FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 team Larbre Competition enjoyed a productive day’s running at last weekend’s official Le Mans 24 Hours Test Day (3 June).
The test was the only opportunity for drivers Romano Ricci, Erwin Creed and Thomas Dagoneau to try the Ligier JS P217 on the full Circuit de la Sarthe, ahead of race week.
Having previously competed on the 13.6km track in the ‘Road to Le Mans’ support race, Ricci and Creed used the pair of four-hour sessions to acclimatise themselves with the Onroak-prepared prototype in its low-drag aerodynamic kit.
Their co-driver Dagoneau also used the running to re-acquaint himself with an LMP2 car, having competed in an ORECA in the 2013 edition of the French endurance classic.
The trio completed a total of 58 laps, with a best time of 3:40.926, though the Val-de-Vienne-based outfit focused on finding a comfortable set-up for the race, as well as testing Michelin’s different tyre compounds.
Larbre Competition’s next action will be in the second round of the 2018/19 FIA WEC Super Season, the world famous 24 Hours of Le Mans, which begins with administrative checks and scrutineering on Sunday 10th June.
Jack Leconte: “The Test Day is very important, as the short practice and qualifying sessions require you to run to a very specific programme. Over the course of Sunday, we worked on different set-ups, chose tyres, and continued to make step-by-step progress, improving our best time by six seconds through the running. Aside from a spin on cold tyres for Erwin after a long safety car when he got caught out by the cold carbon brake discs, there were no mistakes, and we’ve found that we have a very balanced crew running three gentlemen drivers, which is very important. The Ligier LMP2 has been extremely reliable, we’ve had no problems between our initial tests at Val de Vienne, to now, and we want to maintain this for race week.
“Our objective for the 24 Hours is to qualify below our target time of 3:37, and maintain a similar pace throughout the race. We might not challenge pole position, but race pace for our competitors will be three to four seconds slower than in qualifying, which will bring us much closer. The goal for the race is to finish inside the top-10 positions in LMP2, which will require lots of hard work from the entire team, including technicians, engineers, our tyre partner and the drivers.”
Romano Ricci: “This test allowed me to understand the track, and adapt my driving style to running with a lot less downforce than we had at Spa-Francorchamps or Paul Ricard. The goal was to set a 3:40 lap time, which we achieved on tyres with mileage equivalent to three stints. We will be a lot closer to the other teams in the race, and we also have to consider the effect of safety cars and slow zones, which can work in our favour. The track was very green at the start of the day, and the conditions will be similar for practice, but it will improve gradually as it did over the test. We haven’t reached the peak of our performance yet, and we’ll continue to improve with more running.
Erwin Creed: “It was good to rediscover the track at the test after my experience in the Road to Le Mans race in 2017. The morning session was very productive, I made good progress in terms of lap time, finding a good rhythm. In the afternoon I spun when the brakes were cold after a prolonged safety car period, but we had no damage. It was good to work closely with my team-mates, we’re all very similar in terms of experience, and it helps to be able to compare our findings with one another while we’re learning. There’s plenty of potential for improvement, and I’m looking forward to seeing the progress we make.”
Thomas Dagoneau: “The day went really well, it was good to get some running ahead of the race. I was able to consistently improve my pace, but in my second run I had two safety cars, which restricted my opportunity to make the progress I thought I could. For my last run on-track, I felt very comfortable and made improvements on each lap, but I was again delayed by a slow zone, forcing me to pit. I’m really looking forward to driving again in race week, and improving my times further.”
2018 Le Mans 24 Hours programme
Sunday 10th June
16:10-16:40: #50 Larbre Competition Ligier JS P217 - Administrative checks & scrutineering
Tuesday 12th June
10:30-10:45: Drivers’ official photograph
17:00-18:30: Drivers’ official autograph session
Wednesday 13th June
16:00-20:00: Free Practice
22:00-00:00: Qualifying #1
Thursday 14th June
19:00-21:00: Qualifying #2
22:00-00:00: Qualifying #3
Friday 15th June
17:30-19:00: Drivers’ Parade - downtown Le Mans
Saturday 16th June
15:00: 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours start
Sunday 17th June
15:00: 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours finish