While Tequila Patron ESM’s “36 Hours of Florida” sweep came as a historic occasion for the Scott Sharp and Ed Brown-led team, it was also a turning point for Onroak Automotive and its Ligier JS P2 chassis, which claimed breakthrough wins in two of the world’s historic endurance races. (En Français)
The French constructor, which has now made its mark in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, ramps up activity this year in both America and abroad, with team principal Philippe Dumas at the helm.
Endurance-Info caught up with Dumas to get his thoughts on the historic Daytona-Sebring double, and a look to season ahead in FIA World Endurance Championship, where it will be largely operating ESM’s efforts in their bid for the LMP2 world title.
One can clearly say that these two victories in America were ones for the record books…
“This is historic for Onroak Automotive. We made history in just two months. The Prototype category is the top category that includes only well structured and professional teams.
“The U.S. [requires] a lot of strategy. At Daytona at Sebring, the battles were incredible.”
Do you feel any kind of pride in this kind of achievement?
“When I arrived at OAK Racing in late 2013, Jacques [Nicolet] had the crazy idea to send a Morgan LMP2 to Daytona. The message was clear: ‘let’s see what will happen.’
“It is largely for this type of challenge I joined the OAK Racing adventure after Hexis Racing. Upon our arrival [in 2014], the reception was good and the results came if we cannot deny that the Nissan engine lacked torque. IMSA helped a lot even though we still had a deficit.
“In 2015, Michael Shank Racing and Krohn Racing successfully defended the interests of Onroak. We also made the best possible support to our customers with the added presence in the WEC.”
Was the upgraded Honda engine one of the keys to the success?
“The evolution proposed by HPD has made for more torque. We knew that with our experience we would be able to fight with the DPs.
“At Daytona and Sebring, we did not talk about lap times. As long as we managed traffic, we knew we would be well. Since the Roar, we have been able to exploit the BoP.
“To shine, you need a reliable and well-prepared car, a structured team, a perfect strategy and good drivers. You also need a conductor to manage everything.
“Unfortunately, Michael Shank Racing has had bad luck with an engine failure. The element of luck is also essential.
“Without the HPD engine, I don’t think we could have won Daytona or Sebring.”
But then the BoP changed after Daytona, in what looked to be to the detriment of the P2 cars…
“I can not deny that I was upset when I saw the BoP. The analysis made by IMSA between Daytona and Sebring was good. However, the new adjustment after the unofficial tests in February where all the cars were not present was not justified. We had dialogue with IMSA.
“We knew Sebring would be more difficult but we [had hope]. The team had worked extremely well, including [getting the car] to handle well over the bumps.
“Bruno Corbe, who was with us at G-Drive, had an eye on everything. Matthew Leroy was in charge of [strategy] with support from PKM for the dampers. We just had a perfect car.”
Was Pipo Derani’s performance a surprise to you?
“Pipo has mental strength. He’s had a successful start. On a human level, it’s just perfect. Pipo basically exploded [on the scene] at Sebring. It was very satisfying to be able to take Pipo [along to ESM]… as we’ve also come a long way with Olivier [Pla].
“Onroak Automotive already has achieved big results in the WEC, but here we speak of two endurance classics with a French chassis. We can not say that we were against Audi or Peugeot, but then everyone has substantially the same car.
“In 36 hours of racing, there was not a single concern from the car. I have to take my hats off to everyone in the company for this success.”
Do you think IMSA’s DPi platform is a good idea?
“DPi is interesting as it [provides a] link with a manufacturer. For this, we need a global vision of the market.
“The activity of Onroak has exploded. We are already working on the JS P217 and are providing good support to our customers in CN, LMP2 and LMP3.”
For ESM, the focus now shifts to the WEC…
“The team will do its job as well as possible. We have a base with the Americans [at the ESM team]. My role is to make it all work.
“The level in the WEC is still up one notch. Some Silver-rated drivers makes its increasingly questionable. We’re in a professional series, which costs $4 million Euros per car. It may be time to think about something new.
“Does a fake Silver have its place? Our direct competitors at Alpine and Jota have no real Silver[-rated driver].”