SEBRING, Florida – The No. 42 OAK Racing Nissan-Morgan driven by Alex Brundle, Olivier Pla and Gustavo Yacaman brought home a fourth-place finish in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the second round of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship.
After starting in the second position, the No. 42 pressed hard throughout the 12-hour endurance race. Despite hours of cautions and crashes, the team was able to maintain a strong track position and ran as high as second on several occasions. At the final restart the car sat third, but the Action Express Corvette DP was able to slip by on the restart into a podium position. Pla was in the car at the finish, reeling off fast laps that matched the leaders, but unfortunately was unable to catch them.
"The key was to survive traffic and stay on the lead lap. On the last restart, I was trying to fight for positions and pass Dalziel," said Pla. "However, I had to lift because of a GT car and I lost positions. I was right there to fight at the end, but came up a little short at getting the job done. Anyway, we did our best and we are going to work hard for Long Beach because I think there is something to do there."
The race ended in disappointment at Sebring for the Muscle Milk-Pickett Racing Nissan ORECA. Lucas Luhr qualified the car fifth and in the early going Saturday had the Nissan-ORECA running as high as second. Good pit stops and great driving saw Klaus Graf in the race lead, opening up a substantial gap on the field during hour three. However, a pit road speeding penalty on the next pit stop dropped the car to 12th.
During GT Academy champ Jann Mardenborough's first stint the car developed a driveline problem and the car spent 40 minutes in the garage. The car returned to the track 13 laps down but was running well when a power steering problem forced the car to retire just before the end of the race.
"It wasn't the result we wanted but it is what it is. Thank you to the boys, they worked very hard and they got our Muscle Milk ORECA Nissan back out after our problem with the driveline. They were really quick to get it fixed. "We did competitive laps and we led the race by 19 seconds at one point. It shows that we had the speed. We also had very good pit stops. It's just that the car is still new, new to Sebring, new to the U.S. and we still have to learn a lot of things together with ORECA. "The TUDOR Championship is obviously very competitive and we'll come back strong at the next race."
The OAK Racing Nissan-Morgan had better luck, with Yacaman, Pla and Brundle staying on the lead lap throughout a race that saw numerous serious accidents and long stretched run under yellow flag conditions.
"The stop-start racing with so many cautions made the race very difficult for us because we were struggling with the (low) tire temperature," said Brundle. "However, we were very, very strong in the pits, which is positive. In the beginning of my stint in the strait lines, we were holding onto a strong speed. We ran within the top three for a long time. Unfortunately we just got shuffled out at the end. As everyone knows who watches this type of racing, that is often times what it comes down to. Sometimes, that's just how it is. However, I am proud of everybody on the team."
Both teams will move on to The Grand Prix of Long Beach next, which takes place April 12 on a 1.97 mile-long street circuit that should suit the LM P2 Nissan-Powered prototypes well.
12 Hours of Sebring – Top Five
- Chip Ganassi Racing (Ford Riley DP #01) 291 laps
- Extreme Speed Motorsport (HPD ARX #1) +4.682 (behind leader)
- Action Express Racing (Corvette DP #5) +8.965 (behind leader)
- OAK Racing (Morgan Nissan LM P2 #42) + 11.994 (behind leader)
- 5. Extreme Speed Motorsport (HPD ARX #2) + 17.027 (behind leader)
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