On 1st September, Sarthe-based team OAK Racing will race in the fourth round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship on the Sao Paolo circuit in Brazil with three Morgan-Nissans. Nos 24 and 35 will have their usual driver line-ups, who racked up a double in the Le Mans 24 Hours in this category and now lead the world championship in LM P2. The no. 45 Morgan-Nissan in its Art Car livery will boost the team’s forces until the end of the season. Keiko Ihara from Japan will back up the crew in this car.
Keiko Ihara is one of the few woman drivers in international endurance racing. She began her career at the age of 25 and competed in Europe and Asia in several different championships with success. These included Formula BMW, Formula 2000 and GTs. In 2009 she changed to sports prototypes in Formula Le Mans followed by LM P2 in which she finished seventh in the WEC in 2012. She is very much involved in the development of motor sport, raising road safety awareness and new energies. Keiko is a Global Ambassador for Nissan and their zero emission mobility programme.
Keiko will share the wheel of the no. 45 Morgan-Nissan with Jacques Nicolet in the Sao Paolo, Mount Fuji, Shanghai and Bahrain 6-Hour events. French gentleman driver, Jean-Marc Merlin, will join them at Interlagos and at the Americas’ Circuit. No. 45 will be clothed in the already much talked-about livery seen in the Le Mans race derived from Fernando Costa’s sculpture, the Le Mans 24-Hours 90th Anniversary Art Car. The nos 24 and 35 Morgan-Nissans will appear in their traditional black and pink and will be driven by their usual trios: Frenchman Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle from England and Dane David Heinemeier Hansson (no. 24), Bertrand Baguette from Belgium, Englishman Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez from Mexico (no. 35).
Thus OAK Racing will enter three Morgan-Nissan LM P2s built by Onroak Automotive, the team’s constructor department, to maintain its place as the double leader in the category while continuing to improve the performance of no. 45.
Sébastien Philippe, OAK Racing Team Principal: “The whole OAK Racing team is both proud and delighted to welcome Keiko Ihara from Japan, who has had an atypical career and is the only woman driver in the WEC, for the remaining races of the season, which are all taking place outside Europe. Keiko is backed by Nissan and this can only help to strengthen our ties with this manufacturer whose engines we appreciate very much because of their performance. I’m sure that Keiko will do her very best to be a credit to her partners, her country and her predecessors. She will be the third Japanese driver to join us after Sinji Nakano and Takuma Sato, which serves to underline the strong links our team enjoys with Asia in general and Japan in particular; and also our determination to expand our activities on the international scene. Maybe next year we’ll have a Brazilian driver. Who knows?
The team is looking forward to returning to the very special Interlagos circuit, which is very tough on the drivers as it turns in an anticlockwise direction! Despite this we’ve scored a top-three finish in LM P2 there. This year, we’re arriving with more ambitious aims. We’re out to defend our place as leaders. The Onroak chassis, Dunlop tyres and Nissan engine package no longer needs to prove itself, and our driver line-ups combine speed and consistency as we saw at Le Mans so we’re aiming for victory.”
Keiko Ihara, no. 45 Morgan-Nissan LM P2: “It is a great honour and pleasure to join the OAK Racing team to participate in the rest of the WEC season. I am really looking forward to driving with the team. Mr Sebastien Philippe, the team principal, used to drive the Nissan GT-R in Japan as one of the top drivers. I am sure that his abundant experience and knowledge will be of great help to me. I will try to get on the podium in the Brazilian round this weekend and in my home country, Japan, together with my team-mate, Mr Jacques Nicolet, and all members of the OAK Racing squad. I would like to thank all the people who have given me very strong support to secure my drive with the team: NISSAN, NISMO, my sponsors and supporters. I will do my best to score great results!”
Ricardo Gonzalez, no. 35 Morgan-Nissan LM P2: “I’m very excited to get back in the OAK Racing car after this long break. Winning Le Mans was the highlight of my racing career, and we have been very busy this summer with media and sponsorship commitments: now it’s time to get back in the car and try to extend our points lead in the LM P2 championship. I had a chance to race at Interlagos many years ago; it’s a great track and I’m sure it will be a lot of fun in the Morgan-Nissan. I’m really looking forward to seeing my teammates again and going for another win!”
Alex Brundle, no. 24 Morgan-Nissan LM P2: “I am looking forward to delivering a good performance in Sao Paulo for myself and for the team. Last year this race was my debut for OAK Racing in the WEC so it’s nice to look back and see how things have moved forward. This year I come with more experience and great confidence that we can secure a good result.”
Source : OAK Racing