More than a Race…Olivier Pla’s Bahrain diary
Along with his G-Drive Racing team mates Julien Canal and Roman Rusinov, Olivier Pla left Bahrain with an eight point lead in the LMP2 Drivers’ Championship after another epic roller-coaster LMP2 race in the desert.
Olivier took time out from his busy Interlagos preparations to recall his 6 Hours of Bahrain weekend.
Thursday 13th November
We arrived in Bahrain very confident after the wins at Fuji and Shanghai. The Ligier was really performing well as usual and we were making the car better and better on the Dunlop tyres. We knew that the car would be good at Bahrain and we worked in the free practice session to really perfect the race set-up.
The Bahrain track is very demanding on the tyres so we focused on getting the balance right to give more life to the rubber. It all worked out pretty well on Thursday and we managed to get a lot of work done. We get three sets of tyres for practice and then four for the qualifying and race so you have to be very clever in how you work the programme during a race weekend.
It was important for Julien (Canal) as it was the first time for him here in an LMP2 car. He did a very good job, as did Roman and we were very comfortable as we left the track on Friday night.
Friday 14th November
Qualifying was pretty much perfect for us at G-Drive Racing. The team, as they always do, did a great job and we managed to secure the fourth pole position in a row and our sixth in total this season. It was a very satisfying feeling for sure.
This set us up nicely for the race and of course we got the additional point for pole too. The extra point could be crucial after Interlagos, so there is always a little something to celebrate ahead of the race. But the race is where the big points are and that is why we concentrated on the balance of the car from the very first running on the Thursday afternoon.
Since Austin we have learned so much about the Ligier and step by step we are making it quicker and quicker. We seem to be easier on the tyres than other LMP2 cars so we have a nice advantage there. After quali it is important for the tyres to be in good shape because you start on the tyres you made the laps in qualifying on.
The lights at the circuit were very good and it was almost like driving in the daylight. It made for a very spectacular look to the cars on the track and I think it was very nice for the TV viewers. The photos I have seen look very nice.
Saturday 15th November
The start of the 6 Hours of Bahrain was not easy for us. I arrived at the first corner close to one of the Audi LMP1s. It was complicated and Minassian was able to pass me. Then in corner two the whole pack slowed down and I was forced to brake quite a lot. Then the other SMP car got a run on me and there was some contact at T4. It didn’t feel big and it was on the rear bodywork but I was forced to head to the pits for some repairs. The team did a fantastic job to get the car back out in to the race after just five minutes but we were now out of contention for the win. I have been racing for the team since 2011 and they are truly excellent in the pits and in the work they do there.
Once I had handed over to Julien first and then Roman got in the cockpit it all came back to us and we went very well. So, we were getting back in to contention with the #37 SMP car. But with the #27 car in second place it looked not so good for us in the standings at this point.
Then Roman pitted and we had to change the suspension on the rear of the car which the team once again showed great speed in completing.
However, after I got back in the Ligier-Nissan we were in fifth place but would score fourth place points because the OAK Morgan is not a season entry. Then the #27 SMP car hit problems and we were able to get third placed points. We were a little lucky with this but sometimes, as well as being quick, you also need a little bit of luck too, and we got it late in the race at Bahrain.
We now go to Brazil with that eight point advantage and if we get pole we can still afford to finish second to the #27 car and still win the title. But we will go to Brazil like any other race knowing we have the team and the car to do it in style and to take another win.
Olivier was talking to Sam Smith