It would have been a shame not to enjoy a day off between The Prologue FIA WEC official test and the European Le Mans Series test at ORECA, as the manufacturer is based just a few miles from the Paul Ricard Circuit. (En Français)
Endurance-Info caught up with company founder and president Hugues de Chaunac to discuss a variety of topics, including the Rebellion R-One, FIA WEC, Oreca 03-R, Oreca 05, TUSC and the future.
Are staff from ORECA still in the same positions at Toyota Racing?
“ORECA assists Toyota Racing on the ground, with personnel being placed under the direction of David Floury and a track engineer. We are involved in the final part of the program. The engine is built in Japan and the car is put together at TMG [in Germany]. The people are the same from last year.”
The FIA WEC enters a new dimension this year…
“It’s clear that the championship has grown to a new level with the arrival of Porsche. But we must still wait for the first two races to draw an initial conclusion. [The regulations] are not easy to understand. We must see if it’s easily digestible for the fans. I think you have to send the message that there are four different technologies, from Audi, Porsche, Toyota and Rebellion.”
What is the state of the Rebellion R-One?
“The first test was scheduled for late March, which puts us ten days behind the initial schedule. All of the subcontractors were [overwhelmed] by Formula 1 and LMP1, causing a big problem this year. I would say that the R-One will take to the track for the first time between April 10-14.”
A level of trust must be required?
“Bart Hayden and his team will make the decision whether to run the car at Silverstone. Both cars will be ready at about the same time. The [circumstances] are very different than the big three automakers. There is currently one LMP1-L, hence the importance of having a good Balance of Performance.
“This is crucial for the future of the LMP1-L category. If Rebellion Racing can finish between fourth and sixth place, it will give value for others [to join]. If the difference is more than two seconds, then there might be discouragement.
“It’s necessary that the ACO and FIA are aware of this. It must be a true goodwill to encourage manufacturers and teams to come. All this will be possible only if there is a true match [in performance]. The podium needs to be in reach.”
In LMP2, is the Oreca 03 reaching the end of its life?
“Not at all. The Oreca 03 is still very efficient. The idea is to launch a closed-top car for 2015. Teams will have two options, for the same level of performance. This will allow us to expand the rage.
“The Oreca 03 can still run in 2014, 2015 and 2016. There will be the 03-R this year. Without G-Drive’s [exclusion] at Le Mans, the team would have won the FIA WEC title last year.”
What is your feeling on the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship?
“The American culture is not the same as in Europe. The [principles] between the DP and P2 cars are not the same. Americans like big engines and lots of noise and it’s been the case in DPs. LMP2 is the opposite of that with more technology. 2014 is a learning year and it will show how each will find their way.”
Is it a disappointment for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing to skip the next two races?
“This was 100 percent the choice of the team. The program came together rather late and we understand Greg Pickett’s decison to take a pause. They must be given time and we will assist as much as possible.”
Does ORECA want to be have a direct presence in the U.S.?
“We opened an office in Hong Kong last year where we have four to five people working there. It’s been growing. We will now open a sales office in the U.S., in a place still to be determined. Perhaps Charlotte, N.C. or elsewhere.”
What is ORECA’s take on the future U.S. regulations?
“We will watch closely at what happens. There is interest, for sure. This is part of our reflections. In 2015, we already hope the BoP will not be detrimental to the P2 cars and the Oreca 03.”
What about the chaotic race at Sebring, particularly with the PC cars?
“There were numerous incidents and IMSA will analyze everything. This category has been a true success and there is a real attraction for this car for its reasonable price.
“In addition, it proved the car is solid. There is customer support with our partner Haas. There was less interest in Europe because the car could not run in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
This season, ORECA will also be present in Asia with the arrival of KCMG to the family…
“Discussions are underway with KCMG to run an Oreca 03 in the Asian Le Mans Series. We wish to take it a step further. New projects are the essence of ORECA, knowing that we are already fully occupied. We will listen and look at what can be done. ORECA Technology has work until mid-2015.”
Could ORECA be open to developing a car for Garage 56 at Le Mans?
“Of course we would be open to this kind of idea but it must come with the strong support of a manufacturer.”
What about a return to GT?
“We are constantly monitoring the developments in GT. ORECA has reached a certain level of maturity and awareness.”