as Le Mans 24 Hours enters closing stages
As the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours moves towards its final quarter Larbre Competition remain firmly in contention for victory with their #50 Corvette C6.R running second in a tight GTE Am class battle.
The Val de Vienne-based outfit are hunting a third successive triumph at the twice-around-the-clock race and, as the sun rose on the La Sarthe circuit, retained every chance of doing just that. Taking the start from eighth spot, the Corvette quickly moved to the front and had assumed the class lead by one-third distance.
They subsequently slipped behind the IMSA Porsche squad but retook P1 shortly before 3am with local man Julien Canal aboard the #50 that he shares with Patrick Bornhauser and Pedro Lamy. Shortly after daybreak the Corvette was back in P2 but relentlessly eating into the leader's advantage.
Despite their rise to the front the #50's race has not been trouble free, with their rear tyres suffering excessive wear and leaving the team concerned about stocks over the second half of the 24 Hours. However thanks to the effort of the crew in the pit-lane and the drivers behind the wheel the damage from this has been kept to a minimum.
Meanwhile the team's #70 effort has also moved forward from its starting spot, currently sitting in P4 having begun the race 12th. The car's all-French crew has made forward progress after solving the tyre issues that blighted them in qualifying and has enjoyed strong stints by Jean-Philippe Belloc, Pascal Gibon and Christophe Bourret during the night hours.
Larbre Competition will now look to make good on the form shown throughout the race and seal a hat-trick of GTE Am victories at Le Mans.
Patrick Bornhauser, #50 Corvette C6.R: "It has been a tough race as we’ve struggled to get heat into the tyres, especially during the safety car phases, though we now seem to have this under control. We are where we want to be, running at the front of GTE Am, and hopefully we can get cleanly to the finish."
Julien Canal, #50 Corvette C6.R: "My double stint was a challenge, with the car proving tricky to handle and a lot of drivers going off in front of me. The track is quite dirty now so it's important not to lose focus and end up running off the road."
Jean-Philippe Belloc, #70 Corvette C6.R: "It's been a tricky race as the behaviour of the car has been quite unpredictable. Added to this our on-board camera that allows us to see the approaching LMPs failed and, as a result, we're having to lift off as soon as we see the blue lights, which costs quite a lot of time. However morale remains good and we're still in the fight as the sun rises."
Pascal Gibon, #70 Corvette C6.R: "My stint was fairly exhausting! I handed over to Christophe with the car behaving quite strangely. The rear was getting very loose and making it tough to control under acceleration. Nevertheless we push on in positive mood."