OAK Racing has been one of the hottest teams in the sports car racing world this month.
The French squad broke through for its first TUDOR United SportsCar Championship win two weeks ago at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, while also taking a victory in last weekend’s Asian Le Mans Series season-opener at Inje.
This week, Ho-Pin Tung, who was part of the winning effort in Korea, returns to the The Brickyard for the first time in more than three years, after narrowly missing the 2011 Indianapolis 500 due to not being cleared to race by doctors after a qualifying crash.
This time, the Dutch-born Chinese driver will team with fellow open-wheel star Gustavo Yacaman in OAK’s Morgan-Nissan P2 car, as both Tung and the Philippe Dumas-led team look to continue their streak of momentum.
However, the revised 2.439-mile, 13-turn GP circuit is not expected to particularly suit the P2 machinery.
“The road course at Indianapolis is going to be a completely different story for us,” Tung told Sportscar365. “I think the nature of the track arguably doesn’t suit our car as well as Watkins or Mosport.
“However, I do think with the experience we have from Europe of running in slightly high-speed and stop-and-go tracks, hopefully we’ll be able to carry a bit over from this.
“We’ll see. We’ve got some good ideas in terms of car [setup] so hopefully we’re be able to put on a good show again.”
Tung and co-driver David Cheng got their Asian LMS title defense off to a strong start last weekend, with the duo cruising to a 10-lap victory, albeit it with limited competition in the depleted six-car field.
Yet, the successful weekend, which saw Tung top the time charts in every session, including claiming pole and setting the fastest race lap, could play into his benefit, thanks to the experienced gained behind the wheel of the Morgan LMP2 car.
“It’s always good to have mileage in a similar car,” he said. “I think just to get the last bit of time — and of course that’s always the thing that counts — is always very different, especially as we’re running Michelin tires [in the Asian Le Mans Series] and Contis [in TUSC].
“[The tires] are a tad different takes a little time to adapt. But having more prototype mileage under my belt over a few weeks always helps.”
The former GP2 ace is set for only his second TUDOR Championship start after teaming with Brundle and Yacaman for a runner-up finish in last month’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
In addition to Friday’s Brickyard Grand Prix, Tung will also contest the season-ending Petit Le Mans in one of OAK’s entries.
“All of these tracks [in America] are new for me, so it’s a pretty steep learning curve,” Tung said. “However, having been with OAK for the second year in a row, I’m pretty much integrated within the team, so this helps a lot.
“I’ve got really good teammates in the U.S. in Alex [Brundle] and Gustavo to help me. That makes things a lot easier, I have to say.”
While his Porsche Carrera Cup Asia commitments has prevented him from competing in additional U.S. rounds this year, Tung hopes to have the time for an expanded program in North America next year.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” he said, “I’ve been in the U.S. earlier in 2011 when I did one race in IndyCar.
“The fans, the crowd, it’s really energetic and very enjoyable for me as a driver, but also for everyone within the team. It’s a great show the race promoters put on every time.
“This year my schedule didn’t allow me to do more racing in the U.S. Hopefully in the future I would definitely like to come back. I’ve only had one race so far but I definitely have a taste for more.”