Circuit: Circuit de la Sarthe (8.47-mile road course) Le Mans, France
Weather: Scattered afternoon showers Saturday; mild overnight; warm, humid, clear Sunday
Utilizing a production-based Honda HR28TT V6 engine from Honda Performance Development, paired to a new Ligier JS P2 chassis, OAK Racing Team Asia finished seventh in the competitive LMP2 class Sunday at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The all-Chinese driver lineup of Ho-Pin Tung, Adderly Fong and David Cheng produced a solid, consistent run in changeable weather conditions, including a sudden downpour in the second hour that sent several other cars off track and out of the contest.
Of the driver trio, only Tung had previous Le Mans experience. The Onroak Automotive Ligier JSP2 chassis was equally new, making its World Endurance Championship debut at Le Mans, as well as its first race with the Honda HR28TT V6 engine, a proven component that had previously powered the HPD ARX-03b chassis to the LMP2 victory at Le Mans in 2012.
The HPD-developed Honda engine used at Le Mans – and in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – is derived from the Honda "J35" series of production V6 engines and includes relevant twin-turbocharger technology, along with the efficiency provided by direct fuel injection. Key production-based components utilized in the HR28TT include block and heads, direct injection fuel system, valve train components, drive-by-wire throttle, alternator, sensors, fasteners, etc. The engine even utilizes a stock Honda oil filter.
HPD's prototype racing efforts have resulted in more than 60 victories and multiple American Le Mans Series championships. HPD won the LMP2 title in the inaugural 2012 World Endurance Championship and won the LMP2 category at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in both 2010 and 2012. In 2013, HPD-equipped Strakka Racing claimed the LMP1 class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for private team entries.
For its debut event, OAK Racing Team Asia's goal was to avoid unnecessary risks and successfully complete the 24 hours. After the rain showers departed at dusk, the Ligier-Honda combination continued a nearly faultless run, delayed by only a minor off-course excursion in the third hour, a punctured rear tire just after midnight, and a brief pit stop to replace the paddle-shift compressor in the early morning hours.
As a result, the team steadily advanced through the LMP2 field, moving to 10th in class in the fifth hour, and eighth as the 12-hour mark approached, a position the team held through the remainder of the night and into the morning hours.
In the run to the checkers, the Ligier-Honda gained one more position to finish 7th in LMP2. Late-race attrition in the quicker LMP1 category also saw OAK Racing Team Asia move up in the overall order, just missing a top-10 result with an 11th-place overall finish.
This weekend's 24 Hours of Le Mans was also the third round of the 2013 World Endurance Championship. The WEC now takes a three-month break before traveling to the United States for the Six Hours of the Circuit of the Americas, September 20 in Austin, Texas.
Ho-Pin Tung (OAK Racing Team Asia Ligier JS P2 Honda) finished 7th in LMP2 and 11th overall: "First of all, I would like to say that was an amazing job by OAK Racing and HPD. Just a few weeks ago, this car was just a monocoque in the workshop, without anything else attached. In just a few weeks, they managed to build a car that was fast and reliable. We had no issues at all during the 24 hours, so it's really unbelievable! For me, it's a great result. I think I did almost half the race, and I enjoyed every single part of it. This is my first finish at Le Mans. Next year, the target is going to be different; we're going to go for [podium] positions."
Allen Miller (Prototype Project Leader, Honda Performance Development) on this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans: "We're quite happy with the outcome of our first venture with the Onroak organization and the Ligier JS2 chassis. They've built a very nice car that has proven to be both quick and reliable. To debut a new chassis-engine combination at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a huge task, yet we made it through the race pretty much 'untouched'. The Ligier-Honda combination definitely has more potential, and our race laps were as much as two seconds quicker than qualifying. So we expect to see significant improvement in future races. Other than our planned pit stops, we had only a few small issues – such as two cut tires – throughout the 24 hours. The all-Chinese driver team did a great job of avoiding trouble in an incident-filled race. Congratulations to them, everyone at OAK Racing Team Asia, and all the associates at HPD involved in this program."