With a dominant run in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which saw a 1-2 result in LMP2, OAK Racing heads into this weekend’s Six Hours of Sao Paulo looking to continue its title chase in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The French squad’s No. 35 Morgan-Nissan of Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez claimed a dominant victory in the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic, which propelled the trio to the top of the LMP2 standings, five points ahead of their sister No. 24 entry.
“It’s certainly a nice feeling knowing you’re the target for the weekend,” says Plowman, who won in his Le Mans debut. “In terms of our preparation, our focus and the feeling we have in the team, it hasn’t changed since [the season-opener in] Silverstone.
“We don’t feel like the favorites still. I feel that will stay the same until the end of the season. We know we’ve got a lot to improve on. We’re not even close to reaching our potential but I think you always have to get out of bed needing to improve.”
While Plowman, who finished runner-up in the ALMS P2 championship last year with OAK teammate David Heinemeier Hansson, is embarking on his first season in the WEC, the Jacques Nicolet-owned squad has seen significant gains in 2013, particularly with the reliability of its OnRoak Automotive-built Morgan-Nissans.
“The team has made a big step up between last year and this year,” says Baguette, who drove both LMP1 and LMP2 cars for OAK last year. “We worked a lot during the winter on reliability because we knew it was our problem. Last year, the car was quick everywhere but we always had problems.
“At Le Mans, we were the only two cars that didn’t have any problems. We didn’t even take the bodywork off the cars [during the race]. The car was quick and that’s the point. If we can keep going like this for the rest of the season, we can be on the podium quite a lot of times.”
OAK undoubtedly boasts two of the strongest driver lineups in the LMP2 class, including the No. 24 car of Heinemeier Hansson, Olivier Pla and Alex Brundle, which had been touted as early season championship favorites. However, thanks to the double points earned at Le Mans, it’s been the No. 35 entry that’s recently turned some heads.
According to 2011 ALMS PC co-champion Gonzalez, the potential for success had been there from the start of the season at Silverstone.
“Since the first race, we knew we could win,” he says. “We had the speed to win and we had everything behind us to win. But we didn’t have any good luck and [had] a couple of mistakes. For some reason, we couldn’t show what we had.
“Now, we have shown what we are capable of and other teams are going to be paying more attention to our car, instead of just the 24 [car]. It’s a dream come true for the team and drivers. It shows us what we were thinking at the beginning of the year.”
With competition in LMP2 at an all-time high, with 22 entries at Le Mans and nine cars set to do battle in Sunday’s round, there’s no let up in sight for the No. 35 trio as they seek back-to-back WEC class victories this weekend and set their sights on the championship.
“Our approach to Le Mans was being conservative and about finishing,” Plowman says. “For these six hour races, it’s the complete opposite. It’s about attacking every lap. Every time [you're] in the car is [like] a qualifying session. Right now, it’s going to be a dogfight to the finish.”Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman, OAK Racing, Ricardo Gonzalez, Sao Paulo, Sports Cars, WEC