French GT experts still third in the LMGTE Am championshipLarbre Competition continues its series of podiums in the LMGTE Am class of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship after clinching a great third place at the 6 Hours of Nurburgring (22-24 July).
For drivers Paolo Ruberti, Pierre Ragues, and Yutaka Yamagishi it was their third podium in four races after they also managed top-three finishes at Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps on board of the #50 Corvette C7.R.
In the heart of the Eifel mountains, the French team was delighted to welcome back Paolo after he missed the Le Mans 24 Hours due to injury. The Italian didn’t take long to show that he hadn’t lost his raw speed, as the #50 car clocked the second fastest time in each of the two Friday free practice sessions.
Having to deal with wet weather during Saturday’s qualifying session, Larbre remained loyal to the pragmatic philosophy employed by Team Manager Jack Leconte by securing an error free performance and fifth place on the grid.
Having resumed his role as the team’s starter, Ruberti launched the #50 machine off the line as lights went out for the 6 Hours of Nurburgring, going on to put in an excellent opening stint, which placed Pierre and the Corvette C7.R in the fight for the podium once he took to the circuit.
The 2013 European Le Mans Series champion continued the great work undertaken by his team-mate and took the lead of the LMGTE Am class after putting in some bold overtaking manoeuvres during his first stint behind the wheel.
Yutaka then displayed the same level of performance as his team-mates, driving a strong double stint which kept Larbre in position for the victory. This is when a series of neutralisations interrupted the progress of the #50 car.
Having done its last driver changes under green flags, the Val-de-Vienne team encountered Full Course Yellows at the very moment its LMGTE Am competitors stopped in the pits.
Being forced to run at a reduced pace around the 5.148 km of the German circuit, Larbre lost nearly two minutes compared to its rivals and saw their hopes for success disappear. Even more frustrating was that the car showed fantastic pace, proven by the fastest race lap set by Paolo during his last stint. His lap of 1min 59.203sec was nearly nine tenths faster than the second best LMGTE Am time.
Despite the Italian’s quick pace in the closing stages, it was impossible, in a championship as competitive as the FIA WEC, to make up the time lost during the various neutralisations. Larbre had to settle for fourth position as the chequered flag signalled the end of the six-hours.
However, Larbre were promoted to third following the exclusion of the second-placed car after stewards deemed the ride height illegal. This podium meant the French team maintained its position in the top three of the LMGTE AM championship, only one point behind second place.
In September (1-3), Larbre Competition will head to Mexico City for the latest addition of the FIA WEC calendar, the 6 Hours of Mexico.
Paolo Ruberti: “Overall it has been a positive weekend. I was delighted to return to the team following my injury and to realise that I do not have any pain when driving. The Corvette C7.R was very competitive throughout the three days of the event.
“I think that we could have fought for the second place, or even victory, without the neutralisations under yellow flags, which cost us a lot of time.
“We delivered a solid performance overall and the team, has usual, did a great job.”
Pierre Ragues: “We have made some significant progress and are more homogenous as a crew which is really positive. We did not take any risks during qualifying and we had the pace to fight at the front during the race.
“My stints went really well, the Corvette C7.R proved to be really competitive. It is important to remain well placed in the championship; it is looking good for the intense second half of the FIA WEC season.”
Yutaka Yamagishi: “As the season unfolds, I am feeling more and more comfortable. For sure I still need to acquire more assurance and a quicker speed in the Corvette, but I have continued to gain in confidence since Le Mans.
“Congratulations to Pierre and Paolo – whom I was delighted to welcome back - as well as all the Larbre Competition team for the superb work accomplished at the Nurburgring.”
Jack Leconte, Team Manager: “With three podiums out of four races, Larbre Competition delivered a first solid part of the season in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
“For sure we have benefited from the exclusion of one competitor to end up third at the Nurburgring but I do take note that we were fighting for victory when the arguable lengthy neutralisations under yellow flags dropped us down the order.
“I regret that the use of the Full Course Yellow lacks consistency and transforms races into lotteries. At the same time, I feel that this procedure withdraws any sporting equity and interest to the races. The Slow Zone system, harder to apply for the Race Direction is the only one which should be applied as it is fairer. Otherwise, we have to go back to the Safety Car, like they do in the US, in order to make sure races stay interesting.
“Nevertheless, I prefer to focus on the positive side of things. We were delighted to have Paolo back with us following his injuries, the car has again performed perfectly and all the team put in an excellent display.
“Finally I would like to confirm that Ricky Taylor will join us from Mexico, and the following FIA WEC rounds in the US and Japan. The American, who we know well from when he drove for us at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2013 and 2014, will partner Pierre and Yutaka on board the #50 Corvette C7.R.”
6 Hours of Nurburgring – LMGTE Am results:1. Aston Martin Racing/Aston Martin V8 Vantage/Dalla Lana-Lamy-Lauda: 166 laps2. AF Corse/Ferrari F458 Italia/Perrodo-Collard-Aguas: 1min 02.201sec3. Larbre Competition/Corvette C7.R/Ruberti-Ragues-Yamagishi: 1 lap4. Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing/Porsche 911 RSR/Al Qubaisi-Heinemeier Hansson-Long: 2 laps5. Gulf Racing/Porsche 911 RSR/Wainwright-Carroll-Barker: 2 laps
FIA World Endurance Championship – LMGTE Am class (après round 4/9):1. AF Corse/Ferrari F458 Italia: 111 pts2. Aston Martin Racing/Aston Martin V8 Vantage: 70 pts3. Larbre Competition/Corvette C7.R: 69 pts4. Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing/Porsche 911 RSR: 68 pts5. Gulf Racing/Porsche 911 RSR: 50 pts6. KCMG/Porsche 911 RSR: 44 pts