The two Aston Martin DBR9s of Larbre Competition ended in 6th and 7th positions on the GT1 grid after today's qualifying session for the second round of the Le Mans Series in Valencia. Frenchman Christophe Bouchut qualified Car 50, posting a...
The two Aston Martin DBR9s of Larbre Competition ended in 6th and 7th positions on the GT1 grid after today's qualifying session for the second round of the Le Mans Series in Valencia.
Frenchman Christophe Bouchut qualified Car 50, posting a time of 1:33.883, just nine tenths of a second off the pace of the championship leading Corvette C6.R of Luc Alphand Adventures and less than half a second behind Team Modena's DBR9 and Alphand's second Corvette.
Prior experience of the Valencia circuit in his single seater days earned Belgian sportscar rookie Greg Franchi the job of qualifying car 51, and whilst a time of 1:34.892 was only good enough for seventh in class, it showed significant progress from earlier in the weekend.
Whilst the Saleens of Team Oreca and Racing Box start first and second tomorrow, having dominated the GT1 time sheets all weekend, confidence is still high in the Larbre Competition camp with a long race in store around the twisty Valencia Circuit.
Team Boss Jack Leconte revealed issues with set-up affected car 50, but was delighted with Greg Franchi's solid display on his qualifying debut in car 51. "As we were testing the new air conditioning system on car 50, we had no time for set-up work on Friday because there were so many other things to do. We made a mistake with a change of set-up before qualifying this morning and it wasn't possible to change it during qualifying, which is why we were a little off the pace. In car 51 I was very pleased with young Greg Franchi's first qualifying session. He didn't make any mistakes but also improved the car's lap time from free practice. Today he showed he is capable of being a very fast competitor and of having more responsibility within the team."
Christophe Bouchut was hoping to be further up the grid, but explained things conspired against car 50: "We had a hard time yesterday with the set up so in a bid to win time we decided to change the springs for qualifying. In the end it didn't pay off as the car was less competitive and the rear end was too nervous. I locked a rear-wheel and had a half-spin and we also had a misfire near the end. I know the team will work hard tonight though to make sure everything will be fine for the race."
Gabriele Gardel was less concerned with qualifying position as he looked ahead to race-day on Sunday: "Qualifying is important but we are here to win endurance races and that's what we'll try to do tomorrow. The team has done a really good job because we had some small problems in free practice adjusting to the new air conditioning system as well as some other things. They have worked really hard and got the car feeling good."
Italian Fabrizio Gollin added: "The car feels much better than in Monza. That is important because, on a circuit like this, having the fastest car is not the most crucial thing but having one which feels good, especially in traffic, is vital. Our biggest job tomorrow is selecting the right tyres for the race as the weather has got warmer throughout the weekend and should be even hotter on Sunday."
In car 51 Greg Franchi admitted he hadn't pushed to the limit in qualifying as he continues to learn the car, benefiting from more experience behind the wheel. He said: "It's my first qualifying session in a GT1 car ever and it's not easy! Jack (Leconte) told me not to make any mistakes and it's best for me to learn the car rather than push too hard. Despite that though my time was still the fastest time car 51 has set all weekend and so I am confident for the race."
Team mate Gregor Fisken admitted the team still need to work on the car's handling ahead of the race: "We've made some changes to the car and in some places it's certainly better. But we still have oversteer in two or three corners and we've had some big, big power slides. It's spectacular and I'm used to it from racing historic cars, but for a six-hour race it won't be good for the rear tyres. Therefore we have to do some more work with the traction control and the handling."
Steve Zaccia agreed: "We have set up the car the same as we did at Monza and we are working to have a stable balance for the race. Our aim for the race is to make sure we finish and score points in the championship. To do that we need to manage the traffic well because that will be the greatest challenge on Sunday."