Racing Engineering


Fantastic victory for Racing Engineering at Paul Ricard in their debut European Le Mans Series race.
Conditions were much improved for today’s opening round of the European Le Mans Series at Paul Ricard with the sun shining brightly and air and track temperatures of 18° and 22° respectively. Norman Nato was starting the race for Racing Engineering, after qualifying the Spanish team’s Oreca 07-Gibson fourth, and as the clock reached twelve o’clock the cars took the rolling start and as the drivers took the first corner Norman gained a place to take third position. For the next two laps Norman chased the Duqueine Engineering Oreca until, on lap three in a beautifully timed move, he slipstreamed the French team’s car down the main straight, pulling out and easily taking second place under braking.

Norman now began to close in on the leader, the DragonSpeed Oreca of fellow Frenchman, the very experienced, Nicolas Lapierre and, after eleven laps, the gap was down to 1.8 seconds and he was now 7.2 seconds ahead of the Duqueine Engineering car. The Racing Engineering car lost a couple of seconds lapping slower LM GTE cars and, with thirty minutes gone, Norman was lying second, 5.6 seconds behind Lapierre and 11.1 seconds ahead of the Alpine A470 of André Negräo in third.

On lap twenty-two Lapierre lost a lot of time trying to pass a slower Porsche allowing Norman to close the gap dramatically as both the DragonSpeed car and the Racing Engineering car dived into the pits to refuel and change tyres but neither team making a driver change and, when they resumed racing, the gap was down to 2.8 seconds. Once again Norman began to close the gap to the leader and at twenty-five laps the Spanish car was just 1.9 seconds behind.
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As the clock reached the one hour mark and thirty-three laps completed, the gap continued to hover around the three to four second mark as the two leaders gained and lost time as they lapped the LMP3 and LM GTE cars while the third placed Alpine was now 22.2 seconds behind Norman. Suddenly it was all-change at the seventy-five minute mark, just as Norman set the fastest lap of the race so far, Lapierre slowed with a left-front puncture and, as the DragonSpeed car pitted, Norman took the lead putting Racing Engineering at the front of the field in their debut ELMS race.

On lap forty-five Norman took his second pitstop and he leapt out of the car as replacement Paul Petit took his first racing stint in the Spanish Oreca and the young Frenchman resumed the race in second place, thirty-two seconds behind the leader, the Alpine which immediately took it’s pitstop leaving Paul back in the lead.

At the ninety-minute mark Paul lead the race by 29.6 seconds from the DragonSpeed car, now driven by Henrik Hedman, but shortly after the Alpine of Paul Thiriet took second place and on lap sixty-two the DragonSpeed car crashed out of the race causing a Full Course Yellow slowing all the cars to a mandatory 80kmh which allowed Paul to take a quick pit stop.
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The two-hour point of the race arrived with sixty-two laps gone and the Full Course Yellow still in effect and shortly after the Safety Car was deployed as the marshalls repaired the barrier that had been damaged by the DragonSpeed accident. Racing resumed on lap seventy with Paul’s lead reduced to 8.1 seconds due to the Safety Car, and over the next three laps the second-placed Alpine reduced Paul’s lead further to 5.3 seconds. Paul then lost further time trying to lap a Dallara which was not co-operating and as the race reached two hours and thirty minutes the lead for the Racing Engineering car was just half a second. The young Frenchman was matching lap times with Negräo, but he was having to be very careful not to make any mistakes as he lapped the slower cars and, with the gap at 0.8 seconds, on lap eighty-eight Paul pitted and Olivier Pla took over as the Racing Engineering team refueled and changed tyres on their car in a quick 68 seconds. Olivier was now in second place behind the Alpine which then stopped on lap ninety and on lap ninety-two the experienced Frenchman was just 2.8 seconds behind.

Olivier now began to quickly close in on Thiriet in the Alpine and with one hour to go the Racing Engineering driver was right on the gearbox of his rival and on lap ninety-six he slipstreamed the French car and out-braked Thiriet around the outside to put the red and yellow car back in the lead. Olivier now began to increase his pace and by lap one hundred he was 5.8 seconds ahead of the Alpine. On lap one hundred and nine Olivier pitted for the final stop of the race and the Racing Engineering team did an excellent job, refueling the car and changing the tyres in 64 seconds. Olivier resumed racing in second place, behind the Alpine that had yet to stop with thirty minutes of the race remaining and three laps later the it pitted putting Olivier back in the lead. The Racing Engineering car now led the TDS Racing Oreca by 8.3 seconds with the two cars were now lapping at almost identical rates and with fifteen minutes remaining the gap was 9.6 seconds but as the race entered its final minutes Olivier used all his experience to keep the gap constant and, despite being held up by a lapped car on the final lap, Olivier took the chequered flag to win by 4.8 seconds.

This was the best possible debut for Racing Engineering taking a confident victory with all three drivers driving superbly with Norman putting their Oreca into the lead, Paul keeping the car at the front and Olivier calmly bringing the team their victory. The Racing Engineering team will now be looking to the next round at Monza on the 13th May and they will be determined to win again.
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Alfonso De Orleans-Borbón: “Fantastically happy! We always try to go for a win but we knew with this being the first race of the season with a new car and many top and experienced teams it was not going to be easy. I would like to say thank you for all the help from Dunlop, which was fantastic, and also everyone at Oreca for helping us out in such a short period and most importantly, absolutely everyone in the team who worked extremely hard from the beginning of the project. I am very happy with the results we achieved, but now we work on preparing for Monza.”

Norman Nato: “All the team and all drivers did a really good job. All went really well and considering that we had only one day of testing at this level of racing, we know there is room for improvements, for us as drivers and for the team. We therefore expect to be even stronger for the next weekend. I would like to thank the entire team for the hard work they have put in and this was a great way to kick off the season.”

Paul Petit: “It’s fantastic to win here with this fantastic team and great team mates. We have a really good team spirit which is very important in endurance racing. Norman had a really good start into the race and two very good stints. He gave me the car in a good position and I tried my best to keep the lead and at the finish Olivier had a really strong race as well. The entire team did a really good job all week long and we are ready to fight for Monza. I am really happy and would like to thank the team once more for having made this possible.”

Olivier Pla: “I think this was a perfect weekend. This was my first race with Racing Engineering and their first race in ELMS and taking the win is just fantastic. We only really started working a few weeks ago and I am impressed by what I saw, by how the team looks into every detail, by how everyone in the team tries to maximise everything. I am really happy to work with Racing Engineering.”