Article Contributed by Corvette Motorsport
To worldwide road racing aficionados, Le Mans is a mystical place. The annual event dates back to 1923 when the Automobile Club of the Sarthe held their first race. Each summer the city transforms as the Les Vingt Quatre Heures du Mans or the 24 Hours of Le Mans swell the cities population to over 500,000. Spectators pack themselves into the famous 8.48-mile circuit. To win or even finish, competitors must run flat out, be trouble free and minimize pit visits. The Automobile Club de l’Quest (Automobile Club of the West) is very strict about who races at Le Mans.
Only the top sports cars of the world are invited to participate in this race. Le Mans practice and qualifying sessions are limited, because a portion of the racecourse is a main public highway and it can only be closed for a limited time. Each year the organizers close highway N138 (the Mulsanne straight) and open the track for practice and qualifying.
In 1999 General Motors introduced their Corvette Racing program. They won the GT category six times in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2009. They also have finished each of the ten Le Mans races they have entered, a remarkable achievement. To celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Chevrolet three Corvettes will compete at the 79th Le Mans 24-Hour race with hopes to capture their seventh GT victory. Pratt & Miller Racing will enter two factory C6R Corvettes in the LM GTE Pro category to hold up Chevrolets honor.
A third ex-Pratt & Miller Corvette will compete in the LM GTE Am (Amateur) category by Larbre Competition from France. The car will be piloted by two previous winners at La Sarthe. 2010 winner and local man, Julien Canal will be paired up with 2005 FIA GT Champion and 2010 Le Mans winner Gabriele Gardel. Gardel has a long history with the team, including double Le Mans Series GT1 championships in 2006 and 2010. The Swiss will be hoping for a repeat victory in France. The third driver is Patrick Bornhauser. Bornhauser is a multiple FFSA GT champion (winning titles in 2004 and 2005 with a Viper, 2008 with a Larbre Saleen and last year in a Larbre Porsche). With a competitive car, and a proven driver pairing, the No. 50 Corvette C6R has a nice role to play in the category this weekend.
Larbre Competition owner and manager Jack Laconte reflects on the season so far, and this weekends race at Le Mans:
“It’s clear that we were very disappointed with the engine problem at Sebring. It’s frustrating, when the tests went well, to stop after an hour of racing. At Spa, I confess I was surprised. We had contact five times during the six hour race! Furthermore, it was a puncture early in the race, which really was not ideal. In these circumstances, it is nice to have finished on the podium, but was below our expectations. The positive is that the stability of the car was well tested and it has been positive in the perspective of the ILMC. ”
“Le Mans, for Larbre is very important. We have often done well. Of course a victory would be good, and what I would also greatly enjoy, would be to see both cars on the podium. Our Corvette drivers have proven themselves, and the Porsche drivers that are starting at Le Mans have experience in endurance racing. We did the best possible preparation for Le Mans, that is why our six pilots have trained in the cars (during the official test day).”
“One of the biggest challenges will be the Krohn Racing Ferrari, which is second in the championship for the ILMC. They also have good drivers. The CRS Ferrari Racing should not be bad either.”
Practice and qualifying will begin June 8 and start with a 4-8 pm practice and end with a 10-12 pm qualifying session. On Thursday June 9 two qualifying sessions are schedules: 7-9 pm and 10-12 pm. On Friday June 10 the annual Parade des Pilots will be held from 6-8 pm in downtown Le Mans. Saturday June 11 a race warm-up is scheduled for 9-9:45am and the green flag will fall at 3 pm.
Stay tuned to Corvette Motorsport for the latest Le Mans updates.
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