Expanding into the American racing market with a dedicated operation has long been the goal for Hugues de Chaunac and his company ORECA. The Frenchman has turned his multi-faced business into a major player in Europe, building prototypes and tin-tops for privateers and manufacturers, and with ORECA's desire to bring more of its products stateside, the 67-year-old told RACER it's time to put down new roots.
“Definitely yes; this is completely the target now to develop ORECA in North America,” he confirmed. “We are working to have a base in America. I don't know where yet, between Florida, Charlotte or maybe Indianapolis, we are looking at the different possibilities.
“The target is to develop the [ORECA 03] LMP2 car. We have a good market already with the LMPC. Because I think that at Daytona you will have between 10 and 12 LMPCs, which will be very good. I see a good opportunity to do more support and sales if we are here in the U.S., to show our commitment to this new series.”
With the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship just a few months away from holding its first race at January's Daytona 24 Hours, it's unlikely de Chaunac will have time to establish an American base prior to the launch of the USCC season. At least one Daytona Prototype entrant has been in contact with ORECA to discuss housing the company, but it won't happen overnight.
“America is one of the main priorities next year for the company, and besides the fact that I love the U.S., it gives me a good argument for my Board of Directors to say this is the place where we have to develop the company,” he explained. “But this will take some time to make sure it is done correctly so we are not rushing to do this just to get it done by a particular date.”
ORECA's technical and engineering capabilities, according to de Chaunac, would also be made available through its American base, along with its marketing and promotions resources.
“ORECA's design and development services will be probably the second step that we are going to do,” he said. “The first step is just to have ORECA as a racing car manufacturer in the U.S. The second step is to develop our engineering side, and at the same time perhaps to develop also the other division of the company where we're doing a lot of marketing and exposure for our customers.”
For de Chaunac, whose company is designing the Rebellion R-One P1 car and playing a central role in the design of Toyota's new P1 challenger, creating a car specifically for the American market is also of interest, and whether that's a Daytona Prototype or something else when new rules emerge in 2017 is under discussion.
“We have some ideas but it will take some evaluation,” he added. “Before everything else, ORECA is a racecar manufacturer and for that we have to see where we have opportunities to build something. We have looked at the DP regulation, and from the information that has come out, it seems that the [next] DP regulations will probably be kind of a joint venture with the ACO regulations.
“So we have to look at it just to see. But we want to look at all the different options of engineering and racing car manufacturer and if we can build something for [the USCC], we would be very interested.”
Former IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard met with de Chaunac at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2011 – a race ORECA went on to win – to discuss producing aero kits for the open-wheel series, yet with so many new projects and partnerships on the company's plate today, the concept has been shelved.
“It still interests us, but our main problem for the moment is we are very busy, so we cannot go everywhere,” he said with a laugh. “And besides, the work that we're doing with Toyota makes us very busy, and we have the Rebellion Project in LMP1 also. And beside that we want to focus on the LMP2 (LEFT) and LMPC for the U.S. right now. So for that, even if it would be attractive to do something for Indy, we have to be patient.”
As a regular visitor to the U.S. for business and pleasure, de Chaunac closed the conversation with an explanation on how setting up an American base for ORECA would add another chapter to his life's work.
“First, I am passionate for racing, and secondly, I like to be always in a project and for that I think the success of ORECA, where we are now, with more than 200 people, is very satisfying for me,” he noted. “It has become a big company, but it's just always new project, new project, new project...
“And I always push my managers to say what's new [for] tomorrow? What can you prepare? And that I think is a key also to our success. This is part of our motivation to come to the U.S. – to see what new things we can do. It motivates me very much.”