The big day is coming up for the latest of ORECA’s endurance racing car! Indeed, on January 28th and 29th, in Daytona (United States), the ORECA 07 will take part in its very first race, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, FL (United States), opening race of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. Three teams will each enter a French prototype: JDC Miller Motorsport with Mathias Beche, Misha Goikhberg, Chris Miller and Stephen Simpson; Rebellion Racing with Sébastien Buemi, Neel Jani, Nick Heidfeld and Stéphane Sarrazin; and Dragon Speed which for this race at home will line up Nicolas Lapierre, Loïc Duval, Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley.
A daring challenge for the opening season
The ORECA 07 was long-awaited. Several months before its first shakedown, everyone wondered what the ORECA 05’s little sister would look like. During two seasons his ORECA 05 delivered perfect performances: a win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans just a couple of months after its first shakedown in 2015; a couple of weeks later, a first victory in Imola, first Hong-Kong-based team to ever win ever the twice around the clock of La Sarthe. The ORECA chassis then clinched the FIA WEC World Champion title in 2016 as well as another success in Le Mans. It is thus with great responsibility that the ORECA 07 will take up the torch. After thousands of kilometres covered without a hitch for development tests, at Daytona as part of the Roar where the car did not encounter one single issue and showed great reliability, it is now time for the ORECA 07 to take to the track and compete. Starting out with a 24-hour race is quite daring for a brand new car.
“Launching a new car in the competition with a 24-hour race is a little bit like ascending a mountain via the north face” ORECA Group’s Technical Director David Floury says. “It’s a big challenge to take on but we’re used to that. In 2014, the Rebellion R-One finished 4th overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, less than two months after its first shakedown. The ORECA 07’s development phase went well and most of the critical components for reliability have been tested during up over 7,500 kilometres, combining many different tracks such as the Paul Ricard circuit, Sebring and Daytona.
As part of the Roar, we have garnered lots of data and haven’t come across any reliability issues which is very encouraging. Yet nothing is like racing, especially in such a competitive class with three manufacturers involved.
Each of our teams has a different approach. We’ve established relationships with the three of them which is a true strength when entering a season with a new car and a 24-hour race. Everybody will do its best to reach the end of the 24 hours and fight for victory.”
For this first competition, three teams have chosen the ORECA 07. JDC Miller Motorsport, perfect example of an American team picking up momentum; Dragon Speed, a Florida-based team that will be racing nearly at home; and Rebellion Racing which, for its first race in LM P2, has upgraded its game.
JDC Miller Motorsport, beginning in LM P2
In Daytona, JDC Miller Motorsport will make its debut in the LM P2 class. Following on great past successes, and particularly one win at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2016 in the PC class, John Church’s team is now picking up momentum by entering a car in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship in the LM P2 class.
“I’m delighted to be part of JDC Miller Motorsport’s line-up for the 24 Hours of Daytona” top LM P2 driver Mathias Beche says. “This team has a great mindset and competes in many championships in the USA. My teammates, such as Chris and Misha, have gradually climbed up the ladder of endurance racing. This race will be a first for the team in LM P2 and will stand as a new step. We will aim to gain as much experience as possible. As for myself, I hope to bring my knowledge and experience in endurance, in the LM P2 class as well as with ORECA chassis, in order for them to take that new step forward in the best way possible.
The ORECA 07 is a fantastic tool, enabling us to approach the race calm and relaxed. Yet we’ll have to be on it straight away, focusing on the race and being humble considering the high level of competition, with renowned crews.
It’s a daring challenge for the team, the drivers as well as for ORECA. Our aim is to cross the finish line with no issues along the way, and if an opportunity comes up we will definitely grab it.”
Dragon Speed, first 24-hour race
Dragon Speed has discovered the LM P2 class in 2016. One year later, the team wants to go further. Racing at home, it will be its very first 24-hour race in LM P2, following on a very successful first season in the European Le Mans Series. For this first twice around the clock, Dragon Speed can count on Nicolas Lapierre, who has taken part in the development of the ORECA 07 as a driver. “Test sessions during the Roar in Daytona went really well. It was a first for the ORECA 07 but also for me on this legendary track” says the French driver, current World Endurance Champion in LM P2. “We have been able to try several aerodynamic setups to best approach the race. We are now really looking forward to the big day, January 28th.”
Rebellion Racing, experience in the top-class
After great successes in private LM P1 with the Rebellion R-One, Rebellion Racing has decided to come back in LM P2. For the first race of the season, the Swiss team will travel to the United States where it has met success before, with two wins at the Petit Le Mans. For this first race with the ORECA 07, the team’s first-class line-up will include, amongst others, 2014 World Endurance Champion and Formula E Champion Sébastien Buemi: “It will be my first race in Daytona” he admits. “Test sessions during the Roar enabled me to discover the circuit and the car. We showed then that we were competitive, and generally speaking, in association with the other teams entering an ORECA, that the car itself is very competitive. I was impressed by its handling, grip and engine power. We knew that LM P2 cars were going to look forward in 2017 as confirmed by the 07. It’s a little P1, very reliable and well-developed. Additionally, Rebellion has a strong technical experience with victories in private LM P1, Sebring and the Petit Le Mans. I think we can race for a win. Yet we’ll have to remain careful, 24-hour races are really special, anything could happen.”
See you on Saturday, 2.30pm local time for the ORECA 07’s first start ever. With three cars entered per manufacturer and lots of DPi models expected on track, the first race of the season promises to be intense and exciting!