The 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.”