OAK Racing’s LMP2 team scored a forth podium of the season in the final round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at the Six Hours of Shanghai.
Through Olivier Pla the team started strongly, taking the class lead on the opening lap with a move around the outside of three cars. Taking the Morgan-Nissan over from Pla at the team’s first pitstop Matthieu Lahaye maintained the class lead through his double stint before Jacques Nicolet at the mid-point of the races’ third hour.
A battle that began between Lahaye and Mathias Beche in the ADR-Delta car continued between Nicolet and Tor Graves, both men having taken over from their respective teammates. Nicolet was able to keep the lead briefly, but a spin while under pressure from Graves saw him lose the lead to the ADR driver, eventually falling to fifth place before handing the back to Pla for a race ending triple stint, hauling the #24 car back into third in class, finishing behind winners ADR-Delta and Starworks Motorsports.
“Our goal was to score victory here in Shanghai so even though third place is nice, it’s still a shame for the team,” said Pla. “We’ve had our share of glitches throughout the season but have shown the performance of our LM P2. Fuji aside, we have led at some stage during every round this season which proves the car’s potential. But the overall result is somewhat mitigated due to us not winning a single WEC race after stating at the start of the year that we intended to win the title. That’s something we must accept. I’d like to thank the whole team, mechanics and engineers for their hard work throughout the season. They have built a very good car and it has been a pleasure to work with them.”
There were problems too for the team of Takuma Sato, Bertrand Baguette and Dominik Kraihamer in the team’s Honda powered LMP1 entry.
Both Kraihamer – starting the race – and Sato reported brake problems during their stints that only got worse when Baguette began his stint. Finally the car’s front-left brake disc failed beneath Baguette forcing a lengthy pitstop for repairs that cost six laps, ending any chance of challenging for a spot on the LMP1 privateers’ podium.
Through subsequent stints Baguette and Kraihamer hauled the car back to fourteenth overall.
“The start of the race was very difficult due to the front left brake disc getting very hot and eventually failing during my stint,” said Belgian Baguette. “Once it was replaced we were able to lap 1.5 seconds faster and match the pace of the other LM P1 privateers. This is very promising compared to the 6 Hours of Fuji, although unfortunately reliability was not with us. Both Takuma and Dominik did great jobs. It’s been a pleasure to share my season with them and, of course, Guillaume Moreau who taught me a lot early in the year. An OAK chassis equipped with Honda engine is a powerful package and we have ended up back in the hunt despite suffering from a three-race absence, so it’s a shame that the season has to end now.”