OAK Racing unveil World Endurance Championship driver line-ups
A mix of youth and experience will provide the backbone to OAK Racing’s World Endurance Championship (WEC) campaign in 2012 following the announcement of both LMP1 and LMP2 driver line-ups today.
The French outfit’s Judd-powered OAK-Pescarolo LMP1, which has been designed and built in-house by the team’s manufacturer division Onroak Automotive, welcomes back the familiar face of Guillaume Moreau who will compete in OAK Racing colours for a fourth consecutive season.
He’s joined by 2009 Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion and IndyCar driver Bertrand Baguette who makes the switch from single-seaters to prototypes, as well as up-and-coming 22-year-old Austrian sportscar ace Dominik Kraihamer who will build on experience gleaned from contesting last season’s Intercontinental Le Mans Cup LMP2 championship.
Mounting an assault on the LMP2 class title meanwhile are two of the sport’s fastest drivers, as well as one of it’s most experienced and trusted gentlemen racers.
Former Le Mans Series LMP2 champion Olivier Pla returns to the OAK Racing fold after a successful half-season in 2011 alongside the crew’s other rapid Frenchman and team stalwart Matthieu Lahaye. Team owner Jacques Nicolet completes a line-up that is hopeful of challenging for victories aboard their Onroak-designed and built Morgan LMP2 2012.
For the re-launch of the World Endurance Championship OAK Racing will count on the support of several key technical partners. The iconic blue and orange race livery of Gulf Oil International returns thanks to the team’s partnership with Caroil, the official and exclusive distributor of Gulf lubricants in France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Tyre manufacturers Dunlop extend their partnership and continue to entrust OAK Racing with development work for their rubber, whilst Judd will once again provide power in LMP1 and LMP2. Serge Blanco, Cari and BRm have all reaffirmed their commitments and the team is also delighted to welcome aboard insurance provider representatives SFS Group, as well as Marcassus Sport and Ecodime.
Sébastien Philippe, Team Manager: “We could not have hoped for better driver line-ups in both classes. In LMP1, Guillaume will provide the continuity around which Bertrand and Dominik can develop their prototype careers. He will help the new guys find their feet in what will be a very tough category this year. It is always difficult against the diesels but nevertheless I think we look in good shape, especially with the major aerodynamic developments and Judd engine updates.
“As for LMP2, both Olivier and Matthieu are extremely fast and very experienced. As our silver graded driver, Jacques is undoubtedly the best option that we could have had. He is reliable, consistent and fast enough to fight with the other silver drivers in this class. That means we have a great chance of fighting for victories, especially as I strongly believe in the car’s all-round performance and improved reliability. It will be fitted with the all-new 2012 aero package that has demonstrated some fantastic results in the wind tunnel.”
Jacques Nicolet, Team Owner and LMP2 driver: “Both the OAK-Pescarolo LMP1 and Morgan 2012 LMP2 look like strong, competitive packages, especially after both completed over 1000 kilometres of test mileage during the winter. We were able to greatly benefit from our official technical partnership with Dunlop last season and it is an area that we must work twice as hard on in 2012 to maximise both cars’ potential. It will be interesting to see whether there is a real desire amongst organisers to close the performance gap between car manufacturers and private outfits. That will help shape Onroak Automotive’s decision whether to commit to an LMP1 programme within the frame of new regulations due to be introduced in 2014.”
Jean-Félix Bazelin, Dunlop Motorsport Competition Director: “Dunlop places a great deal of emphasis on partnerships grounded in mutual trust, integrity and long-term investment. Our continuing technical partnership with OAK Racing allows us to go deeper into the exchange of information and data, thus building the knowledge base of both parties’ engineers. Our teams are testing in Monza as I speak, working on compounds and set-ups for the WEC season and, crucially, the Le Mans 24 Hours. This clearly demonstrates our commitment to success, a trait fully shared by OAK Racing.”
Guillaume Moreau, #15 LMP1: “I am thrilled to be part of such a strong LMP1 line-up for OAK Racing this season. I have known Bertrand since we raced together in World Series by Renault, while Dominik has shown an amazing capacity to adapt and learn, so both are a great fit for the team. I’m also pleased to say that the car has progressed well over the winter, particularly on the aero side. Overall I believe that we have an excellent package with which to fight in what should be a fiercely competitive LMP1 class.”
Bertrand Baguette, #15 LMP1: “I am delighted to be joining OAK Racing’s LMP1 squad for this year’s World Endurance Championship. Being as the cars share many similarities with single-seaters I’m sure I will be able to put my experience to good use. Moreover, I am thrilled to be contesting prestigious events like Sebring, the Le Mans 24 Hours and of course Spa, where I will be racing in front of my home fans.”
Dominik Krahaimer, #15 LMP1: “Competing in LMP1 this year represents a big step forward for me and I am delighted to be taking it with OAK Racing. As a young driver still gaining experience it is vital to have strong team-mates and work within a professional outfit, both of which I will be able to do here. This is a wonderful opportunity and one that I’m sure will teach me a great deal.”
Matthieu Lahaye, #24 LMP2: “I am proud to be entering my fifth season with OAK Racing. Having been here since the beginning I have watched the team grow over time and am sure that 2012 will see it reach full maturity. It is also great to know that I will be paired with Olivier this season. After several years talking about racing together we will finally get the opportunity!”
Olivier Pla, #24 LMP2: “It is fantastic to be continuing the journey that I began with OAK Racing last August. I now know the team and how it works, so we can hit the ground running at the opening race. This year LMP2 represents a great challenge and the objective for the team is clear: go out and win the World Endurance Championship!”
OAK Racing begin their 2012 campaign with the World Endurance Championship’s season-opening round at Sebring on March 17th.