Larbre Competition's laurels
Larbre Compétition won the FIA Trophy for the Best LMGTE Am Team in the inaugural season of the FIA World Endurance Championship. A surprise? Not really if you look at the impressive endurance CV of the Jack Leconte-managed team. A little more surprising if you take into account that the No.50 Corvette C6 ZR1 was twice removed from the final classification for non-conformity of the regulations. But that would be ignoring the fact that Larbre had two cars entered and, when one failed, the second always scored Championship points.
The Larbre Compétition team, which has lifted no less than 11 international and 4 national titles in 12 years, received great support from Corvette in the form of technical assistance and engineering help. Benefitting from this, the French team was the only one within the LMGTE Am class to start two cars at each round of the Championship, in contrast to last year when the Vigeant-based squad won the ILMC title but with a single entry. This turned out to be a wise decision which now allows Jack Leconte to add an additional laurel wreath to the side of his team’s transporter.
“This championship is special,” said the Team Manager who would never – no matter what incentive is offered – give up the ‘fun’ of deciding strategy on the pit wall. “We have taken titles in ‘Le Mans’ series before, but this is the first time we’ve ended the season with an FIA World Championship trophy.”
It should be noted that such a rich list of achievements implies a certain experience in motorsport in general, and in endurance racing in particular. Experience which led Jack Leconte to call up a professional driver for certain races, and not just any one! Former Peugeot Sport driver and a ‘Ringmeister’ with five victories at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, Pedro Lamy took refuge at Larbre, the team he had previously helped in FIA GT. Always fast, the Portuguese supported Julien Canal, who has chalked up three class wins in three appearances at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the gentleman driver, Patrick Bornhauser. He gave up his place to Fernando Rees for some rounds, notably at São Paulo where the latter lives.
Knowledge of the Paulista circuit undoubtedly contributed to the No.50 Corvette’s victory, but after the race the rear ride height was found not to conform to regulations. Jack Leconte appealed the decision to exclude the car, but in the end he withdrew this once the title was wrapped up. “The exclusion was extremely embarrassing, but we nevertheless managed to lift the title,” continued Leconte. “I am very happy to have been able to give another chance to Pedro Lamy, who wasn’t very well treated by his previous employer. He brought a lot to a demanding crew who had complete faith in him. Everyone put their ego aside to form a really strong team with mutual respect for each other.”
After having won in LMGTE Am, what new challenges lie in store for Jack Leconte? “We would really like a constructor to let us show them what we can do, a little like Oreca with Toyota, with a car in LMGTE Pro but the current economic situation isn’t helping us. Whatever happens we are going to do whatever necessary to once again be present at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2013, and also in the FIA WEC. This year we decided to play a multi-cultural card and, for the majority of the races, two local mechanics joined the team. The links we’ve forged in the course of all our previous years in endurance racing have allowed us to welcome Americans, Brazilians, Japanese…their local knowledge was very valuable to us and we lived alongside them for a week: the WEC also opens up new horizons.”
Photo: BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT (SAKHIR, BAHRAIN), 6 HOURS OF BAHRAIN, 29TH SEPTEMBER 2012. The Larbre Competition No.50 Corvette played a big role in the winning of the FIA Trophy for the Best LMGTE Am Team.
Cecile Bonardel (translation by Fiona Miller)