Olivier Pla will make his race debut with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports in next weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, having been confirmed in the team’s No. 52 Ligier JS P217 Gibson for the third round of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.
The Ford factory ace, who also serves as a development driver for Onroak Automotive, will pilot the LMP2 contender alongside Jose Gutierrez, who returns to IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship action after not taking part in the last round at Detroit.
According to team owner Bobby Oergel, the addition of Pla, who tested with the team at Sebring in March, will hopefully help the California-based squad make further inroads with the French-built prototype, which battled reliability issues earlier this season.
“From our end it’s very exciting to have Olivier on board,” Oergel told Sportscar365. “He obviously is more than qualified and comes with a great deal of experience and history, as far as being quick and winning.
“It will also be great to have Jose back after his Le Mans experience. Hopefully we can start off fresh with a good weekend.”
Oergel said Tom Kimber-Smith, who holds a full-season contract with PR1/Mathiasen, remains in the UK for family matters, with Gutierrez’s co-driver for the remainder of the season still undetermined.
The team had limited running at Detroit, without Kimber-Smith or Gutierrez in attendance. Oergel said a similar situation could unfold for next month’s round at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park but remains hopeful of securing sufficient funding and drivers for that race.
CTMP is the final event that’s not on the Mexican driver’s schedule.
“There’s a couple of possible opportunities but a bit hard to move,” Oegrel said of CTMP. “But we’ll be there, we just want to assemble something good.”
Oergel said he’s been pleased with the overall progress of the Ligier, particularly after coming off a relatively trouble-free run for the car in last weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in the hands of seven customer teams.
“As more running gets done, I think the reliability gets better,” he said. “The amount of teething pains [that we have] gone through obviously showed that Le Mans was really good.
“I think it would have shown for us at COTA as well, in what took place between Daytona and Sebring and the testing.
“It helps there’s more miles being put on and information being gathered.”