Valencia: Larbre Competition race report

Larbre Competition narrows championship lead after podium Aston Martin Racing Larbre achieved a second consecutive podium finish in Round 2 of the Le Mans Series as Christophe Bouchut, Fabrizio Gollin and Gabriele Gardel guided the team's...

Larbre Competition narrows championship lead after podium

Aston Martin Racing Larbre achieved a second consecutive podium finish in Round 2 of the Le Mans Series as Christophe Bouchut, Fabrizio Gollin and Gabriele Gardel guided the team's leading Aston Martin DBR9 to third position in the GT1 class of the 1000kms of Valencia.

Despite having to overcome several challenges during the weekend, including the testing of a brand-new air conditioning system, car 50 drove an impressive race to finish ahead of both the Corvettes of Luc Alphand Adventures and move to within a point of the GT1 championship lead.

Team boss Jack Leconte admitted that an early tyre gamble cost car 50 the chance to fight for second place, but overall was pleased to have collected more crucial championship points. "We had a problem in qualifying and damaged the tyres. We attempted everything we could to rescue them but unfortunately the miracle didn't happen and we had to pit after just 16 laps to change them. Despite that we have narrowed the gap at the head of the GT1 championship and we now have two months before Round 3 at the Nurburgring to get closer and beat the Saleens. We must remember that the works Saleen didn't race at Le Mans last year and as a result enjoys a weight and power advantage. However they will race there in June and I'm sure things will be reviewed before Round 3 of the Le Mans Series to create a more level playing field."

Christophe Bouchut started the race but couldn't hold the pace of the ultra-quick Saleens, admitting that their performance advantage was just too great for anyone else to offer a realistic challenge. "The Saleens were unbeatable here today because their car is very fast. We have had a tough weekend because we have been testing the new air conditioning system and it caused a few problems in practice."

Fabrizio Gollin felt that despite the lost time in free practice, the air conditioning system had improved the Aston Martin's race performance. "I'm very happy because the air conditioning system is working well and was a huge help for us. That is good news for Le Mans. Whilst the Saleens were too quick for us today, it's a great result to finish in front of the two Corvettes."

Gabriele Gardel was also pleased to have finished on the podium once more. "This is a good result because it was a difficult race due to the sheer number of cars out on track. The Saleens' fastest lap shows that they were in a different league today, but the air conditioning system we are running is definitely an improvement and makes a big difference to the driving conditions."

Car 51 secured its first points finish of the season as, despite early dramas costing time, Gregor Fisken, Greg Franchi and Steve Zacchia finished sixth in a race where they showed impressive pace.

Jack Leconte said: "I'm happy with the performance of the second car this weekend. It's a shame Gregor had one or two incidents at the start of the race because he was doing a really good job in the opening laps. But Steve and Greg both set very competitive times and Greg is showing that he is really getting to grips with the Aston Martin and looks set to become a very good GT driver. The important thing was that they scored championship points and I'm delighted with that."

Gregor Fisken was given the task of starting the number 51 car and admitted to a mistake after a strong opening. "The first 25 minutes went well but then, at the final corner and amongst traffic, I looked in my mirrors and missed my breaking point. That resulted in a spin into the gravel and on my way back to the pits I was tagged into another spin by a prototype and couldn't make the pit lane. That meant another slow lap and on my out lap after my stop we developed a slow puncture which cost more time! My second stint went well, although I was more cautious, but this track certainly is a massive challenge in a GT1 car."

Greg Franchi showed impressive pace on his sportscar race-debut and he was delighted with the performance of the Aston Martin DBR9: "It's a shame we lost the laps early on because the car feels very competitive and is working really well. The balance wasn't so great in qualifying, but it has been excellent during the race. Personally, I feel I'm really improving and showing how competitive I can be."

Steve Zacchia finished the race but explained how hopes of challenging for fifth position were ended by a small fire. "In my last stint I noticed more and more smoke inside the car and then saw some sparks. The guys on the pit wall saw the flames and asked me to get into the pits. But as I came into the pit lane entrance, the marshals stopped me and sprayed fire extinguishers with me still inside the car! That is not a nice situation to be! The boys did a great job to clean everything and send me back out. This was very important as it meant we crossed the finish line and scored our first points of the season."

-credit: lc

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About this article
Series European Le Mans
Drivers Fabrizio Gollin , Luc Alphand , Christophe Bouchut , Gregor Fisken , Gabriele Gardel , Steve Zacchia , Jack Leconte , Greg Franchi
Teams Aston Martin Racing , Larbre Competition