With a full-season FIA World Endurance Championship program, a partial-season effort in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship as well as lead testing and development duties of a new LMP2 car, it’s already been a whirlwind of a year for Olivier Pla.
Pla’s busy schedule continues this weekend as the OAK Racing driver is set for a multi-continent adventure, first with Saturday’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Detroit’s Belle Isle prior to jetting off to France for the Le Mans Test day on Sunday.
“In my life, I don’t think I’ve ever done so many miles since the beginning of the year!” Pla told Sportscar365. “I’m very lucky to be involved in all of these things.
“Because between America, the WEC with G-Drive and the development we’ve done with the Ligier, it’s been very interesting. We did a lot of mileage. For sure it keeps me in good shape for the rest of the season.”
The Frenchman may be a rather new name to sports car racing fans in North America, but has proven to be one of the quickest and most dependable prototype drivers in the world.
He won the 2009 European Le Mans Series championship with Quifel-ASM Team before joining the Jacques Nicolet-owned OAK squad following Quifel’s withdrawal from LMP2 competition in 2011.
Pla has since led OAK’s efforts in the FIA WEC, where he currently sits atop the championship standings, while also playing a crucial part in the team’s expansion into the TUDOR Championship.
“It’s always a joy to come here,” said Pla, who made his U.S. debut at Petit Le Mans in 2008. “I think it’s a very high level championship with very, very good drivers in the cars. For me, it’s really nice.
“The tracks are different, the strategies are different, everything is different. But when you get used to it… It’s a massive fight until the end of the race and that’s exciting.
“The team now knows the strategy in America. We are making progress race after race.”
While having missed the previous round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca due to his FIA WEC commitments with the OAK-run G-Drive Racing squad, Pla rejoins full-season co-driver Gustavo Yacaman this weekend, looking to make further headway in the Prototype class.
The duo are coming off a fourth-place finish on the streets of Long Beach, with their Morgan-Nissan potentially playing a factor here this weekend, depending on how the Balance of Performance shakes out.
“I think it might not be as easy as it could have been in Laguna Seca,” Pla said. “I think the layout of the track was more in favor of the P2s. Here, there is a long straight and some very slow corners like Long Beach, so downforce doesn’t matter here.”
Pla currently has three additional TUDOR Championship races on his schedule — Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Road America and Road Atlanta — with Alex Brundle and a to-be-announced additional driver set to split driving duties with Yacaman at Watkins Glen, Indianapolis and Circuit of The Americas.
While BoP has no doubt played a factor this year, Pla is still optimistic that OAK’s black and purple-liveried P2 car can visit victory lane before the end of the season.
“For sure, we want to win races before the end of the season,” he said. “It’a really important for the team because Jacques and OAK Racing are putting a lot of effort in putting this project together and to come and race in America.
“In terms of logistics and everything, it’s very demanding for the team. I have to give him a lot of credit for that. Philippe [Dumas, team principal] has been working very hard as well and is very motivated to do well in America.”