(April 27, 2011) – French sportscar team and manufacturer OAK Racing, which will this year enter four prototypes – two LMP1s and two LMP2s – at the Le Mans 24 Hours, can confirm the signing of Shinji Nakano and Nicolas De Crem for its second LMP2 machine.
The #49 OAK-Pescarolo is lead by Nakano whose speed and experience will be a significant asset in the team’s bid for LMP2 class victory. The 40-year-old boasts a fantastic racing CV across Formula 1 and sports prototypes that already includes four appearances at Le Mans.
Nakano was also the first Japanese driver to contest world motorsport’s three biggest events; the Le Mans 24 Hours, Monaco Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500.
“It has been three years since my last appearance at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2008,” said Shinji Nakano. “From the bottom of my heart I am looking forward to returning to race at the beautiful and challenging La Sarthe circuit. At the same time, I am honoured and privileged to be a member of the OAK Racing team, which has an excellent history, record and great deal of experience.”
“As you are already aware, my country recently suffered a devastating earthquake that led to unimaginable disasters,” he added. “Many people are still living under very difficult conditions. I am therefore dedicating this race to the victims of the disaster, by doing my best at Le Mans to lift their courage and spirits in the hope of somehow aiding their swift recovery.”
Nakano is joined by 20-year-old Nicolas de Crem who in 2010 demonstrated his potential while racing in Formula Le Mans. Last weekend’s Le Mans Test Day saw the Belgian also prove his capacity to adapt to the La Sarthe circuit’s unique characteristics during the mandatory 10 lap stint required of all debutants.
“My objective for the 2011 season was twofold: to participate in both the Le Mans Series and Le Mans 24 hours in LMP2,” said De Crem. “Now it is done!”
“The LMS season has started very well and that will continue, I hope, in the same direction at the Le Mans 24 Hours with OAK Racing,” he added. “I would like to thank the entire team for the confidence it has placed in me. Our common objective is clear: to finish in the best possible position. All that’s left is to do just that! Trust me, my motivation is huge!”
François Sicard, OAK Racing Managing Director, said that entering two LMP2s strengthens their challenge for class victory.
“We have chosen a competitive and intelligent crew which includes a silver driver as specified by the regulations,” said Sicard. “Nicolas De Crem is a promising prospect, as well as solid and fast, whose talent we hope to develop in endurance racing.
“Pairing him with Shinji Nakano represents a great opportunity for himself and OAK Racing,” he added. “A platinum driver, Shinji’s CV and popularity speak for themselves while his speed means we have high hopes for an excellent result.”
Fellow Le Mans-based team DAMS, which this year expressed an interest in returning to endurance racing and the Le Mans 24 Hours, will offer technical and logistical support to this second LMP2 entry. The collaboration is one which came about naturally between neighbors and friends, with DAMS having already experienced the event with a manufacturer as prestigious as Cadillac.
As a reminder, OAK Racing’s #35 OAK-Pescarolo-Judd will feature the same crew as that competing in this year’s Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. Andrea Barlesi, Frédéric Da Rocha and Patrice Lafargue will defend the team’s colours at Le Mans’ 79th running on June 11-12, 2011.