Strong end to 2011 for OAK Racing in Zhuhai

OAK Racing brought the curtain down on their successful 2011 campaign with all three of the team's OAK-Pescarolo prototypes seeing the chequered flag at the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup season finale, the 6 Hours of Zhuhai. Building on the recent progress seen at Silverstone and Petit Le Mans, the #24 LMP1 crew of Jacques Nicolet, Olivier Pla and Alexandre Premat came home a solid fifth overall and second of the petrol-powered runners. In a triumph of efficiency, the car also scooped the coveted Michelin Green X Challenge for covering the greatest distance on the least amount of fuel. Having lost out to the factory Aston Martin at the start, the team reverted to a conservative tyre strategy in an effort to outfox the British squad by running longer stints on the durable Dunlop rubber between pit stops. But when contact ahead hobbled their rivals, OAK Racing pounced, even if the faster Rebellion Lola would ultimately re-take fourth after a spirited fight.   The sister #15 car, minus Matthieu Lahaye from its driver line-up this weekend due to food poisoning, ended the day two places further back in the hands of Guillaume Moreau and Pierre Ragues after a mechanical problem lost the pair time in the pits.Meanwhile OAK Racing's third entry driven by Frederic Da Rocha and Patrice Lafargue confirmed its runner-up position in the LMP2 championship with second place after maintaining its 100% finishing record throughout 2011.Sebastien Philippe, OAK Racing Team Manager: "The #24 car was formidable from start to finish. The drivers were very good while the strategy, made possible by the excellent Dunlop tyres which maintained their performance despite being triple stinted, played into our hands. Unfortunately the Rebellion Lola was clearly untouchable today and even an advantage of two laps was not enough to keep them behind. Sadly a small issue with an engine sensor cost the #15 car three or four minutes which, considering the performance of our rivals, made staging a comeback very difficult."And as for the #35, finishing the race second allowed us to end the season as runner-up overall in the championship, which is great news. Once again, as at every race in 2011, the car has seen the chequered flag, despite a small wheel upright issue 30 minutes from the end. It's worth noting that our mechanics did a fantastic job to fix what is a complicated problem in just 12 minutes." Jacques Nicolet, co-owner and driver #24 LMP1: "Second in the petrol-powered battle as well as the Michelin Green X Challenge prize is a good performance and the best we could have hoped for today given Rebellion's pace. The team has also achieved a decent all-round result with the three cars making it to the finish. Since Silverstone we have worked hard to improve our performance and reliability which will hopefully help next season too as we head into the winter continuing to look for developments and progress. In fact we have been in 2012 mode for quite some time. This week members of our technical group were working in the wind tunnel on evolutions for next year's LMP1, as well as the all-new LMP2 prototype. Preparations for the World Championship 2012 are well advanced."Olivier Pla, driver #24 LMP1: "The race was intense and I had no time to relax during my three-and-a-half stints. Alex did a great job and the car was fantastic to drive which gave me a lot of confidence to extract the maximum performance. It was clear though that we were perhaps slightly lacking in outright top speed compared to the Aston Martin and Rebellion Lola, so despite being faster in the corners and under braking it was difficult to maintain the advantage on the straights."Guillaume Moreau, driver #15 LMP1: "I thought this race would be difficult and that the track layout would be better suited to the Rebellion, and that's exactly what happened. Imola was a perfect circuit for us but this time Zhuhai was made for them. We did the best we could but were further away in terms of performance than usual despite running a great strategy and making no mistakes. Since Le Mans we have performed well with the 'petrol' pole at Imola, third overall at Silverstone, fourth at Petit Le Mans and fifth here. That's really encouraging."Patrice Lafargue, driver #35 LMP2: "It was a great race and very enjoyable. Because there were only two drivers we both had a lot of time in the car which allowed us to run more during practice sessions. It also meant we could fine-tune the car set-up which was perfect. Unfortunately a mechanical problem compromised our race slightly, but we still finished second overall in the LMP2 championship as well as runner-up here in Zhuhai, so we're not going home empty handed. It's a good way to end the season which has been a real pleasure to be part of with OAK Racing."OAK Racing will return to international sportscar action in 2012 for the inaugural World Endurance Championship.6 Hours of Zhuhai classificationLMP11. No.7 / Peugeot Sport Total / Bourdais/Davidson / 249 laps 2. No.8 / Peugeot Sport Total / Montagny/Sarrazin / +38.6 sec 3. No.1 / Audi Sport Team Joest / Bernhard/Fässler / 248 laps 4. No.12 / Rebellion Racing / Prost/Jani / 242 laps 5. No.24 / OAK Racing / Nicolet/Prémat/Pla / 240 laps 6. No.007 / Aston Martin Racing / Meyrick/Mücke/Primat / 239 laps 7. No.15 / OAK Racing / Lahaye/Moreau/Ragues / 238 lapsLMP21. No.26 / Signatech Nissan / Mailleux/Ordonez/Vernay / 228 laps 2. No.35 / OAK Racing / Da Rocha/Lafargue / 213 laps


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