40 years of racing success!
How did the team ORECA become a major player in the world of auto sport ? From single-seaters to endurance racing, to rally-raid, GT and rallying, ORECA has shined in every setting. Led by Hugues de Chaunac, the team or the « commando », as he likes to say, has worked with the biggest names and has revealed some talents. Here is a look at an uncommon path.
The first chapters of the story take place at Magny-Cours…
Hugues de Chaunac created ORECA (ORganisation Exploitation Compétition Automobile) at the end of 1972, setting it up near the Magny-Cours circuit. After its first victories, only one year after its creation, in the 1973 French F3 Championship, the team obtained its first prestigious title only three years later when Jacques Laffite became European Formula 2 champion.
At the time, ELF was launching its feeder programme which aim was to take a French driver to F1. ORECA took part in that movement and became a real springboard for some young talents. Just one year after another title on the European scene with René Arnoux, a certain Alain Prost became French F3 champion in 1978. In addition to back-to-back national titles, he also triumphed in the European championship a year later, including a prestigious win in Monaco. In the 1980s, success after success, ORECA proved to be the Principality’s sovereign with drivers such as Michel Ferté, Olivier Grouillard, Yannick Dalmas, Pierre-Henri Raphanel, Jean Alesi, Erik Comas, Jean-Marc Gounon and many others. The team’s single-seater experience was an impressive one and led to many records : 8 consecutive titles in the French F3 championship, 7 F3 Monaco GP victories and 3 European championships wins, two in F2 with Jacques Laffite (1975) and René Arnoux (1977), one in Formula 3 with Alain Prost (1979).
ORECA was not satisfied with being a contestant in single-seaters only. In 1977 the team came to endurance racing, discovering the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Renault-Alpine, before entering a BMW M1 in 1981. The team also made its debut in rallying, again with the BMW M1, then French Supertouring with an M5…
New home, new challenges!
In 1987, Hugues de Chaunac and ORECA moved to Signes, in the Var region of France, near the Paul Ricard Circuit. The company grew and continued its pursuit of victories in unexpected disciplines. It was at that time that ORECA garnered two French rallycross championships with Peugeot, in 1988 and 1989. The following year, in rally-raid, the team won the Pharaons Rally with Lada, crossed the Paris-Dakar’s finish line in the top ten and progressed to the top five in 1991.
ORECA was on all fronts and rediscovered the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1991 alongside Mazda. The team directly entered one of the three cars, taking part in the constructor’s success, the first for a Japanese make in La Sarthe !
ORECA did not rest on its laurels but instead undertook new challenges such as circuit and ice-racing with BMW. The team reached the top step of the podium in those two disciplines, becaming Supertouring champion in 1995 and Andros Trophy winner in 1995/1996 and again in 1996/1997.
The Viper years : ORECA makes its mark and the American conquest !
In 1996, still hungry for more challenges, Hugues de Chaunac opened one of the best chapters in ORECA’s history, with Viper. A fantastic adventure began when the team returned to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In the GT class, the ORECA Vipers displaced Porsche, a reference in the discipline. In addition to three class victories at Le Mans (1998, 1999, 2000), the team also won three FIA-GT2 championship titles (1997, 1998, 1999). ORECA even conquered the American racing scene with two American Le Mans Series titles, a one-two-three finish at the Petit Le Mans and… an overall victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2000 !
Before purchasing the SNBE company in 2004, the starting point for the present engine department « ORECA-Magny-Cours » , ORECA took on a grand challenge. The team entered Le Mans in the prototype class, first with Reynard-Mopar, then with the Dallara chassis. Against major manufacturers, such as Audi, the team posted good performances, finishing 4th overall in 2001 and 2002. Thereafter, ORECA continued with rallying. With Renault, the French Championship (Simon Jean-Joseph) and the World Junior Rally Championship (Brice Tirabassi) went to the Var-based team in 2003, followed by a European success in 2004 (Simon Jean-Joseph).
The Le Mans challenge !
ORECA properly celebrated its 30th birthday and Hugues de Chaunac continued to dream of the Le Mans 24 Hours. After a two-year absence, the team made a comeback to La Sarthe and finished just outside the podium with an Audi R8. The team then gave the prototype its final success on European grounds at the 2005 Silverstone 1000km (Allan McNish/Stéphane Ortelli). In 2006, another American story began with Saleen. Team ORECA-Matmut took two victories in its first year of participation (Soheil Ayari/Stéphane Ortelli), before finishing fifth at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, against Corvette and Aston Martin, and then winning the Le Mans Series title in 2007, thanks to four consecutive wins !
Meanwhile, ORECA also rejoined the touring car world, partnering with SEAT Sport, an alliance which was going to last until 2009. During that period of time, SEAT took two Constructors titles and two Drivers titles in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), once with driver Yvan Muller, a driver well-known to Hugues de Chaunac.
After much success, ORECA became a constructor at the end of 2007 when purchasing Courage Compétition. Team ORECA-Matmut fielded two Courage-ORECA LC70E retooled by the design bureau and reached the podium at the 1000km of Spa. In 2009, the ORECA 01 made its first appearance and the team saw a season full of accomplishments : 5th at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Petit Le Mans, behind manufacturers Peugeot and Audi, a victory at the 1000km of Silverstone (Nicolas Lapierre/Olivier Panis), and several pole positions, ending up in the top three of the Le Mans Series and Asian Le Mans Series.
Team ORECA-Matmut was hungry for further success and decided to make its best to satisfy its appetite. Alongside its ORECA 01 which finished 4th at Le Mans behind three Audis, the team also entered a Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. With the fastest lap during the twice around the clock classic, the team was also crowned Le Mans Series champion. The collaboration with Peugeot continued in 2011 and what a year that was ! Nicolas Lapierre, Loic Duval and Olivier Panis took overall honours at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Team ORECA-Matmut became the first French team to win the event with both French drivers and a French car. After a fifth consecutive top 5 finish at Le Mans, the equivalent of a first place for privateers, Hugues de Chaunac’s crew ended the season with a podium at the Petit Le Mans.
Since the beginning of its 40s, ORECA has continued its collaborations with major constructors, including a partnership with TOYOTA at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This first season together was highlighted by three successes in the World Endurance Championship, including the first victory for a hybrid technology using a super condenser at Sao Paulo ! In 2013, racing under the TOYOTA Racing banner, the team achieved two more victories, and took the second step of the podium at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In 2014, ORECA will renew its support to TOYOTA Racing in endurance. The objective has remained unchanged since 1973 : to win !