Sunday’s Six Hours of the Circuit of The Americas was a race to forget for OAK Racing, which saw its two Morgan-Nissans collide and ultimately drop out of contention for LMP2 class honors.
An attempted overtake by the championship-leading No. 35 entry of Ricardo Gonzalez on teammate David Heinemeier Hansson just past the halfway mark resulted in the Mexican’s losing control of his LMP2 car, jumping over a curb and slamming into the side of the sister No. 24 car, while battling for second.
Gonzalez limped to the pits with a broken steering rack, costing the Le Mans class-winning car more than 15 minutes for repairs. The No. 24 car of Heinemeier Hansson continued but suffered a wishbone failure with less than two hours to go, which also sent the team’s second entry to the garage.
As a result, the two cars finished sixth and seventh in class, knocking the French squad out of the lead of the LMP2 teams’ championship.
“It’s difficult to imagine a worse scenario,” Gonzalez said after the race. “David Heinemeier Hansson overtook me. I stayed just behind him and unfortunately a few corners later I was caught out under braking. I lost the rear end of the car and I did all I could to avoid David by cutting across the track, but the car took off over a curb and I tagged No. 24 and the steering rack broke in the incident. It’s a mistake for which we all paid a high price.”
Gonzalez and co-drivers Martin Plowman and Bertrand Baguette now hold a slim lead in the drivers’ championship, three points ahead of Nicolas Minassian, Pierre Kaffer and Luis Perez Companc, whose Pecom Racing squad moved into first in the teams’ title race.
The No. 24 trio of Heinemeier Hansson, Pla and Alex Brundle, meanwhile, are now 12 points adrift, in what could end up being the turning point in the title race, with only three rounds to go.
“The only orders we’ve given are ‘don’t collide’. This was the case today but it wasn’t the result of a battle between the two cars,” said team principal Sebastien Philippe. “Ricardo missed his braking. David was in front of him; it could have been anybody else and it ended up in a collision. The No. 24 then suffered a sheared lower wishbone. Without this incident second place was on the cards.”