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Tag: Jacques Nicolet

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.

Bertrand BaguettePetit Le Mans will bring the curtain down on both the European and American Le Mans Series seasons in the United States this Saturday (October 20), with OAK Racing and its #35 Morgan-Nissan 2012 LM P2 aiming to capture the ELMS title.

LM P2 is the European championship’s premier class and one that the French team has high hopes of conquering. Indeed, it currently occupies second in the standings ahead of the 10-hour/1000-mile, double points finale after scoring victory at the 6 Hours of Donington last time out. The race nevertheless promises to be extremely competitive with over forty cars, including eight LM P2s, battling around Road Atlanta’s demanding four kilometre-long circuit.

Team owner and ‘silver’ grade driver Jacques Nicolet shares the wheel of #35, which will again carry the iconic blue and orange racing livery of Gulf Oil International, with fellow Frenchman Olivier Pla. The pair scored a podium together in the FIA World Endurance Championship round at Fuji last weekend and are now joined by Belgian ace Bertrand Baguette. All three, as well as the team, have travelled to the US between contesting the final two FIA WEC rounds in Asia. But despite the inevitable strain on logistics, the squad retains great enthusiasm for the event.

Petit Le Mans also offers an opportunity to meet up with Conquest Endurance, which has achieved great success and many podium finishes with their #37 Morgan 2012 LM P2 in the ALMS this year. Conquest is also the official North American importer of the prototype designed and built by OAK Racing’s manufacturing department Onroak Automotive.

Sébastien Philippe, Team Principal: “Our goal for the final round of the ELMS at Petit Le Mans is clear: to win the title and score our second victory following the 6 Hours of Donington. Olivier and Bertrand also have every chance of doing well in the drivers’ championship so we’re hopeful that both scenarios will play out favourably. This will be our third consecutive appearance at the race where we scored an LM P2 class podium in 2010. We are delighted to be returning to a circuit that remains very popular with drivers and fans, likely because of the many safety car periods that create uncertainty and force teams to adopt a specific strategy for this type of event. The atmosphere at the American circuits is also very special and it’s very exciting to race in front of such an enthusiastic crowd.”

Bertrand Baguette, #35 Morgan 2012 LM P2: “I want to thank OAK Racing for offering me the opportunity to participate in this great event, Petit Le Mans. It is always a special feeling for me to compete in the US following my cherished memories from racing in IndyCar. I don’t know the Road Atlanta track but am confident of forming a strong crew with Olivier and Jacques. It bodes well for the race.”

Petit Le Mans schedule (local time):

Thursday 18 October:
10:15 – 11:15: Free Practice 1
15:20 – 16:20: Free Practice 2
19:00 – 21:00: Free Practice 3

Friday 19 October:
10:30 – 11:30: Free Practice 4
14:00 – 15:15: Qualifying

Saturday 20 October:
09:15 – 09:40: Warm-up
11:30: Race (10 hours or 1000 miles)

Photo by DPPI/Florent Gooden.

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.

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

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

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.

OAK RacingOAK Racing scored their second FIA World Endurance Championship podium of the season at the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo today after staging a brilliant comeback drive.

Olivier Pla, Matthieu Lahaye and Jacques Nicolet overcame a difficult opening 20 minutes that saw the Onroak Automotive designed and built #24 Morgan 2012 LMP2 fall a lap down following two spins to finish third in the highly competitive LMP2 class.

Meanwhile the #35 sister car of Bertrand Baguette, Dominik Kraihamer and Alex Brundle was forced to retire at three-quarters distance with a fuel pressure issue after fighting for victory with the #44 Starworks Motorsport HPD.

After surviving both a tangle on the opening lap and then a tap from behind 20 minutes later, Lahaye recovered well to move from eighth up to fifth by the time he handed over to Pla following his double stint. Shortly after Pla was into fourth and then third, a position he would maintain after a safety car period.

#35’s subsequent misfortune then allowed the #24 machine to move up to second place, although that would ultimately become third after Nicolet received two stop/go penalties for successive pit-lane speeding infringements.

Sebastien Philippe, Team Manager: “I felt confident after qualifying because I was sure of our race pace, and that proved the case. Only the Starworks HPD was quicker over a stint today, although Olivier did set the fastest lap. All three of #35’s drivers performed very well so it was disappointing to have the problem. As for #24, it was a great comeback drive. Matthieu and Olivier were as fast as always while Jacques did fantastically, perhaps the best in terms of outright speed I’ve seen from him. Naturally he is disappointed about missing the pit entry and being penalised for speeding but it’s important to remember that we had the potential for victory. It’s a big positive we can take from the weekend.”

Olivier Pla, #24 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “Considering everything that happened at the start third position was a very good result. Matthieu had nowhere to go but recovered well and showed great pace on old tyres. When I took over from him the fresh rubber helped us make up further ground. Ultimately it was disappointing not to finish second but when you consider our start this was a good recovery.”

Matthieu Lahaye, #24 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “It’s fair to say my first stint didn’t go perfectly! At the start I had nowhere to go and was spun around. Just after that I had a puncture and had to pit before being tapped into another spin by the ADR Delta car. Fortunately my second stint went much better and I had moved up to fifth, despite the tyres going off, when I pitted. Jacques’ problem meant that we couldn’t finish second but I think we would have been happy with a podium just after the start!”

Jacques Nicolet, #24 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “I am so disappointed to have lost second place for the team because of the two penalties I incurred after speeding in the pit-lane. It makes me angry because everyone, in the garage and on track, did a super job and deserved a better result. We would never have predicted finishing second after the difficulties at the start but we all drove very well. So my mistakes upset the driver in me as much as the team owner. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. The only positive to take is that a friendly team benefitted from our problems.”

Bertrand Baguette, #35 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “Looking at the positives we had very good pace today. I was pushed onto the kerbs at the start and lost a position but was able to work my way back up the field. Alex and Dominik continued the good work so it’s very disappointing not to finish, especially as we were running a strong second.”

Dominik Kraihamer, #35 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “The car felt great today after yesterday’s solid result in qualifying. Everything was going so well and we had a good advantage over third. But once again the luck wasn’t with us today. Bahrain will be a new experience for me and, hopefully, signal a change of fortune as well.”

Alex Brundle, #35 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “I got in after Bertrand had finished an excellent double stint and passed Enzo Potolicchio for the lead early on. But we were very unfortunate with the safety car’s timing which not only allowed the Starworks HPD to make up ground but also meant I had to defend using much older tyres. I really enjoyed it though and we were running a strong second when the problem struck. This weekend was my first time in the Morgan 2012 LMP2 and I really enjoyed the experience, especially at a circuit like Interlagos.”

The FIA World Endurance Championship continues with round six in Bahrain on September 29.

In other news, the Morgan 2012 LMP2 run by Conquest Endurance finished second in class and fourth overall at this evening’s American Le Mans Series round in Virginia thanks to the combined efforts of David Heinemeier Hansson and Martin Plowman.

Photo by Clement Marin / DPPI.

OAK RacingOAK Racing set the scene for the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo earlier this week by staging an exhibition featuring their Morgan 2012 LMP2 at the magnificent JK Iguatemi centre. The highlight came on Wednesday with a cocktail reception that included numerous personalities headed by former F1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi.

The sister car of the French team’s two Morgan 2012 LMP2s that will compete in round five of the FIA World Endurance Championship this weekend crossed the Atlantic not to race but instead take pride of place in one of Sao Paulo’s most exclusive neighbourhoods. Arranged around the prototype that sat resplendent in the legendary blue and orange racing livery of Gulf Oil International were the images of photo agency DPPI Media who are exhibiting a selection of photographs depicting iconic moments and characters from endurance racing.

The promotion of the team and its constructor department Onroak Automotive, the WEC and endurance racing, in Brazil – a country traditionally known for its passion for motorsport – has been a resounding success since opening just over two weeks ago. It culminated on Wednesday 12 September with the cocktail reception organised by the team that also marked the official launch of the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo.

It was an initiative welcomed by the press who were joined by team drivers Jacques Nicolet, Matthieu Lahaye, Olivier Pla, Bertrand Baguette, Dominik Kraihamer and Alex Brundle, as well as many Brazilian and French personalities including Fittipaldi and host DJ Igor Cunha.

Amongst those invited were famous singer and presenter Sula Miranda, President of SPTuris (Sao Paulo’s tourist board) Marcelo Reder, the city’s sports department representative Antonio Moreno Neto, Sao Paulo mayoral candidate Celso Russomano, Executive Director of the Momentum agency Gustavo Fonseca, Associate Director of Nduduch Nicholas Duduch, IDORT President Elcio Guimarães, CEO of CNT television channel Osmar Gonçalves and WEC CEO Gérard Neveu.

Guests were treated to a selection of fusion cuisine inspired by both Brazil and France and prepared by young chef Morena Leite who was trained in Paris.

In staging the successful exhibition OAK Racing benefited from the invaluable assistance of Emerson Fittipaldi, the shopping centre’s management, communications agency Nduduch, photographic agency DPPI Media, the WEC and the team’s partners, especially Ecodime. Without their support this showcase could not have come to fruition.

Neveu, Fittipaldi, Nicolet and Neto then took to the stage to deliver their verdicts.

Gérard Neveu, World Endurance Championship CEO: “First of all I would like to apologise for the absence of ACO President Pierre Fillon who arrives in Brazil tomorrow (Thursday) and will not fail to visit the exhibition. The 6 Hours of Sao Paulo is an exceptional event but one that is a human story. Tonight we have with us an extraordinary businessman and very good driver, Jacques Nicolet, along with an extraordinary driver and very good businessman, Emerson Fittipaldi. It’s great that an event such as the 6 Hours Sao Paulo is a place to meet these kinds of people! Endurance racing has a tradition of engaging with fans outside of the circuit’s parameters so I would like to thank DPPI for this initiative. I also extend a big thank you to Brazil and to the city of Sao Paulo for its hospitality and reserve a special mention for Emerson Fittipaldi. Emerson, it is men like you who helped create the heyday of motorsport.”

Emerson Fittipaldi, after presenting the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo and recalling the names of various Brazilian drivers involved in the event, spoke in French: “I would also like to welcome all our French friends! We are very pleased to be staging for the first time the World Endurance Championship in Brazil. We thank the OAK Racing team and its drivers who are with us tonight for this great exhibition in the mall.”

Jacques Nicolet, OAK Racing President: “Our passion for endurance racing is the reason we are here in a country that displays the same appetite for motorsport. It’s one reason why we have organised this exhibition in Brazil. I want to add that the car is not a showcar. It is a real LMP2. If you add the engine it will start! I would like to pay particular tribute to Emerson Fittipaldi. It’s drivers like Emerson who helped to maintain my passion until contesting my first race at the age of 42.”

The exhibition will close on September 16 after the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo.

Photo by Fred Le Floc’h / DPPI

OAK RacingOAK Racing will be looking to build on their successful start to 2012 when the team’s attention switches to the opening round of this year’s European Le Mans Series – the 6 Hours of Le Castellet – at Paul Ricard this weekend (April 1).

The French outfit will field an Onroak Automotive-designed and built Morgan 2012 LMP2 on home turf after demonstrating its potential during the opening FIA World Endurance Championship round at Sebring less than two weeks ago where the car qualified on pole position, set fastest race lap and finished second in class.

As well as carrying over its good form from Sebring, OAK Racing can also look to the recent official ELMS test at Paul Ricard, where it finished top of the timesheets, as further reason to be confident of making a strong start to the European season.

Team Owner Jacques Nicolet, who was part of that podium-finishing driver line-up in Florida, will be joined at the wheel of the #24 car by Guillaume Moreau and Dominik Kraihamer. Two-thirds of OAK Racing’s WEC LMP1 crew, they also appeared well set for a strong result at Sebring before engine problems forced their retirement after nine hours.

In addition, the squad will revert to its traditional black and pink livery for the opening round of the ELMS, which for the first time sees LMP2 machinery represent the premier prototype category.

Sebastien Philippe, Team Principal: “OAK Racing returns to the European Le Mans Series hoping to shine at the 6 Hours of Le Castellet thanks to the combination of an excellent car and engine. That was demonstrated with strong performances at the official test day and Sebring where we took pole position and an LMP2 class podium after just missing out on victory. We’ve put together a fast and reliable crew in the #24 Morgan 2012 LMP2 for the opening round in the form of Jacques Nicolet, Guillaume Moreau and Dominik Kraihamer. We will be doing everything possible to challenge for victory.”

Jacques Nicolet, Team Owner and driver: “I would like to congratulate Series organisers for making LMP2 its premier category. It’s finally a form of acknowledgement the private teams had been waiting for. It’s the most well represented class in the Series, as well as at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Competition will be very open between all the teams which should increase public interest and allow the ELMS to establish itself as a major endurance championship at a time when the economy is not favourable for organising new series.”

Guillaume Moreau: “I am delighted to be contesting the European Le Mans Series, especially as it will be the first time I will have raced with Jacques. This will be my fourth season with OAK Racing, a team to whom I partly owe my endurance racing career, so it’s an event that will hold special meaning. It’s also an opportunity to race alongside my new WEC team-mate Dominik so together we form a very strong trio for this opening ELMS race. Sebring demonstrated the Morgan 2012 LMP2’s potential so I am looking forward to achieving a good result on Sunday, which will erase some of the frustration I felt in America. Nevertheless, we must still be wary of our rivals as the level of competition on the entry list is quite high.”

Dominik Kraihamer: “It’s great to be part of this ELMS adventure, especially as it offers an opportunity to accumulate more seat time with OAK Racing. Joining up with my WEC team-mate Guillaume can only be beneficial on all levels, as it will be with Jacques. In addition, the Morgan 2012 LMP2 is performing well as we saw during official testing at Le Castellet and in Sebring, which offers reasons to hope for a good result. I know Le Castellet well having driven there a lot and feel at home there. I cannot wait to arrive.”

Catch live pan-European ELMS coverage on Motors TV throughout 2012 with streaming and timing from every round also available on www.europeanlemansseries.com.

6 Hours of Le Castellet timetable:

Saturday 31 March
09:15 – 10:45: Free Practice 1
13:00 – 14:30: Free Practice 2
15:50 – 16:10: Qualifying (LMP2/FLM)

Sunday 1 April
08:15 – 08:35: Warm-up
12:00 – 18:00: Race

Photo by DPPI/Le Meur

OAK RacingA mix of youth and experience will provide the backbone to OAK Racing’s World Endurance Championship (WEC) campaign in 2012 following the announcement of both LMP1 and LMP2 driver line-ups today.

The French outfit’s Judd-powered OAK-Pescarolo LMP1, which has been designed and built in-house by the team’s manufacturer division Onroak Automotive, welcomes back the familiar face of Guillaume Moreau who will compete in OAK Racing colours for a fourth consecutive season.

He’s joined by 2009 Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion and IndyCar driver Bertrand Baguette who makes the switch from single-seaters to prototypes, as well as up-and-coming 22-year-old Austrian sportscar ace Dominik Kraihamer who will build on experience gleaned from contesting last season’s Intercontinental Le Mans Cup LMP2 championship.

Mounting an assault on the LMP2 class title meanwhile are two of the sport’s fastest drivers, as well as one of it’s most experienced and trusted gentlemen racers.

Former Le Mans Series LMP2 champion Olivier Pla returns to the OAK Racing fold after a successful half-season in 2011 alongside the crew’s other rapid Frenchman and team stalwart Matthieu Lahaye. Team owner Jacques Nicolet completes a line-up that is hopeful of challenging for victories aboard their Onroak-designed and built Morgan LMP2 2012.

For the re-launch of the World Endurance Championship OAK Racing will count on the support of several key technical partners. The iconic blue and orange race livery of Gulf Oil International returns thanks to the team’s partnership with Caroil, the official and exclusive distributor of Gulf lubricants in France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Tyre manufacturers Dunlop extend their partnership and continue to entrust OAK Racing with development work for their rubber, whilst Judd will once again provide power in LMP1 and LMP2. Serge Blanco, Cari and BRm have all reaffirmed their commitments and the team is also delighted to welcome aboard insurance provider representatives SFS Group, as well as Marcassus Sport and Ecodime.

Sébastien Philippe, Team Manager: “We could not have hoped for better driver line-ups in both classes. In LMP1, Guillaume will provide the continuity around which Bertrand and Dominik can develop their prototype careers. He will help the new guys find their feet in what will be a very tough category this year. It is always difficult against the diesels but nevertheless I think we look in good shape, especially with the major aerodynamic developments and Judd engine updates.

“As for LMP2, both Olivier and Matthieu are extremely fast and very experienced. As our silver graded driver, Jacques is undoubtedly the best option that we could have had. He is reliable, consistent and fast enough to fight with the other silver drivers in this class. That means we have a great chance of fighting for victories, especially as I strongly believe in the car’s all-round performance and improved reliability. It will be fitted with the all-new 2012 aero package that has demonstrated some fantastic results in the wind tunnel.”

Jacques Nicolet, Team Owner and LMP2 driver: “Both the OAK-Pescarolo LMP1 and Morgan 2012 LMP2 look like strong, competitive packages, especially after both completed over 1000 kilometres of test mileage during the winter. We were able to greatly benefit from our official technical partnership with Dunlop last season and it is an area that we must work twice as hard on in 2012 to maximise both cars’ potential. It will be interesting to see whether there is a real desire amongst organisers to close the performance gap between car manufacturers and private outfits. That will help shape Onroak Automotive’s decision whether to commit to an LMP1 programme within the frame of new regulations due to be introduced in 2014.”

Jean-Félix Bazelin, Dunlop Motorsport Competition Director: “Dunlop places a great deal of emphasis on partnerships grounded in mutual trust, integrity and long-term investment. Our continuing technical partnership with OAK Racing allows us to go deeper into the exchange of information and data, thus building the knowledge base of both parties’ engineers. Our teams are testing in Monza as I speak, working on compounds and set-ups for the WEC season and, crucially, the Le Mans 24 Hours. This clearly demonstrates our commitment to success, a trait fully shared by OAK Racing.”

Guillaume Moreau, #15 LMP1: “I am thrilled to be part of such a strong LMP1 line-up for OAK Racing this season. I have known Bertrand since we raced together in World Series by Renault, while Dominik has shown an amazing capacity to adapt and learn, so both are a great fit for the team. I’m also pleased to say that the car has progressed well over the winter, particularly on the aero side. Overall I believe that we have an excellent package with which to fight in what should be a fiercely competitive LMP1 class.”

Bertrand Baguette, #15 LMP1: “I am delighted to be joining OAK Racing’s LMP1 squad for this year’s World Endurance Championship. Being as the cars share many similarities with single-seaters I’m sure I will be able to put my experience to good use. Moreover, I am thrilled to be contesting prestigious events like Sebring, the Le Mans 24 Hours and of course Spa, where I will be racing in front of my home fans.”

Dominik Krahaimer, #15 LMP1: “Competing in LMP1 this year represents a big step forward for me and I am delighted to be taking it with OAK Racing. As a young driver still gaining experience it is vital to have strong team-mates and work within a professional outfit, both of which I will be able to do here. This is a wonderful opportunity and one that I’m sure will teach me a great deal.”

Matthieu Lahaye, #24 LMP2: “I am proud to be entering my fifth season with OAK Racing. Having been here since the beginning I have watched the team grow over time and am sure that 2012 will see it reach full maturity. It is also great to know that I will be paired with Olivier this season. After several years talking about racing together we will finally get the opportunity!”

Olivier Pla, #24 LMP2: “It is fantastic to be continuing the journey that I began with OAK Racing last August. I now know the team and how it works, so we can hit the ground running at the opening race. This year LMP2 represents a great challenge and the objective for the team is clear: go out and win the World Endurance Championship!”

OAK Racing begin their 2012 campaign with the World Endurance Championship’s season-opening round at Sebring on March 17th.