OAK Racing back in the lead in LM P2 in the FIA World Endurance Championship!
Today, sunday, a deluge hit the Mount Fuji Speedway in Japan so the sixth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship couldn’t take place in normal conditions. Nonetheless, OAK Racing was declared the winner in its category with victory going to the no. 35 Morgan-Nissan LM P2, which started on pole position, driven by Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez.
Today in Japan the weather conditions were quite simply appalling and also unusual for the season! For obvious safety reasons Race Control had to give the start behind the safety car before hanging out the red flag for the first time after only seven laps.
The cars then lined up on the track in single file in parc fermé conditions, and the drivers were allowed to go back to the pits.
A second attempt with the start behind the safety car was made three hours later, but out came the red flag again as the rain increased in intensity.
The rain then seemed to ease off a little, and the cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship set off behind the safety car for the third time. However, it began to rain cats and dogs again and to cap it all the fog appeared. Thus the decision was taken to stop the race. The only OAK Racing drivers to have actually racked up some track time were Bertrand Baguette in no. 35, Olivier Pla in no. 24 and Jacques Nicolet in no. 45.
Thus, the no. 35 Morgan-Nissan LM P2 driven by Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez won the LM P2 category in front of the no. 26 G-Drive entry: the French car saw the flag in fourth place overall. It scored half the total awarded for first position in P2 – 12.5 points. Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson in no. 24 finished fourth and Jacques Nicolet and Keiko Ihara ninth in no. 45 in the category.
There are still two races to go, Shanghai and Bahrain, and OAK Racing has retaken the lead the FIA World Endurance Championship Teams’ classification with 5.5 points in hand over Pecom Racing. In the drivers’ title chase Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez’s lead has increased from three to 11.5 points, while Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson are still third.
Sébastien Philippe, Team principal: “It’s a pity not to have been able to race but given the weather conditions it was impossible, and Race Control should be congratulated on their wise decision. But we have the least to complain about in this situation as we were on pole with no. 35, which has bagged the points going with victory, and that’s a good result in view of the championship. Obviously, we certainly won’t boast about it! It’s a bit less positive for the other two cars as no 24 could have scored a much better result. No. 45 was never able to go for it. Jacques Nicolet and Keiko Ihara would have had a great opportunity to put on a good performance in the rain.”
Bertrand Baguette, no. 35 Morgan-Nissan LM P2: “It’s been a frustrating race for everybody, but from a more down-to earth-point of view, it’s a good result for us as we’ve scored the maximum amount of points available in the circumstances, so it’s a good operation in the championship after our setback in the USA. We’re very sorry for the Japanese fans who are really unbelievable supporters. They stayed right till the bitter end in the rain despite the neutralisation of the race.”
Olivier Pla no. 24 Morgan-Nissan LM P2: “First of all we were disappointed with our qualifying performance yesterday. When I handed the car over to Alex Brundle we were on pole as I had the best average after my two flying laps. Unfortunately, he was caught up in the traffic between the quickest LMP 1s and slower LM P2s. So we qualified fourth only one-tenth of a second off the quickest time! Our second disappointment was today’s ‘non’ race. Pole position played a crucial role and no. 35 took full advantage of it, which is all the better for the team. Mathematically, we still have a chance in the championship, but what we really want to do before the end of the season is to win a race.”
Keiko Ihara no. 45 Morgan-Nissan LM P2: “Obviously I’m disappointed not to have raced today. As there were only two of us in the no. 45 Morgan-Nissan, Jacques and I spent a lot of time in the car this weekend. I really enjoyed driving even if I wasn’t in the best of form. We got on very well together and we did a great job in a fantastic ambience. A lot of Japanese supporters came to cheer us on and I’d really have liked to finish on the podium for them. I hope we’ll have that opportunity before the end of the season.”
Rendezvous in China in three weeks for the Shanghai 6 Hours