OAK Racing will conclude their 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup season at the Zhuhai International Circuit on November 13 with three of their OAK-Pescarolo prototypes set to compete at the Chinese venue. As China’s first permanent race track Zhuhai occupies a place in motorsport history, but it also holds special memories for OAK Racing, who enjoyed considerable success during last season’s trip to the circuit.
“The whole OAK Racing team is delighted to be returning to Zhuhai for the final round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup,” commented owner and driver Jacques Nicolet. “We have fond memories of the circuit, as in 2010 we took LMP2 class victory in the 6 Hours of Zhuhai and thus secured the ILMC title. Hopefully this is an omen for things to come.
“Speaking more broadly, the team has always enjoyed a special relationship with China,” continued Nicolet. “We were the first to offer a Chinese driver the opportunity to race at the Le Mans 24 Hours when we fielded Cong Fu Cheng in 2008. In doing so we not only gave him his first taste of endurance racing at the wheel of an LMP2, but also helped him to finish third in the famous event alongside Matthieu Lahaye and Pierre Ragues.”
Whilst Cheng is now competing elsewhere his 2008 Le Mans team-mates remain with OAK Racing and will be on track in China, piloting #15 OAK-Pescarolo LMP1 alongside Guillaume Moreau. The team will also field their #24 LMP1 at Zhuhai, with Olivier Pla, Alexandre Prémat and team owner Nicolet sharing driving duties.
The third and fifth place overall finishes achieved at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, where the team took the chequered flag behind only Audi and Peugeot, and the recent fourth and seventh places at Petit Le Mans mean confidence is high within the team. Another strong showing in both the ‘petrol’ class and overall classification will be the aim in China.
In addition to the pair of LMP1s the team will also field the #35 OAK-Pescarolo LMP2 at Zhuhai. LMP2 class victory would reward the great consistency displayed this season by Frédéric Da Rocha and Patrice Lafargue, the experienced gentlemen drivers by whom the #35 has been piloted throughout 2011.
“Beyond the 6 Hours of Zhuhai, China represents an important area of interest for OAK Racing in our new role as a manufacturer,” adds Nicolet. “The team has developed constructor status, including the creation of a Design Office, and during last month’s Petit Le Mans we launched the sale of our 2012-spec LMP2s.
“In addition to the strong results we achieved during the American event, notably the #24 LMP1’s fourth place, the #22 OAK-Pescarolo LMP2 entered by United Autosports took second in class. We can take this as proof that our prototypes are suited to both young talents and gentlemen drivers, a fact that should be backed up at the 6 Hours of Zhuhai. If we can score a strong result it will close the season on a high and allow us to enter the winter break on a positive note.”