race will start at 11:00 hours local time.

Thomas Holzer, Race driver #31:
“We improved steadily over the weekend and we showed a good qualifying performance on the hard tyres. Our focus was to find the right setup for the race and I think we are well prepared for having a good result at Fuji.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Race driver #32:
“We could have done better today because the balance of the car was not perfect. We could not put all sectors together, especially in the last sector we are not fast enough. It was very close in LMP2 class again and we are just four tenths off of pole position. Starting from the second row is a good result and we are confident for the race.”

Bertrand BaguetteOAK Racing suffered a disappointing result in qualifying today ahead of Sunday’s 6 Hours of Fuji, the seventh and penultimate round of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship, with the French squad’s #15 OAK-HPD LM P1 eighth overall on its competitive return and the #24 Morgan-Nissan 2012 LM P2 finishing sixth in class.

Olivier Pla was one of the first to hit the track and set a time in the 20-minute session, his 1m33.165s lap ending up as the sixth fastest in the LM P2 category that was dominated by the Starworks HPD in the hands of Stéphane Sarrazin. OAK Racing has often shown better race pace than in qualifying this season however so Pla, along with team-mates Jacques Nicolet and Matthieu Lahaye, will retain hope of a strong result tomorrow.

Bertrand Baguette was given responsibility for qualifying the team’s #15 OAK-HPD LM P1 which returns to the FIA WEC grid this weekend again equipped with Dunlop tyres but now powered by an HPD engine after missing the last three races. The Belgian’s best lap of 1m30.912s was the car’s fastest of the weekend so far and good enough for eighth overall. Home hero Takuma Sato and Austrian ace Dominik Kraihamer will share the car with Baguette on Sunday.

Although somewhat disappointing, the results from qualifying didn’t come as a complete surprise to OAK Racing who, owing to the circuit’s combination of slow, technical corners and 1.5-kilometre straight, had been focused on finding a compromised set-up throughout Wednesday’s test day and all three subsequent free practice sessions. The team is therefore confident of showing good race pace tomorrow.

Sébastien Philippe, Team Principal: “We probably missed out during LM P2 qualifying today but that won’t prevent us from remaining confident for the race, which is very long and offers lots of opportunities to overtake. Our speed is good but we perhaps struggled to fully exploit the new tyres. Fortunately they are consistent across a stint and that’s very important for the race.

“In LM P1 it’s difficult to make up the second that we’re currently giving away to the top private teams. But we must not forget that this is a new chassis/engine package and we still lack a bit of experience. However, over a period of six hours the consistency of our drivers can make a difference.”

The 6 Hours of Fuji starts at 11am local time on Sunday.

Photo by Clément Marin/DPPI

#31 Thomas Holzer (GER) – Mirco Schultis (GER)
#32 Kevin Weeda (USA) – James Rossiter (GBR) – Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA)
Free Practice 1
#32 Position 9 (LMP2) Lap time 1:37.780 (Holzer)
#31 no time
Free Practice 1
#32 Position 4 (LMP2) Lap time 1:33.415 (Liuzzi)
#31 Position 10 (LMP2) Lap time 1:35.756 (Holzer)

The 6 Hours of Fuji saw the first practice sessions at the foot of Mount Fuji today.

After a difficult start to the weekend, Lotus turned the corner and completed the second session successfully.

In the morning, car #32 had some problems with the gearbox. The team was able to fix the Lotus LMP2 and was ready for the second practice.

The afternoon session was better for Lotus. Kevin Weeda, James Rossiter and Vitantonio Liuzzi completed a total of 25 laps in car #32. Thomas Holzer and Mirco Schultis in car #31 added 30 laps to the team’s tally.

Luca Moro will not be racing in Fuji because of private reasons, so Thomas Holzer and Mirco Schultis will share the cockpit of car #31 this weekend.

Thomas Holzer, Race driver #31:
“It was a difficult day for us because we had problems with the brakes in the first practice. It was better in the afternoon and we could do 30 laps. Now, we will get ready for tomorrow and will use the third practice to collect more data to find the right race setup.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Race driver #32:
“We could only do two laps in the morning because of a problem with the gearbox. The mechanics could fix the car for the second practice and we were able to get some mileage. We will now work on the setup of the car in order to close the small gap to our competitors in front of us. All in all, it was not a bad day for us.”

Benoit TreluyerAfter taking nine victories at the Mount Fuji circuit over a decade spent competing in the Land of the Rising Sun, Benoît Tréluyer returns to the sacred mountain this weekend (October 14) for the penultimate FIA World Endurance Championship event of the season hunting win number 10.

It has been almost a year since Benoît set foot in Japan and the Frenchman is hard pushed to recall when he last spent so long away from his adoptive homeland. “12 years ago, maybe,” says Tréluyer, who forged his racing reputation in the country thanks to countless victories and titles in Formula 3 (2001), Formula Nippon (2006) and Super GT (2008). Though the Alençon native now resides in the south of France, he has not forgotten the country that gave him his big break, nor the fans who adopted him as one of their own.

“I arrived in Tokyo on Monday morning,” explains Benoît. “I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep on the plane! I haven’t been here since last December and must admit that I missed Japan. At Narita airport, it was strange to have to go to the rental counter rather than having my own car waiting for me. I had the odd feeling of being away from home and yet somewhere very familiar.”

Benoît spent his day in the Japanese capital visiting friends who will not be at Sunday’s race, then headed for the city of Gotemba at the foot of sacred Mount Fuji.

“I lived in Gotemba for two years,” says Benoît. “I had a house there and got to know the place very well. On Tuesday evening I went to Mizuki, a teppanyaki restaurant where I used to eat regularly, which is about two hundred yards from my old home. The boss was never the talkative type, but when I walked in he put down his chopsticks to greet me and ask about my wife Melanie and my son Jules. It was an honour and I really appreciated the gesture. I was accompanied by André (Lotterer), my journalist friend Yumiko and her husband Iga’chan, who was my mechanic in Super GT.”

Though an old friendship unites Lotterer and Benoît, the pair rarely worked together in Japan. “Coming to Fuji with Andre is very different from the old days,” he smiles. “When I raced in Japan we drove for different teams and didn’t stay in the same hotels. Now we travel together and, as we both still have our own little tricks and shortcuts, we argue playfully while Marcel (Fässler) watches in amazement!”

The third member of the world championship-leading crew has never raced in Japan and is sampling his first experience of the country while his two team-mates act as eager tour guides.

“We’ve let him see our Japan and are delighted to do so,” says Benoît. “I’ve left so much of myself in this country that I still feel at home here. I think it is the same for André.”

As such Benoît is keen to share his visit with the Japanese fans who cheered him on during his Formula Nippon and Super GT days. “It is still fairly quiet at the moment, but there will be a lot of people at the circuit this weekend. The organisers are talking about 20,000 spectators, but I know there will be more. Obviously, with the F1 grand prix at Suzuka last week and MotoGP racing at Motegi this weekend, Japanese motorsport fans are very busy in October. That said I’m sure they will turn out in force and I am looking forward to the reunion.”

Before that, Benoît has had the chance to get back behind the wheel of his #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro at the track on which he has triumphed nine times in single-seaters and GTs.

“I won the last race on the old circuit and the first on the new one so I have a good record here, even if it’s not my favourite track in Japan. It is quite technical, with an extremely long straight that ends with a hairpin before three fast corners and then some slow turns. In our Audi, the braking for turn one is just incredible – I’ve never braked so late here! In fact, it took several attempts to forget my old marks. We completed a lot of work during the test session and all three of us got through what we needed to. We now have all day tomorrow for data analysis and to prepare ourselves fully for the weekend.”

The Japanese race will be vital for Benoît and his team-mates who currently lead the championship by 13.5 points from fellow Audi drivers Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish. With just two rounds left to run, Japan could be the scene of another great moment in Tréluyer’s career .

Timetable

Friday 12 October
11.00-12.30: Free practice 1
15.30-17.00: Free practice 2

Saturday 13 October
09.25-10.25: Free practice 3
13.30-13.55: Qualifying

Sunday 14 October
07.55-08.15: Warm-up
11.00: Six Hours of Fuji

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.

Larbre CompetitionLarbre Competition tackled the intense heat of the Bahrain International Circuit on September 29 as the French squad travelled to the desert kingdom for round six of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The LMGTE Am class championship leaders returned to the venue with fond memories having claimed the 2004 GT Festival and 2005 FIA GT drivers’ title at the circuit, the latter coming courtesy of Gabriel Gardel and Pedro Lamy aboard the iconic Ferrari 550 Maranello.

But while the first two visits took place during the cooler month of November, last weekend’s WEC round saw scorching September heat in excess of 40 degrees Celsius, making the six-hour race a physical test for the drivers and pit crew.

Following strong displays from both of the team’s Corvette C6.Rs in September’s trip to Brazil the #50 crew of Patrick Bornhauser, Julien Canal and Fernando Rees and the all-French combination of Christophe Bourret, Pascal Gibon and Jean-Philippe Belloc aboard the #70 continued to impress in Bahrain. The #50 car excelled in qualifying, sealing second on the grid just a few tenths shy of pole position. Meanwhile the #70 also enjoyed a strong session to take P4, meaning it would line-up directly behind the sister Corvette thanks to a superb lap from Bourret.

Saturday’s race kicked off at 16.00 local time meaning the event would run into the night, with Rees taking the start in the #50 and Bourret aboard #70. Unfortunately, after successfully negotiating the famously tricky opening corners the #70 suffered an off at turn three early in its stint, necessitating a spell in the pits for repairs. A stellar effort from the Larbre crew saw it back on track in impressive time, though with 10 laps lost the crew now faced a challenging task to catch their rivals.

Meanwhile the #50 would run second during the opening stages only for Rees and Niclas Johnsson’s #57 Krohn Racing Ferrari to suffer contact during the second stint. That brought the Corvette into the pits where the mechanics performed another superb job, returning the car to the race five laps later.

Despite their heavy accidents, both cars were able to quickly get back on the pace and managed to regain one lap over their opponents. At the chequered flag the #50 would take fourth position with the #70 chasing them home in fifth.

Fernando Rees, driver #50 Corvette C6.R: “We had some tyre worries in the opening stages but managed to recover to run in P2 for much of the second stint. Then the #57 Ferrari, which was easier on its tyres, caught me, though the driver didn’t seem to be pushing to make a pass. I looked in my mirrors exiting turn three and saw him at a safe distance. I braked as usual for the corner but then felt a big impact on my right side from the Ferrari. He drove away but our car was badly damaged. I really didn’t see the move coming and wasn’t going to fight for the position anyway since the stint was almost over and my tyres were going off. That was our podium chances over, but some great work in the pits and from my team-mates meant we took fourth, which was a strong recovery.”

Patrick Bornhauser, driver #50 Corvette C6.R: “The Bahrain International Circuit was not too difficult to learn, but getting to grips with the oppressive heat inside the car was certainly a challenge. My race went superbly, setting lap times within just 0.2s of my team-mates, though physically it was very tough which led to us running stints of just one hour. It’s a shame that we could only take fourth place and we must now push hard to maintain the championship lead through the final two races.”

Julien Canal, driver #50 Corvette C6.R: “Once again we have shown great speed and competitiveness. An excellent second place in qualifying and a good start to the race were unfortunately followed by a collision that lost us P2. After a fast and steady run from Patrick I took the wheel in fifth position and, following a great stint, crossed the finish line in fourth spot. Without the issues we’ve had over the past three races we could have been champions this weekend. Now we must remain extremely focused for our final two races in Asia.”

Christophe Bourret, driver #70 Corvette C6.R: “We had an amazing week at the exceptional Bahrain International Circuit. We showed excellent performance here, confirming the pace we had at Interlagos, and did a great job in qualifying. Unfortunately I had an off 10 laps in and that changed our whole race. For that I would again like to apologise to the entire team and Jean-Philippe and Pascal. But it’s important to put the disappointment behind us and in that respect I’m now really looking forward to the last two events – I think we can really shine in Asia.”

Pascal Gibon, driver #70 Corvette C6.R: “The past week has been fantastic so it’s a bit of a shame that we didn’t achieve the result we deserved. The mechanics and engineers were incredibly quick getting the Corvette repaired but we lost 10 laps, after which our goal was to simply finish. We achieved this in what were incredibly tough conditions and can be pleased both in terms of performance and the quality of the team around us. We are on the right track for success.”

Jean-Philippe Belloc, driver #70 Corvette C6.R: “The race result was not what we’d hoped for, but we have a lot of positives to take away. Christophe did a superb job in qualifying and was running well until the incident. Pascal also proved strong in the race and managed to run a double stint. This was quite an achievement in the Bahraini heat – I’m happy I didn’t have to do it! What’s more the car performed well throughout the weekend and the Larbre team did an outstanding job in the pits. I am looking forward to Fuji where we’ll hope to translate our performance into a well-deserved result.”

Jack Leconte, Team Manager: “While we didn’t get the result our performance warranted, fourth and fifth places at the finish allowed us to limit the damage in the world championship classification where Larbre Competition still lead by nine points.

“What’s more, the pace shown by our Corvettes following their accidents was a real confidence boost for the drivers. The brakes, lubricants and tyres were pushed very hard in the heat of Bahrain but all three performed superbly, highlighting the excellent work of Motul, our Brembo braking system and Michelin.

“I will be looking for maximum commitment from the drivers and mechanics over the final two rounds. I’m pleased to see that the #70 crew is reaching its full potential thanks to the regular races we’ve been running. With the upcoming circuits unknown to our gentlemen drivers, the expertise of our crews will be vital. As such Pedro Lamy will return to the team for the final two rounds. It is now time to make the final push.”

6 Hours of Bahrain LMGTE Am result
1. Team Felbermayr #88 Porsche Ried/Roda/Ruberti 165 laps
2. AF Corse-Waltrip #61 Ferrari Kauffman/Aguas/Vickers +1 lap
3. Krohn Racing #57 Ferrari Krohn/Jonsson/Rugolo +3 laps
4. Larbre #50 Corvette Bornhauser/Canal/Rees +8 laps
5. Larbre #70 Corvette Gibon/Bourret/Belloc +12 laps
6. JWA-Avila #55 Porsche Camathias/Simonsen/Daniels +15 laps

FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Am Trophy*
1. Larbre 128 points
2. Team Felbermayr 119
3. AF Corse-Waltrip 96
4. Krohn Racing 86
5. JWA-Avila 70
6. Luxury Racing 18

Next round: Six Hours of Fuji (October 14)
*Points subject to FIA International Court of Appeal hearing

Photo by Vision Sport Agency.

After the great result in the desert of Bahrain, Lotus is looking ahead to the 6 Hours of Fuji.

In the events before, the team has proved that it is able to fight for the podium. Lotus wants to build on the success and is coming with high hopes to the land of the rising sun. Once again the target will be to finish the race on the podium.

Mirco Schultis will be back in car #31 after he missed the round in Bahrain due to illness. He will drive alongside Thomas Holzer and Luca Moro. The driver’s line up for car #32 remains unchanged with Kevin Weeda, James Rossiter and Vitantonio Liuzzi at the wheel.

The race at the foot on Mount Fuji starts on Sunday, 14th October 2012, at 11:00 hours local time.

Mirco Schultis, Race Driver #31:
“I am happy that I will be back in the car in Fuji. Unfortunately, I was not able to race in Bahrain because I was ill. But I am fully recovered and I am looking forward to being back in action in Japan. I hope that we can keep on progressing and that we can show another good performance.”

Kevin Weeda, Race Driver #32:
“I am looking forward to racing in Fuji. It has got a long straight, one of the longest in motorsport, but also parts that are very slow and twisty. It is located at the bottom of Mount Fuji and it is a nice setting for the seventh round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. After the great race in Bahrain, we hope that we can tie on this success and have another good weekend. After my teammates and I had stints leading the race in Bahrain, we are now motivated more than ever to finish on the podium soon.”

Takuma SatoThis weekend (October 14) the FIA World Endurance Championship visits Fuji Speedway in Japan for its seventh and penultimate round of the season. It will be a seminal moment for French squad OAK Racing who, as well as entering its #24 Morgan 2012 LM P2, welcomes back the OAK-HPD LM P1 prototype that has missed the last three events.

As well as now being powered by the proven Honda Performance Development engine, #15 returns with a new driver in the form of Japan’s favourite son, Takuma Sato.

Sato turned his first laps aboard the LM P1 during a shakedown at Magny-Cours circuit in France on September 27 before fully evaluating the package throughout the following day. He has a further opportunity to test and prepare the car on October 10 at Fuji where he will work with team-mates Bertrand Baguette and Dominik Kraihamer for the first time.

The team is hopeful that its new package of OAK chassis, HPD engine and Dunlop tyres – for whom it is the exclusive LM P1 development partner – can run amongst the other privateers in the premier prototype class.

Meanwhile the team’s sole #24 Morgan 2012 LM P2 retains its usual WEC crew of ‘silver’ grade driver and team owner Jacques Nicolet, Matthieu Lahaye and Olivier Pla. With a pair of Championship podiums to its name since the start of the year, the crew is eager to again demonstrate the potential of its Onroak Automotive designed and built LM P2.

Sébastien Philippe, Team Principal: “The 6 Hours of Fuji sees the return of our OAK-HPD LM P1 to the World Endurance Championship and also marks the sports-prototype debut for Taku who we are extremely proud to be welcoming.

“The team will also discover a circuit I know very well and have much experience of from my own racing career. I have no doubt that its characteristics, especially the long 1.5-kilometre straight, will favour our Morgan-Nissan 2012 LM P2, which has good top-end speed.

“Naturally we are all anxious to see how the OAK-HPD LM P1 stacks up against Strakka, JRM and Rebellion who are tackling their final two races of the year while we essentially enter our first two. However, testing at Magny-Cours went well and allowed us to address some issues. While that hasn’t fully put my mind at ease, it does at least ensure there shouldn’t be too much stress!”

Takuma Sato, #15 OAK-HPD LM P1: “After the successful shakedown and test day at Magny-Cours, I am now even more excited to be competing in Japan with OAK Racing. I believe the team has made the best possible preparations in the limited time available and feel very positive and comfortable about the whole team’s operation. The car demonstrated good performance at the test according to the engineers and they were satisfied with that, so I am confident we will be competitive at Fuji Speedway.

“It will be a very exciting and interesting weekend for both fans and the WEC series. The track has unique characteristics with one of the longest straights at a permanent circuit in the world, but also has quite a complex technical section so the set-up needs to be a good compromise. Hopefully the aero package we tested at Magny-Cours will give us good speed. I am ready to take on a new challenge and really looking forward to be working with the team, as well as to see all the enthusiastic fans in Japan.”

Matthieu Lahaye, #24 Morgan-Nissan 2012 LM P2: “I have fond memories of my Japanese experience with OAK Racing from Okayama in 2009 where we won! In addition, it is difficult for Europeans to imagine just how passionate the Japanese public is about motorsport, the Le Mans 24 Hours and endurance racing in general. I take a lot of enjoyment from the special atmosphere and enthusiasm of so many fans.

“Also, it is always interesting to discover a new circuit. I have practiced a little bit on a computer game and simulator and the track seems more suited to the qualities of our car than either Bahrain or Sao Paulo. We will have a day of running to familiarise ourselves with the layout before first free practice. Several times this year we have missed out on the sort of results that the car’s performance has warranted, so we will be doing our best to challenge for victory.”

6 Hours of Fuji schedule (local time):

Friday 12 October:
11:00 – 12:30: Free Practice 1
15:30 – 17:00: Free Practice 2

Saturday 13 October:
09:25 – 10:25: Free Practice 3
14:00 – 14:20: LMP Qualifying

Sunday 14 October:
07:55 – 08:15: Warm-up
11:00 – 17:00: Race

Photo by Bernard Bakalian/PAB

TOYOTA announces their World Endurance Championship resurgence to the racing world with a victory video highlighting their historic win in the FIA WEC racing series.

TOYOTA Racing has claimed its first victory of the season at The 6 Hours of Sao Paulo FIA World Endurance Championship race held at the Interlagos Circuit (Sao Paulo, Brazil). Exhibiting a nearly flawless performance from TOYOTA Racing, drivers Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre, along with the #7 TOYOTA TS030 Hybrid, finished first in the race by over a minute. It was the 3rd race of the season and amazingly, only the 3rd race for the TOYOTA TS030.

“This is an incredible day for all of us in the team. To stand on the top step of the podium has been our dream and to achieve this in only our third race is a dream come true,” said Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President.

The victory at Sao Paulo marks not only TOYOTA’s first victory in an FIA world championship race since the 1999 Rally of China, but also their first international endurance racing win since their victory 20 years ago in the 1992 race at Monza. Both TOYOTA Racing and its fans are delighted by this long awaited return to the top step of the podium. The TOYOTA Racing Victory Video highlights their winning performance and helps to sum up the excitement that surrounds it.

The TOYOTA GLOBAL Youtube channel released the celebratory video as a tribute to the long awaited win and to the fans that support TOYOTA Racing. The video also reminds the racing community that TOYOTA, along with their new TS030 Hybrid, is once again a formidable competitor in this series. For this video and others from TOYOTA, visit the TOYOTA Global Youtube Channel.

Takuma SatoTakuma Sato will make his sports-prototype debut with OAK Racing at the FIA World Endurance Championship rounds in Asia this October when the team returns to the LMP1 class following its switch to Honda Performance Development engines.

Now contesting the IndyCar Series with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Sato is best known for an F1 career that spanned 92 appearances between 2002 and ’08.

And the 35-year-old Japanese ace has now been lined up to contest the WEC’s final two rounds at Fuji (13/14 October) and Shanghai (27/28) aboard the Onroak Automotive designed and built #15 OAK/Pescarolo LMP1, which is now powered by HPD’s proven AR6-LMV8 powerplant.

The team’s regular LMP1 drivers Bertrand Baguette and Dominik Kraihamer will also return to the car’s cockpit alongside Sato in Asia after completing the British, Brazilian and Bahraini rounds aboard the #35 Morgan 2012 LMP2.

Sato drove the car during a shakedown at Magny-Cours circuit in France yesterday (Thursday) where the new HPD engine and OAK LMP1 chassis were tested together for the first time. A further full day of running is scheduled for Friday when Sato will have more time to familiarise himself with the car.

While the majority of OAK Racing’s staff are currently in the Middle East for this weekend’s Six Hours of Bahrain, the LMP1 team will use their time in France to thoroughly evaluate the new prototype package, which includes an optimised aerodynamic set-up for the long straights at Fuji, before travelling to Japan where a further test session is planned for October 10.

Takuma Sato: “Working with OAK Racing is an opportunity that has really excited and motivated me. I’ve spent my entire career racing single-seaters and obviously the LMP1 feels different to those, but my initial impressions are very good and I am thrilled by this whole new experience. I’ve known Seb [Philippe] for a long time, since he was racing in Japan actually, so it will be great to work with him again and that gives me a lot of confidence in the team.

“Thursday was only a shakedown of the OAK-HPD LMP1 package but everything went to plan. As well as the new engine the team has an updated aero package to evaluate, so there will be plenty of work to get through on Friday and then during testing at Fuji on October 10. I’ve got a lot to learn before the race but I am really looking forward to the weekend and seeing the very enthusiastic Japanese fans. The team will receive a great following there and it will be fantastic to race in front of my home crowd again.”

Sebastien Philippe, Team Manager: “I am delighted that Taku will be joining us for the Asian races. We first met in 2000 when we were both F3 drivers for Honda so I have first-hand experience of just how quick and talented he is. On top of that he’s a really nice guy to have around the garage so I have no doubts that he can make a significant contribution to the team and our LMP1 programme.

“As for the shakedown, everything has so far run smoothly. The Design Office has worked very hard to adapt the car in preparation for installing the HPD engine. We are all looking forward to seeing the results in Fuji.”

Photo by PAB/Bernard Bakalian.

OAK RacingLate efforts from both Olivier Pla and Dominik Kraihamer helped OAK Racing lock out the second row of the LM P2 class grid for round six of the FIA World Endurance Championship’s Six Hours of Bahrain tomorrow.

The team had high hopes of picking up their second pole position of the WEC season after topping all three free practice sessions, but eventually had to settle for third and fourth places behind the Starworks Motorsport HPD and ADR-Delta Oreca-Nissan.

Pla had been quickest in final practice earlier today but required a late flying lap of 1m52.368s to move the #24 Morgan-Nissan 2012 LM P2 up to third on the grid, a time just 0.083sec shy of the front row. From there the Frenchman, along with team-mates Matthieu Lahaye and Jacques Nicolet, will be hopeful of notching up a second podium in as many races following their third place finish in Brazil.

Meanwhile Kraihamer, who set the fastest time in practice two last night, was a constant threat at the top of the timesheets but also required a late flying lap as others around him improved. In the end the Austrian finished less than 0.3sec behind Pla in fourth. He, along with Bertrand Baguette and Alex Brundle, will now be looking to make up for the disappointment of missing out on a near-certain second place at Interlagos with another strong drive tomorrow.

Sebastien Philippe, Team Principal: “Considering our free practice pace we are a bit disappointed with the qualifying result. The team made no mistakes and both drivers were excellent but the Starworks car was too far away today. Having said that, second place was definitely possible. P3 and P4 is much better than our recent qualifying form though so we’re well set to take advantage of our fast and consistent race pace tomorrow.”

Olivier Pla, #24 Morgan 2012 LM P2: “I was expecting a bit more to be honest. It took me a long time to bring the tyres in, which is why the car was quicker towards the end of the session. Most of this race will be run in the dark and last night we had great consistency and pace throughout the stint, so P3 isn’t such a bad place to be starting.”

Dominik Kraihamer, #35 Morgan 2012 LM P2: “I concentrated on finding a rhythm and was able to steadily work down to the quick final time. I know there’s more pace in the car as I wasn’t pushing 120% due to my inexperience here. I’m starting the race tomorrow and am confident that we have excellent consistency over our longer runs, so a good result is certainly possible.”

The Six Hours of Bahrain begins at 16:00 local time tomorrow.

Photo by Clement Marin/DPPI.