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OAK Racing set for 12 Hours of Sebring debut


Reigning Intercontinental Le Mans Cup champions OAK Racing make their debut at the world famous 12 Hours of Sebring this weekend (March 19).

Last season saw OAK Racing contest the international series’ inaugural campaign with a single LMP2 prototype, winning both their class title and the prestigious Michelin Green X Challenge.

This time, three OAK-Pescarolo prototypes – two in LMP1 and a single LMP2 machine – are entered for the entire seven-round ILMC season which begins at the American Le Mans Series’ opener at Sebring this weekend.

In LMP1, the #15 car is shared by three young, talented drivers; Matthieu Lahaye, Guillaume Moreau and Pierre Ragues. The trio know the team and its cars well and have already stood on the Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 class podium.

The same continuity exists in the #24 entry where three committed gentlemen drivers are back together for a third time, team owner Jacques Nicolet sharing the wheel with Richard Hein and Jean-François Yvon. This crew has also proven its credentials with a podium at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2009.

Finally, in LMP2, the crew of the #35 car, as required by the regulations, is a mix of gentlemen and professional drivers. Patrice Lafargue and Fréderic Da Rocha will defend the team’s ILMC LMP2 crown they won last year alongside OAK Racing’s new 19-year-old recruit Andrea Barlesi, who won the 2010 Formula Le Mans title.

Preparations for this gruelling 12 hour event have included OAK Racing and its 40 staff conducting a two-day test at Sebring on March 14 and 15. The large number of teams entered for this year’s race, which is designated both an ILMC and ALMS round, ensured that the track remained busy throughout with around 50 cars testing.

François Sicard, Team Manager and Managing Director: 
“Following our first impressions of the track, and what I would call the super shakedown of all three cars, their drivers and the team, we are quite confident for the rest of the week. Even if there is still a lot of work to do, we used the tests to fine-tune different set-ups at our own pace without worrying about lap times or what other teams were doing. Our objective is to calmly manage the entire week without panicking or trying to rush. It’s important not to forget that Sebring, like Le Mans, is physically very hard on the mechanical and human sides, even if there is ‘only’ 12 hours of racing!”

Matthieu Lahaye, #15 (LMP1): 
“I began with some apprehension due to the myth of Sebring, the circuit and its track surface’s poor reputation in the back of my mind. But I soon settled down and found my bearings. With so many cars on such a small circuit, managing the traffic is going to be crucial.”

Guillaume Moreau, #15 (LMP1): 
“It is a very peculiar track with a mix between concrete and tarmac, but, to me, it does not look any worse than the Hungaroring, for example. I like circuits which do not allow for any mistakes but on which you can push the limit. It will be a fascinating race.”

Pierre Ragues, #15 (LMP1): 
“I am delighted to have discovered this circuit, this monument of motorsport. Even though the track conditions are going to evolve over the week, we were able to review and collect the maximum amount of data and explore interesting directions. This is the first time that we are in race conditions with the car and the team. Everything is taking shape and it is very positive.”

Andrea Barlesi, #35 (LMP2): 
“It is an atypical and physical circuit where the machinery is tested a lot. It will be very interesting to see how the car stands up in terms of reliability. During the two days we acclimatised to the new LMP2 and tried different set-ups. The working relationship with Frédéric and Patrice is good, while on the technical side we offer the same feedback, which is essential for a crew.”

Jacques Nicolet, #24 (LMP1) and Team Owner: 
“The winter has been very short and very hard on all fronts. Since the last race in Zhuhai at the end of November and the beginning of this season in the United States, we have developed two LMP1s and a brand new LMP2, whilst moving facilities to Le Mans. Under such conditions this week is a great reward for the entire team, which has done a fantastic job. It’s very satisfying to be ready for the first race of the season at a circuit as famous as Sebring with three cars, regardless of the final result. Many teams can be envious.”

American viewers can see the race live on www.ESPN3.com from 10.15am ET on Saturday March 19, while ABC will carry television coverage on Sunday at 12.30pm.

You can also tune in to www.RadioLeMans.com for live commentary of each session and the race itself throughout the week. Non-US viewers can watch live streamed coverage on www.americanlemans.com.

12 Hours of Sebring schedule (local time)

Thursday, March 17: 
10.15am – 11.15am: Free Practice
3.05pm – 4.05pm: Free Practice
7.50pm – 9.35pm: Night Practice

Friday, March 18: 
10.40am – 11.40am: Free Practice
3pm – 3.15pm: Qualifying (GT)

Saturday, March 19: 
8am – 8.25am: Warm Up
10.30am – 10.30pm: 59th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Fresh from Florida