Despite splitting the interests between two very different cars at this weekend's 8 Hours of La Castellet Team ORECA-Matmut have only one goal in mind. Preparation for Le Mans.
This weekends 8 hour timed race at the French Paul Ricard circuit is the opening round of the Le Mans Series, and Hughes de Chaunac's ORECA squad are amongst the favourites to win the premier LMP1 class and so take the overall honours for the race.
The headlines, as far as ORECA are concerned, will no doubt be taken by their customer Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. Only one-and-a-half months after the team took delivery of the diesel powered coupe the car is ready for its race debut. The car, carrying the now traditional Mondrian-inspired paint scheme and the number 4 will be driven by Olivier Panis, Nicolas Lapierre and Stephane Sarrazin, Peugeot works driver Sarrazin a late addition to the team.
“We're here to prepare for Le Mans,” confirms David Floury, the team's technical director. “Our programme reaches its peak in June. The events on the Paul Ricard HTTT circuit and at Spa-Francorchamps will both be dress rehearsals for the Le Mans 24 Hours.”
“So there's no question of taking risks at the start of the race and damaging the car. Our primary aim is to reach the finish to collect the maximum amount of experience with the Peugeot in terms of how the team functions, the evolution of how the car behaves and finally, traffic management.”
With the absence of a Peugeot works effort at the event the 2010-spec ORECA machine will be the only other diesel that will come up against the Audi R15 'Plus' in its own race debut.
However, with both diesel cars getting their first European experience of the new ACO regulations it may face a greater challenge from the petrol powered entrants – that challenge too will be led by ORECA, and their self-made ORECA 01-AIM entry.
ORECA state that Paul Ricard will be its only race prior to Le Mans, in contrast to that suggested for the Peugeot, putting even greater emphasis on recording a good performance especially as the team welcome new tyre supplier Dunlop to the fold.
“We want to prepare for the Le Mans 24 Hours in the most thorough fashion possible,” says Floury of the aims for the car. “This means a putting on a good performance in qualifying, and above all, having a good race. Being there at the finish is our no.1 priority.”
It was the petrol car that was the faster of the two ORECA cars at last month's LMS two day test, however, the team know that is no guarantee success. “What we learned in the test may not be of much use,” Floury admits. “The conditions will be different and our rivals will have had time to fine-tune their cars.”
“Where we're concerned, there are a few unknown factors. We're going into this preparatory race with a fair amount of caution to familiarize ourselves with all the innovations. We've had sessions with Dunlop and we were very satisfied. But it's our first race with this tyre manufacturer, and it'll help us evaluate the potential and the life of the tyres.”
We've got an unusual driver line-up but they all have endurance experience. Soheil [Ayari] and LoÃ¯c [Duval] know the ORECA 01 well, while Didier [Andre] has already driven for us at Le Mans. They're a well-balanced trio, which should help us to be among the front-runners.”
Photo Credit: www.oreca-racing.com