Larbre Competition satisfied with Le Mans 24 Hours qualifying
Larbre Competition were left satisfied with their Le Mans 24 Hours qualifying performance at the Circuit de la Sarthe, despite narrowly avoiding disaster after the team’s Corvette crashed on Wednesday evening.
Gabriele Gardel went off at the Porsche Curves with just minutes left in Wednesday’s night time session, hitting the wall at close to 180km/h. However, the French squad’s mechanics emerged with huge credit as they once again excelled under pressure, working through the night and for most of Thursday to ensure the LM GTE Am-class car was ready to run on Thursday.
The result was eighth place on the grid for Saturday’s race, but with a car that the team believes will show good race pace and, more importantly, be comfortable to drive throughout the twice-around-the-clock event.
Julien Canal did most of the driving on Wednesday, setting the fifth best time, while Gabriele Gardel and Patrick Bornhauser both had seat time on Thursday, the latter having lost some running in Wednesday’s session with a brake pump issue. The team also used Thursday’s practice to validate its race engine, brakes, gearbox and transmission and ran without any major issues.
Meanwhile, the team’s second car, an LM GTE Am Porsche 997 GT3 RSR shared by Jean-Philippe Belloc, Christophe Bourret and Pascal Gibon, will start the race from fourth on the grid after a strong start to Le Mans week.
Gabriele Gardel: “I didn’t have much chance to drive at the beginning of the session on Wednesday, but had a feeling that the car was going well and the set-up was good. Then, in the second part of the night time session, the Corvette was absolutely perfect. I think we have a good car for the race and I’d like to thank the team for the hard work they’ve put in after my off at the end of practice on Wednesday. On Thursday I was cautious, especially when shaking down the new engine and brakes. I’m looking forward to Saturday.”
Julien Canal: “It has been a good start for the Corvette at Le Mans. We have benefitted from the support of the factory team and that has helped us to progress quickly by following their developments. I am also positively surprised by the balance of the car, which seems much easier to drive than the Saleen. I did most of the driving on Wednesday to set the car up and used a new set of tyres and got the fifth best time. Jack Leconte told me to take ‘absolutely no risks’ and I followed that instruction. On Thursday I did three timed laps at the end of the night time qualifying session. We agreed it was best to concentrate on checking that all the new parts worked properly, which we’ve done. A final debrief on set-up has also been completed and all is going well.”
Before then, I will prepare a race strategy adapted to keep our three ‘bad boys’ under control!
Patrick Bornhauser: “Unfortunately I didn’t drive much during Wednesday’s session after we had some brake pump issues during my stint. Having not raced at the Le Mans 24 Hours last year, I need a bit more driving time than my two team-mates. I still managed my mandatory night time laps though to confirm my qualification for the race. On Thursday the car underwent a lot of modifications so that everything is brand new for the race, including the engine, gearbox, brakes and transmission. The objective of the session was to validate all the modifications. It went well and it looks like we can hope for good things in Saturday’s race.”
Jack Leconte: “My recommendations for the two test and qualifying sessions on Wednesday and Thursday were to be extremely cautious. The car’s set-up, developed in partnership with Pratt and Miller during the official test days, has given us a car that is very efficient and immediately gives the drivers confidence. It all went well until just before midnight on Wednesday when Gabriele lost control of the car on a very dirty part of the track that had already caught out several of our competitors. We were very close to disaster when the car hit the wall at more than 180km/h at the Porsche Curves. The result was a full day and night of work for the team, which also had to install the race engine and gearbox. I’d like to say a big bravo to the mechanics for getting us ready to run the car again on Thursday from 20:30. However, the episode, which I want to forget completely, means we now only have the pre-race warm-up to bed in the brakes. Before then, I will prepare a race strategy adapted to keep our three ‘bad boys’ under control!”
-source: Larbre Competition