The lure of La Sarthe takes Optimum Motorsport into Michelin Le Mans Cup
The lure of a Le Mans entry is too strong for Optimum Motorsport and the British team will vie for an invitation to the 24-hour French endurance classic by fielding an Audi R8 LMS GT3 for Joe Osborne and Flick Haigh in the 2017 Michelin Le Mans Cup.
Whoever wins this year’s Michelin Le Mans Cup Teams’ title will be invited to enter the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, therefore Optimum Motorsport will be putting a lot of weight behind its attack on the series, which takes in six of the world’s greatest circuits, including Monza, Circuit de la Sarthe and Spa.
The Le Mans Cup was launched by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) in response to the soaring popularity of GT3 racing and, although the championship has now opened its doors to LMP3 prototypes, it is still unique for being centred around Bronze-graded Am drivers.
It will once again run in tandem with the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) and boast a coveted position on the Le Mans support bill, with a typical weekend consisting of two one-hour free practice sessions, one 30-minute qualifying session and a single two-hour race.
Optimum Motorsport first sampled the Le Mans Cup at Circuit Paul Ricard on France’s Mediterranean coast last August and that exploratory outing has prompted the team to enter its Audi R8 LMS for long-standing British GT driver Osborne and ex-Caterham ace Haigh, who have both raced for the team the CREVENTIC 24H Series.
“I'm very excited about this opportunity with Optimum Motorsport,” said Haigh. “I took a step back from wheel-to-wheel racing after I left Caterhams in 2013 and endurance racing is something I've loved and enjoyed immensely. However, when the opportunity arose to get back into sprint format racing, I felt a desire to sharpen up my racecraft and I feel ready to tap back into that mindset and get some results.
"Joe (Osborne) and I have worked together for a few years now. He is not only a friend but a great driver coach and we work well. I have a huge amount of respect for him, which I believe makes for a great driver pairing.”
Osborne added: “I'm really looking forward to getting this campaign underway. We visit some very cool circuits to drive in a GT3. Flick (Haigh) is currently driving better than ever in the Audi and is still improving. Optimum Motorsport is proving to engineer one of the fastest Audi R8 LMS GT3s out there, so bring on the fun."
Optimum Motorsport Team Principal, Shaun Goff, said: “Having contested the Paul Ricard round of the Michelin Le Mans Cup in 2016, we felt the format really works well for our Am drivers. It's part of a big package and is well promoted by the organisers. There is the lure of an entry to Le Mans if all goes well, but it's made more appealing by our 24-hour endurance pedigree. I'm looking forward to working with Flick Haigh and Joe Osborne and I believe we will start the season as one of the favourites."