Larbre rivals turn down chance of GT1 championship battle at Interlagos
Larbre Competition's attempts to spice up this weekend's Le Mans Series GT1 battle in the Mil Milhas at Interlagos have been halted after a protest from their class rivals.
With only two GT1 cars entered in the 11-hour, 1000 mile Brazilian event, Larbre had hoped to create an added edge to the race by officially running their single car entry as 'car 50', therefore keeping the fight for second in the overall championship, and the resulting guaranteed entry for the Le Mans 24 Hours, alive. However, their entry was protested by their opponents meaning Larbre's Aston Martin DBR9 will run as 'car 51' during the race.
"We'd hoped to make things a little more interesting by creating a situation where something other than just the race win was up for stake," Team Principal Jack Leconte said. "Unfortunately our opponents refused the fight despite how competitive their driver line-up is."
In Thursday's qualifying session Swiss driver Steve Zacchia produced a best time of 1:30.156s to take ninth overall and second on the GT1 grid. His time was just eight tenths slower than that of works Corvette driver Olivier Beretta in the Luc Alphand Adventures Corvette C6.R and just a tenth slower than the GT1 pole position time set by Formula One test driver Nelson Piquet Jr, driving an identical Aston Martin DBR9, in the same event last year.
Leconte said: "Steve has done a sterling job in qualifying and to be so close to Beretta is very impressive. The drivers are delighted with the circuit. Fernando Rees has adapted well to driving a GT car for the first time and was close to Steve's time on Thursday morning, Gregor has pushed hard and set some competitive times and Roland has been very courageous and accepted the challenge of driving the night-time stints."
The conditions at Interlagos at night were the major concern of all four Larbre drivers as they prepared for Saturday's race. Steve Zacchia said: "It's very hard driving at night because there is no adequate lighting. Apparently there will be some more for Saturday's race, but I'm not sure it's going to work. Despite that I'm really confident about the race because the car feels superb. I made a slight mistake on my qualifying lap, and also got blocked by a slower car, so to still be so close to the Corvette is very encouraging."
Brazilian Fernando Rees said: "It's the first time I've ever driven a GT car and I've never driven at night before, so I've had lots to learn! It's a great feeling though because I'm learning with every lap I do. It's great to be back at Interlagos and I'm looking forward to racing on Saturday."
Gregor Fisken added: "The circuit is awesome and the car has a very good feel. I think it's the best it has been all season. The only problem comes at night. On Wednesday I was following a GT2 car during night time practice and after I passed, it was literally pitch black! You couldn't see anything! I have to say I'm glad Roland has volunteered to drive the night stints on raceday!"
Roland Berville said: "I haven't done many laps so far as we are trying to share seat time out between the four drivers. However, my times have been pretty good and I think I can easily go faster during the race. The track is fantastic and very interesting to drive and after Steve's great job in qualifying I am very optimistic about the race."
The Mil Milhas takes place on Saturday and is live on Motors TV. For listings information please visit www.motorstv.com.