Monza: Larbre Competition preview

ASTON MARTIN RACING LARBRE READY FOR TWO-CAR ATTACK ON LE MANS SERIES Jack Leconte has revealed that his Larbre Competition outfit will not be defending their GT1 Le Mans Series title - but attacking in order to secure the championship for a ...

ASTON MARTIN RACING LARBRE READY FOR TWO-CAR ATTACK ON LE MANS SERIES

Jack Leconte has revealed that his Larbre Competition outfit will not be defending their GT1 Le Mans Series title - but attacking in order to secure the championship for a second successive season.

With works backing from Aston Martin, the team has expanded its operation to two-cars for the 2007 Le Mans Series and Leconte is determined that his team will start on the front foot when the championship gets underway at Monza this weekend.

The Aston Martin Racing Larbre Team Boss, who last week was invited to the world launch of the new Aston Martin V8 Vantage, said: "Defending is not a good mindset to have. In my opinion, in order to win a title, attacking is a far better option! The Le Mans Series has improved year on year and in GT1 I feel the victories will be split between 3 or 4 different cars. We are targeting points finishes at every race with both cars and of course some podiums and wins too. The crucial thing however is that we are very, very consistent.

"We have a lot of experience of Monza and have done well there before, winning with Porsche, Dodge and Ferrari. We hope to extend that sequence with Aston Martin. The aero situation at the Official Test at Paul Ricard wasn't much different from what we will use at Monza, not exactly the same, but not a million miles away, so I hope we'll be in good shape for this weekend".

The departure of Pedro Lamy (Peugeot Sport) and Vincent Vosse (Luc Alphand Adventures) during the winter, coupled with the addition of a second Aston Martin DBR9, means a much changed and expanded driver line-up for 2007, and confidence remains high in the Larbre Competition camp.

Reigning champion Gabriele Gardel stays with the team and can't wait for the new season to begin: "When you win the title it isn't possible to look for anything else the following year other than to repeat that success. The competition will be tough. Saleen have two really quick cars, we have to compete with the Corvettes and we can't forget about Team Modena either, but we tested a lot of things at Paul Ricard, all of which we think have helped make the car quicker. Monza is my home track and I have raced there for many years. I will have lots of family and friends there supporting me so I'm really looking forward to it."

Joining Gardel in car 50, and returning to Larbre Competition, is the experienced multiple GT champion Christophe Bouchut, who has already tasted victory this season in the opening round of the FIA GT Championship. That race at Zhuhai forced him to miss the Le Mans Series Official test, but nevertheless he expecting the Aston Martin DBR9 to be quick.

Bouchut said: "I missed the Paul Ricard test but I tested at Dijon earlier in the year and the performance was definitely there. We know the Saleen is very fast but I'm sure the Aston Martin will be able to compete because I think our driver line-up is very strong. The last season I raced with Larbre in the Le Mans Series we won all the races and although it will be hard to repeat that feat because of the strength of competition this season, I'm confident that the car will be really fast."

Fabrizio Gollin completes the car 50 line-up, with the former FIA GT Champion thrilled to be kicking off his first season with Larbre, having switched from Aston Martin Racing BMS, in Italy.

Gollin said: "I'm very happy to be in Italy and Monza is a special track for me because I have won twice there before in FIA GT. Last year my best result in the Aston Martin DBR9 was third so I'm really keen to improve on that and get a win. Larbre Competition is the best team I could have joined this year and it is a great situation for me because I know the car and I know the team a little bit. I also did one race with Gabriele and one with Christophe a few years ago and I know they are both very intelligent and fast drivers. Between us we have won a lot of things and I think we can do a great job."

Car 51 meanwhile sees the experience of Scotsman Gregor Fisken coupled with former champion Steve Zacchia and sportscar racing rookie Greg Franchi. The experience/youth blend is a tried a tested formula for Larbre Competition and all three drivers are eagerly anticipating a competitive year.

Fisken said: "It's great to be racing for someone like Jack Leconte and Larbre Competition. The entry for the Le Mans Series has never looked better and it's phenomenal to be part of what looks like being a golden age of sports and GT racing. It looks as good as it did in the glory days of the 50s and 60s and I can't believe I'm involved and racing for such an iconic marque as Aston Martin. Monza is one of the great circuits and the Monza 1000kms ranks as one of the greatest races of all time. Hopefully we can now add our own little bit of history."

Zacchia meanwhile returns to the Le Mans Series for the first time since clinching the GTS title in 2004 with Larbre's Ferrari 550 Maranello.

Zacchia revealed: "I'm delighted to be back in the Le Mans Series and running again in a proper GT car and it's great to be doing so with one of the best GT teams in the world. There is a great motivation here, and having met the other drivers at Paul Ricard the team spirit is fantastic. Monza was the scene of my first Le Mans Series win in 2004, in really difficult conditions, and it would be fantastic to be on the podium again."

Franchi makes his sportscar racing debut at Monza, following a promising career in single seaters which saw him take a podium in the World Series by Renault round at Monaco last season.

He said: "It's a big opportunity for me. This is my first season in sportscar racing and obviously it is very different because of weight, power and down force. But the test at Paul Ricard was pretty good and there is a great spirit in the team. I'm really impatient to be on track this Friday for the first practise session because Monza is a circuit I like and one in which I have a good record from my days in Italian F3."

-credit: lc

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Series ELMS