PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports team principal Bobby Oergel said its run in the FIA World Endurance Championship season-opening 6 Hours of Spa was a “priceless” in preparation for the American team’s debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The California-based squad has joined forces with Panis Racing for its Le Mans endeavor, with a large number of French staff in operation of the team’s Oreca 07 Gibson for Simon Trummer, Gabriel Aubry and IMSA Trueman Cup winner Patrick Kelly.
While being a “fly on the wall” at Spa, Oergel said the chance to soak in the experience will make their Le Mans effort even stronger when PR1 returns with some of its own crew.
“It was amazingly positive,” Oergel told Sportscar365. “From our standpoint, to be a fly on the wall, not necessarily with the pressures of operating the program, to learn it, understand it…
“From the team management side of the fence, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation with Sarah and Simon [Abadie] and the whole Panis crew there. They made it everything and more than what I ever expected.
“For anyone thinking of jumping in head first and go over there, good on you if you do because it is a very different type of program.
“It was priceless to be able to help but not be head on the wall.”
Oergel said there will be a “few more” PR1/Mathiasen staff at Le Mans that will take a more “hands on” role, but he said he’s happy to leave the bulk of the operation to the experienced Panis squad.
“We’ll continue the same adage,” he said. “We’re not coming in to say this is a full-fledged run and operated [program] managed by PR1.
“Absolutely not. It will again be another Panis effort supported by PR1, only really labeled by PR1/Mathiasen.
“It’s just different. I wouldn’t say I’m afraid to do now after really getting in. But you still don’t know all about it.
“One time doesn’t make you OK. It’s definitely a different game to play. It’s the same for [European teams] that come over [to the U.S.].
“It’s a different game. There’s different rules and different ways you can help or hurt yourself.”
At Spa, a starter motor failure dashed hopes of a podium finish in the LMP2 Pro-Am subclass for the trio, who head into the French endurance classic with realistic expectations in the 25-car LMP2 field.
“There will be more LMP2s and more Pro-Am cars,” Oergel said. “That’s our main goal; shooting for the Pro-Am class. Anything we can do above that would be awesome.
“From our standpoint, Spa was en route to be very productive as a Pro-Am program. We got cut short.
“I think we were going to play for a good place. But that’s what it was for. It was a pure test to learn and understand and work with the team and understand how we can help each other.
“I think we’ve both got good things for each other.”
Era Bringing More U.S.-Based Crew for Le Mans Return
Fellow IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship LMP2 squad Era Motorsport will be using more of its own crew for this year’s race after making its debut last year with IDEC Sport.
While racing under the IDEC banner as part of its full-season European Le Mans Series campaign, Era team owner Kyle Tilley will be joined in their Oreca by Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel, who are fresh off class victory last weekend at Road America.
“It will be the first time we’ve taken this many people from Era,” said Dalziel. “I think from the start it was mainly engineering, team manager, we’d take our tire guy over.
“As we’ve gradually understood ELMS, and depending on our logistics schedule in IMSA, we’ve been able to take one or two more people this time.
“We’ll probably have more Era staff for Le Mans than IDEC. But we’re definitely leaning on IDEC heavily for everything we’re doing in Europe and their infrastructure.”