The Ex – AF Corse, Murphy Prototypes, Le Mans Veteran 2014 Oreca 03R LMP2
After racing himself in Formula Renault with Bardahl in 1970 and 1971, French engineer Hugues de Chaunac formed his own team in 1973, Oreca. Standing for ‘Organisation Exploitation Compétition Automobiles’, Oreca was soon involved in racing efforts with others, with Martini and Laffite winning the European Formula 2 Championship in 1975. Over the following years, De Chaunac’s Oreca outfit had more success through Formula 3 and rallying.
In the early ‘90s, Oreca became involved with the Le Mans 24 Hours. After the debut outing at Le Mans in 1990 for the Mazda team, a full World Championship campaign was planned for 1991 and De Chaunac’s team were recruited to take care of the operation. After some reasonable results in the early rounds of the series, there was a strong focus for the Le Mans 24 Hours.
With exceptional fuel consumption shown in testing, the number 55 Mazda 787B was instructed to run as if it were a sprint race. The car held together, and with two hours to go it passed the pair of Mercedes C11s to take the lead and go on to win outright. It was Oreca’s first win at Le Mans and the beginning of a chapter that continues to this day.
After a very successful campaign with the Chrysler Vipers, involvement with Audi’s R8 prototype, Peugeot’s 908 and Toyota’s TS030, TS040 and TS050. Oreca purchased Courage Competition who had already been manufacturing prototypes since its formation in 1982. The first Oreca named design was built for the LMP1 class in time for the 2009 Spa 1000km, and dubbed the 01. A very fast and capable car, the 01 took a very impressive 4th overall at the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours, behind the three works Audis.
In 2011, Oreca built their first LMP2 challenger, the 03, which conformed to the new set of LMP2 regulations. Using a full carbon-fibre monocoque with open cockpit, the 03 utilises fabricated steel double wishbones front and rear, with pushrod actuated coil over dampers and anti roll bars. For power, most used the Zytek built Nissan VK45DE 4.5 litre normally aspirated V8 engine producing 460hp and X-Trac 6 speed sequential gearbox.
Braking is undertaken by full carbon discs and pads operated by Brembo 6 pot callipers front and rear. Clothed in carbon-fibre bodywork of very similar aero design to that of the 01, the total weight came to the regulation specified 900kg.
This car, chassis number 018, was bought new from Oreca by AF Corse. AF Corse ran a two car team for SMP Racing during 2014. 018 made it’s race debut for SMP Racing at the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours, where with number 27 it was campaigned by Mika Salo, Sergey Zlobin and Anton Ladygin.
The trio qualified 22nd overall and 13th in LMP2. A tyre failure on the entry to the Porsche Curves in morning warm-up meant for a last-minute rebuild in time for the start of the 24 Hours itself. 018s race was not without its trials and tribulations, with issues continuing from the set back in the warm-up. This culminated with the number 27 going on to finish in 37th overall and 12th in LMP2.
After Le Mans, 018 ran at the next round of the World Endurance Championship held at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. With drivers Kirill Ladygin, Victor Shaitar and Anton Ladygin, 018 qualified 13th fastest and 5th in LMP2 but started 28th due to a penalty. In the race, the trio retired after 75 laps. 018 was then retained by AF Corse and used as one of two spare monocoques, this being used for the overseas events.
Having not been raced by AF Corse for SMP Racing during 2015, the car as a monocoque was sold to Murphy Prototypes in Ireland in May 2016. Murphy Prototypes then kept 018 as a spare to complement their efforts in both the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours and the European Le Mans Series.
In late 2016, 018 was rebuilt using the engine and gearbox which had been used by Murphy Prototypes at Le Mans in 2016, from the car crashed at the Spa round of the ELMS series, as well as some of the Le Mans bodywork.
With the advent of the new Masters Endurance Legends series, Murphy Prototypes took 018 to Spa-Francorchamps for the inaugural round. Murphy Prototypes young driver Sean Doyle stepped up to provide driving services, and qualified in 6th overall and 2nd in the P2 class. The start of the 40 minute race was thrown into difficult conditions when a downpour hit. Doyle got onto the right tyres, and made his way into the lead. A close battle followed, with him being challenged by the similar Oreca 03 of former Williams F1 test driver Jonathan Kennard. Doyle kept ahead and won the race by a two second margin, heading the field which included Nic Minassian in a Peugeot 908X, an Audi R8 and other LMP1 cars.
Today, 018 is presented as it won the Masters Endurance Legends race at Spa. The fuel cell is valid until 2021, and the Willans seatbelts until 2018. All three of the wear indicator spots remain on the front brake discs and two are visible on the rear discs. As a car designed to withstand to stresses of racing at full speed for 24 hours straight, the component items should keep long service intervals and potentially multiple seasons of racing, especially when used in the relatively short races of Masters Endurance Legends or the demonstrations of Global Endurance Legends.
Oreca 03R 018 represents to opportunity to embrace the new series which allows the high performance Prototype and GT racers of the last 20 years to have a regular and very competitive series in which to be enjoyed. With Le Mans 24 Hours history, 018 has shown its performance most recently in its win with Sean Doyle at the opening round of the Masters Endurance Legends.
AF Corse for SMP Racing – WEC
15/4/14 Le Mans 24 Hours Salo/Ladygin/Zlobin Q. 22st R. 37th
20/9/14 Austin 6 Hours Ladygin/Ladygin/Shaitar Q. 13th R. DNF
Murphy Prototypes – Masters Endurance Legends
14/9/2017 Spa Francorchamps Doyle Q. 6th R. 1st