Productive day’s practice for OAK Racing at Sebring
OAK Racing rounded off a productive day’s practice at Sebring this evening where the team’s all-new LMP1 and LMP2 machines continued to impress ahead of this Saturday’s World Endurance Championship season opener. Following today’s two hour-long sessions held under clear skies and sunshine, the 64-strong field sampled its first taste of night-time running. Despite the congestion and flurry of red flags, which resulted in a 25-minute extension to the original one-hour 45-minutes, OAK Racing emerged unscathed and buoyed by strong performances from both cars.Bertrand Baguette, Guillaume Moreau and Dominik Kraihamer all took turns behind the wheel of the #15 OAK-Pescarolo LMP1 with Baguette waiting until the end of the session to set the car’s best time, a 1m51.707. That left the trio sixth overall but still someway shy of the car’s full potential which Moreau had demonstrated in second practice by posting an excellent 1m49.439 lap, just 1.6 seconds shy of the top spot and within 0.2sec of the nearest diesel-powered Audi in third. Olivier Pla also left it late in Night Practice to vault the #24 Morgan 2012 LMP2 into contention after Jacques Nicolet and Matthieu Lahaye had struggled to find a clear lap in traffic. Fortunately Pla did just that to produce a 1m52.867, enough to end the day second in class and 10th overall.Near-perfect conditions for Thursday’s opening two sessions certainly appeared to suit the team who made significant progress during second practice in particular.Having seen Kraihamer set the tone for a decent day’s work with a series of competitive runs in the opening session, team-mate Moreau stepped into the OAK-Pescarolo LMP1 seat for practice two, eventually working down to that encouraging sub-1m50 time. Meanwhile, OAK Racing’s LMP2 entry spent the majority of its day getting up to speed after significant repairs were required following Monday’s testing accident. With Pla’s time behind the wheel in the morning largely restricted to systems checks and installation runs, it wasn’t until the afternoon that the car’s true potential began to emerge.The ultra-competitive session saw many position changes as traffic played its part in compromising hot laps. Even so, Lahaye found enough room to significantly lower the Morgan 2012 LMP2’s best to a 1m54.248, which ultimately proved good enough for fourth in class. As well as today’s three practice sessions, OAK Racing found time to hold a press conference outlining the recently announced deal that sees Conquest Endurance handle import and distribution of Onroak Automotive parts in the US, as well as fielding a Morgan 2012 LMP2 in this year’s American Le Mans Series.Sebastien Philippe, Team Manager: “Overall we’ve enjoyed a good day. The LMP1 looks balanced and the drivers are happy but it will be very competitive amongst the petrol entries, especially as HPD look strong here. It’s not been as easy in LMP2 considering a small engine issue this morning and not testing at the beginning of the week due to the accident. So we’ve had to play catch-up on the car’s set-up. Olivier’s lap was a good way to end the day but then the track conditions were improving and there was less traffic so it’s difficult to analyse the times. For now we’ll stay cautious and see where we are tomorrow.”Dominik Kraihamer, #15 OAK-Pescarolo LMP1: “We’ve enjoyed a very good day during which we spent a lot of time focusing on the damper settings. We also improved the car’s general set-up which has helped us to find more time when behind the wheel. Unfortunately none of us were able to get a clear lap in, but then that will also be the case in the race so it was good practice! I am very happy with the team’s work today and am confident that we will be ready for the race.”Olivier Pla, #24 Morgan 2012 LMP2: “We completed a lot of work today even though it was difficult with so many red flags. I had to calm myself down slightly when in the car because it was very easy to get frustrated with so much traffic and cars all over the place. That’s especially difficult to do when you have to play catch-up. We will continue to work on and improve the car’s balance so I am optimistic for the race.”The final hour-long practice session begins at 09:55 local time (+5 CET) tomorrow ahead of separate qualifying sessions for LMP2 (15:55) and LMP1 (16:10).