Larbre Competition's perfect podium run in the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup ended at last weekend's Six Hours of Silverstone when the team missed out on third place in the GTE Am class by just a few seconds following 162 laps of racing. However the result did bring the French squad a good haul of points and maintains their strong advantage at the top of the ILMC championship standings.
The team's driving crew of Julien Canal, Gabriele Gardel and Patrick Bornhauser endured a tough start to the weekend as limited practice running and a qualifying crash left them last on the grid for Sunday's race.
But from there the #50 Corvette C6.R made rapid progress through the field. Their charge was halted by contact with LMP cars runners, whose eagerness to get by resulted in contact. This, and a puncture during Bornhauser’s second stint, would ultimately cost Larbre a place on the podium. Nevertheless all three drivers put in strong shifts behind the wheel, setting competitive lap times and ultimately chasing down the third placed GTE Am car. Gardel made a final push to claim a spot on the rostrum but with his tyres fading elected to ease off and secure vital championship points.Patrick Bornhauser: “It has been a mixed weekend. I am disappointed with the length of the practice sessions, which are too short for crews of three drivers. As such we did not do enough set-up work, which in turn led to a mistake in qualifying.
“I started the race last on the grid. This was actually quite beneficial as it allowed me to avoid other people’s accidents and I was able to climb up the order nicely. However I was then hit by two prototypes. The first contact was with Nicolas Prost, who went to overtake me in Becketts. This is a very fast corner with only one racing line, and I was fortunate that the impact did not cause too much damage. The second incident came soon after when an LMP2 tried to pass after the new pit straight, where again there is only one racing line. He ended up going off and destroying the rear of his car whilst I suffered damage to my right front wheel that immediately caused vibrations and compromised my grip.
“I was not planning to change tyres after the first stint, but following the second contact I had reduced front grip and we decided it was better to go with fresh rubber. I rejoined for a planned 27-lap run but was forced to stop after only 20 as I had a left rear puncture. The tyre delaminated and became detached from the rim, meaning I had to drive half a lap at slow pace in order to get the car back to the pits without any damage, costing us an additional minute. A place on the podium was undoubtedly possible without this issue.”
Julien Canal: “I did not know the circuit before this weekend so it was difficult to learn the track in only 15 laps of practice. I was in charge of qualifying the car and I attacked straight away in order to compensate for my lack of experience. Unfortunately, I pushed a bit too hard at the last breaking point on my first flying lap, causing me to lose control and leaving us last on the grid.
“In the race I took over from Patrick and started on his used tyres. This made the car difficult to drive, but I climbed back up one place. For my second stint I had a new set of tyres and I recorded the fastest lap times of the crew, so I feel I put in two good shifts.
“Although fourth is a good result it is a shame we missed out on the podium by only a few seconds. Nevertheless, we have scored important points in the championship and the three of us drove a solid race after the disappointment of qualifying.”
Gabriele Gardel: “Had the LMP2 not made contact with Patrick during his first stint we could have easily finished on the podium. After this setback we opted for an audacious and aggressive strategy which included double stinting the tyres. Ultimately it was the way to go and by the end I was very close to the third placed car, but my tyres dropped off in the last seven laps. I tried to fight back and catch Mullen but in the end I had to ease off and secure strong points for the championship.
“Overall I am happy: the car was consistent in the race, setting competitive lap times, and I enjoyed the fights we had on track. It is a shame to miss out on the podium but ultimately the points we have scored are the most important thing.”
Jack Leconte: “We had a bit of bad luck this weekend and for the first time this year we have not finished on the podium. Nevertheless, as Team Manager I am pleased that we have already shipped our equipment to the US and Asia and that the car did not suffer any major damage.
“Before the start, the Race Director warned me that for this race they had some very good Safety Car drivers and that on such a fast circuit they would set quick lap times. As such we did not have the usual cushion of four minutes divided by two, as the Safety Cars were lapping in three minutes. We were caught out by this, and it was a missed opportunity to reduce the gap to our competitors. Perhaps we were a bit rusty on the first day back at school.
“We are eager to shine at Petit Le Mans as we will be representing the Corvette brand there. Long endurances are one of Larbre’s specialties, and we have a superb car to help us achieve our goal. As such winning the GTE-Am class at Petit Le Mans, with the works Corvette team taking the Pro class, is the key objective for our trip to the US.”
This result leaves Larbre Competition a commanding 28 points clear at the top of the GTE Am points table with just two rounds remaining. The next, Petit Le Mans, takes place on October 1st at the Road Atlanta circuit, a new track for the team’s drivers, where Larbre will represent Corvette on the brand’s home soil. GTE Am Result, 6 Hours of Silverstone:1. IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 911 GT3 997 - 164 laps2. Proton Competition Porsche 911 - 1 lap3. CRS Racing Ferrari F430 - 2 laps4. Larbre Competition Corvette C6.R - 2 laps5. AF Corse Ferrari F430 - 2 laps6. Team Felbermayr - Proton Porsche 911 - 2 laps
ILMC championship (GTE Am):1. Larbre Competition 65 points2. Proton Competition 372. Krohn Racing 354. AF Corse 355. CRS Racing 316. Gulf AMR Middle East 5