Having shown good outright speed throughout the season, but with little to show for it Team ORECA Matmut will return to racing action at the Portimao 1000km regular drivers Nicolas Lapierre and Olivier Panis backed up by Peugeot works driver Stephane Sarrazin for the event.
“After a good performance at Le Mans, we're determined to continue to improve and that means a victory,” points out David Floury, the team's technical director. “The field is smaller than in the previous races, but we have to remain concentrated on our objectives. We must win! So far our results are not in keeping with our potential. First of all, we're concentrating on victory in this event, and then we could be aiming for the title. In a way, we're in a kind of handicap race, and we have to make a final sprint to put ourselves in a position to fight for the title.”
With the legendary French endurance race over for another year the team now concentrate entirely on the second half of the Le Mans Series, with races at Budapest and Silverstone following the Portuguese race in the coming months.
The race is run into darkness, beginning at 5pm local time and running to either the normal LMS time limit of six hours or 229 laps of the 4.6mile track, the Saturday race presenting an unusual challenge to the team condensing the race into two days.
“It leaves us very little time to steer the right course. What's more the track will be different in qualifying and in the race, and that'll have an impact on tyre choice so we have to get our sums right. “Racing on this track isn't totally new for us as we've already run the ORECA 01 here,” explains Floury. “We'll use the information we collected last year and transfer it to the 908 HDi FAP and draw the right conclusions.”
However, even before the team have got on track in the diesel-engined, Lapierre is expecting a challenge; “It's true that the layout hasn't really been designed with the 908 HDi FAP in mind, as it's much more at home on a fast track,” he says. “On the other hand, we know that this car's competitive everywhere. One of the main parameters we have to take into account is tyre wear. It'll be hot and we'll have to work hard on this aspect during practice. On the Portimao circuit, traffic is another big problem with a lot of blind corners and bumps. The field, though, is smaller – we'll be our own toughest rivals!”