The French OAK Racing outfit enjoyed a 24 Hours of Le Mans that presented them with contrasting fortunes come the end of the endurance classic event for their two LMP2 entries.
The No.35 Ligier JS P2-Nissan driven by the gentlemen trio of Jacques Nicolet, Jean-Marc Merlin and Erik Maris, finished in 11th place in class, out performing their rookie team-mates in the No.34 Ligier JS P2-Honda driven by Christopher Cumming, Laurens Vanthoor and Kevin Estre. They didn’t make it to the end of the race due to a gearbox failure in the 23rd hour of the race.
Laurens Vanthoor started the race in the No.34 machine in seventh place, however by the end of his stint, he had dragged the Honda powered entry into 3rd place in the LMP2 class before handing over to Estre. Estre went on to double stint during his first shift in the race and he managed to miss getting caught in the slow zone after an incident involving an LMP1 entry.
Christopher Cummings took his turn in the car afterwards and suffered a spin at Indianapolis. Once the car was extracted, he returned to the pits and the car returned to the running. By the middle of the night, Vanthoors had hauled the Ligier LMP2 machine back up to sixth. However 90 minutes before the finish, they suffered gearbox issues that ended in retiring the car with 60 minutes to go.
The No.35 Nissan powered Ligier had a better run of things during the race. After 7 hours of racing, the entry had moved up to 15th place out the very competitive field of 19 LMP2 cars and was running trouble free after avoiding several incidents in the opening hours. Despite suffering two spins, the car made it through the night with no issues and it was running nicely just outside the top ten in class. However the rookie driver then had to take two penalties in the final daylight hours of the race, the first being for speeding in the pitlane and the second being related to an engine start issue.
Team Manager Phillipe Dumas praised the drivers of both cars and the team’s hard work in this year’s race: “We very nearly completely reached our goals for the #35. I think that they’re very happy with their adventure, and sincerely, I congratulate them for the sporting side of things. They were great. They didn’t make any mistake, they did their thing. That was a good point. For the #34, we knew that it could hold surprises. With the changeable weather during the test day, we weren’t ready enough. We were there right up until 1h30 from the finish line, and we’d practically made it. I’m very disappointed for the drivers and the team, the boys and girls working on the car and for it not to finish…it’s a great disappointment.”