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Tag: Julien Canal

Larbre CompetitionLarbre Competition tackled the intense heat of the Bahrain International Circuit on September 29 as the French squad travelled to the desert kingdom for round six of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The LMGTE Am class championship leaders returned to the venue with fond memories having claimed the 2004 GT Festival and 2005 FIA GT drivers’ title at the circuit, the latter coming courtesy of Gabriel Gardel and Pedro Lamy aboard the iconic Ferrari 550 Maranello.

But while the first two visits took place during the cooler month of November, last weekend’s WEC round saw scorching September heat in excess of 40 degrees Celsius, making the six-hour race a physical test for the drivers and pit crew.

Following strong displays from both of the team’s Corvette C6.Rs in September’s trip to Brazil the #50 crew of Patrick Bornhauser, Julien Canal and Fernando Rees and the all-French combination of Christophe Bourret, Pascal Gibon and Jean-Philippe Belloc aboard the #70 continued to impress in Bahrain. The #50 car excelled in qualifying, sealing second on the grid just a few tenths shy of pole position. Meanwhile the #70 also enjoyed a strong session to take P4, meaning it would line-up directly behind the sister Corvette thanks to a superb lap from Bourret.

Saturday’s race kicked off at 16.00 local time meaning the event would run into the night, with Rees taking the start in the #50 and Bourret aboard #70. Unfortunately, after successfully negotiating the famously tricky opening corners the #70 suffered an off at turn three early in its stint, necessitating a spell in the pits for repairs. A stellar effort from the Larbre crew saw it back on track in impressive time, though with 10 laps lost the crew now faced a challenging task to catch their rivals.

Meanwhile the #50 would run second during the opening stages only for Rees and Niclas Johnsson’s #57 Krohn Racing Ferrari to suffer contact during the second stint. That brought the Corvette into the pits where the mechanics performed another superb job, returning the car to the race five laps later.

Despite their heavy accidents, both cars were able to quickly get back on the pace and managed to regain one lap over their opponents. At the chequered flag the #50 would take fourth position with the #70 chasing them home in fifth.

Fernando Rees, driver #50 Corvette C6.R: “We had some tyre worries in the opening stages but managed to recover to run in P2 for much of the second stint. Then the #57 Ferrari, which was easier on its tyres, caught me, though the driver didn’t seem to be pushing to make a pass. I looked in my mirrors exiting turn three and saw him at a safe distance. I braked as usual for the corner but then felt a big impact on my right side from the Ferrari. He drove away but our car was badly damaged. I really didn’t see the move coming and wasn’t going to fight for the position anyway since the stint was almost over and my tyres were going off. That was our podium chances over, but some great work in the pits and from my team-mates meant we took fourth, which was a strong recovery.”

Patrick Bornhauser, driver #50 Corvette C6.R: “The Bahrain International Circuit was not too difficult to learn, but getting to grips with the oppressive heat inside the car was certainly a challenge. My race went superbly, setting lap times within just 0.2s of my team-mates, though physically it was very tough which led to us running stints of just one hour. It’s a shame that we could only take fourth place and we must now push hard to maintain the championship lead through the final two races.”

Julien Canal, driver #50 Corvette C6.R: “Once again we have shown great speed and competitiveness. An excellent second place in qualifying and a good start to the race were unfortunately followed by a collision that lost us P2. After a fast and steady run from Patrick I took the wheel in fifth position and, following a great stint, crossed the finish line in fourth spot. Without the issues we’ve had over the past three races we could have been champions this weekend. Now we must remain extremely focused for our final two races in Asia.”

Christophe Bourret, driver #70 Corvette C6.R: “We had an amazing week at the exceptional Bahrain International Circuit. We showed excellent performance here, confirming the pace we had at Interlagos, and did a great job in qualifying. Unfortunately I had an off 10 laps in and that changed our whole race. For that I would again like to apologise to the entire team and Jean-Philippe and Pascal. But it’s important to put the disappointment behind us and in that respect I’m now really looking forward to the last two events – I think we can really shine in Asia.”

Pascal Gibon, driver #70 Corvette C6.R: “The past week has been fantastic so it’s a bit of a shame that we didn’t achieve the result we deserved. The mechanics and engineers were incredibly quick getting the Corvette repaired but we lost 10 laps, after which our goal was to simply finish. We achieved this in what were incredibly tough conditions and can be pleased both in terms of performance and the quality of the team around us. We are on the right track for success.”

Jean-Philippe Belloc, driver #70 Corvette C6.R: “The race result was not what we’d hoped for, but we have a lot of positives to take away. Christophe did a superb job in qualifying and was running well until the incident. Pascal also proved strong in the race and managed to run a double stint. This was quite an achievement in the Bahraini heat – I’m happy I didn’t have to do it! What’s more the car performed well throughout the weekend and the Larbre team did an outstanding job in the pits. I am looking forward to Fuji where we’ll hope to translate our performance into a well-deserved result.”

Jack Leconte, Team Manager: “While we didn’t get the result our performance warranted, fourth and fifth places at the finish allowed us to limit the damage in the world championship classification where Larbre Competition still lead by nine points.

“What’s more, the pace shown by our Corvettes following their accidents was a real confidence boost for the drivers. The brakes, lubricants and tyres were pushed very hard in the heat of Bahrain but all three performed superbly, highlighting the excellent work of Motul, our Brembo braking system and Michelin.

“I will be looking for maximum commitment from the drivers and mechanics over the final two rounds. I’m pleased to see that the #70 crew is reaching its full potential thanks to the regular races we’ve been running. With the upcoming circuits unknown to our gentlemen drivers, the expertise of our crews will be vital. As such Pedro Lamy will return to the team for the final two rounds. It is now time to make the final push.”

6 Hours of Bahrain LMGTE Am result
1. Team Felbermayr #88 Porsche Ried/Roda/Ruberti 165 laps
2. AF Corse-Waltrip #61 Ferrari Kauffman/Aguas/Vickers +1 lap
3. Krohn Racing #57 Ferrari Krohn/Jonsson/Rugolo +3 laps
4. Larbre #50 Corvette Bornhauser/Canal/Rees +8 laps
5. Larbre #70 Corvette Gibon/Bourret/Belloc +12 laps
6. JWA-Avila #55 Porsche Camathias/Simonsen/Daniels +15 laps

FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Am Trophy*
1. Larbre 128 points
2. Team Felbermayr 119
3. AF Corse-Waltrip 96
4. Krohn Racing 86
5. JWA-Avila 70
6. Luxury Racing 18

Next round: Six Hours of Fuji (October 14)
*Points subject to FIA International Court of Appeal hearing

Photo by Vision Sport Agency.

Larbre CompetitionHaving already wrapped up the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup title with a race to spare, Larbre Competition capped their ultra-successful year with a fine second place finish at the season-closing 6 Hours of Zhuhai in China last weekend.
The French squad were keen to demonstrate the strengths of its GTE Am class winning #50 Corvette C6.R in a country that has become an increasingly important global market for car manufacturers by maintaining the momentum built up throughout 2011. Despite the car having never raced at Zhuhai before, Larbre Competition’s seven previous appearances ensured its experience would prove vital when it came to car set-up.
Such was the importance of this race that Corvette Racing had sent factory driver Olivier Beretta to compete alongside team regulars Julien Canal and Patrick Bornhauser. While the Monegasque’s expertise and recommendations will prove vital heading into 2012, his impact was felt by Canal in particular whose qualifying lap was just 0.4 seconds shy of class pole position and faster than both ex-F1 drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Ralph Firman!
At the start, Beretta used all of his experience racing Corvettes to move to the head of the field before handing over to Bornhauser. The Frenchman won at Zhuhai last season so it was no surprise to see him increase the team’s advantage over the second place Porsche to more than 20 seconds at the start of his second stint. Unfortunately an issue with the electronic gear selector ultimately cost the team significant time as Patrick struggled back to the pits stuck in first gear.
With a full repair likely to cost too much time, the decision was taken to re-join in manual mode. Under specific instructions from the Corvette USA engineer, Beretta began the team’s fight back through the order, placing the Corvette in podium contention. Canal then continued the good work, pumping in fast and consistent lap times so that by the finish, and after an all-round fantastic performance, just 43 seconds separated the top two.
Jack Leconte, Team Principal: “Under the circumstances it was a great performance from our drivers, mechanics and engineers. Corvette has never raced at Zhuhai before so it was rewarding to apply our ample knowledge of the circuit to the car’s set-up and see that it worked well. Olivier has been a great addition this weekend and helped us understand where we can make further progress. Obviously we’re disappointed not to end our fantastic season, which included scooping the ILMC crown and victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours, with a win. But I am still very proud that the team was able to fight its way back into contention and score another podium.”
Olivier Beretta: “Having been aware of Larbre Competition’s background and the number of championships they had won for quite some time, it was great to finally race with them in China and confirm for myself the ultra-professional level at which they operate. I was also delighted to share the car, which proved extremely competitive, with Patrick and Julien. We were leading the class before the mechanical issue, a possibility which cannot be discounted in motor racing, delayed us. Despite this setback, the team managed to repair the car and we finished in second place. Finally, I’d like to congratulate Patrick, Julien and Gabriele Gardel on their championship success.”
Patrick Bornhauser: “It felt great to return to Zhuhai for the final race of 2011 without the added pressure of securing the title which we’d wrapped up at Petit Le Mans. The race still had special meaning though as we had a works Corvette driver alongside us in the form of Olivier. We gelled immediately and spending the whole week together has been a fantastic experience. Heavy rain meant Wednesday’s free practice sessions were shortened but the race started well all the same with Olivier at the wheel. I was able to take the lead during my stint but after about 90 minutes began to experience problems with the gearbox. We opted to pit to reset the system in a manual mode and also took the opportunity to swap drivers. Ultimately it cost us victory but nevertheless we have still achieved an excellent second place. I have really enjoyed my week in China.”
Julien Canal: “The round at Zhuhai meant I could learn more about a new circuit and an official Corvette Racing driver! Olivier is someone with great human qualities and a high level of professionalism and our shared experiences of the Corvette helped us to prepare set-ups for a car that had not raced there before. I had a lot of confidence going into my third qualifying session of the season, which showed in the lap time that put us amongst the GTE Pro drivers. Olivier and Patrick produced two very good opening stints but unfortunately mine was complicated by the gearbox problem. Nevertheless it was with huge satisfaction that I crossed the line to finish second having recorded a lap only a few tenths slower than Olivier’s best. A big thank you to my team-mates as well everyone at Larbre Competition for their passion, commitment and professionalism throughout 2011. It’s also worth noting the strong support of Corvette Racing.”
Result: 6 Hours of Zhuhai
1. Proton Competition Lietz/Roda/Ried Porsche 997 GT3 RSR 217
2. Larbre Competition Bornhauser/Canal/Beretta Corvette C6.R 216
3. Krohn Racing Krohn/Jonsson/Rugolo Ferrari F430 GT2 215
4. CRS Racing Ehret/Mullen/Wills Ferrari F430 GT2 215
5. Gulf AMR Middle East Giroix/Goethe Aston Martin Vantage 198
6. AF Corse Cioci/Ma Ferrari F430 GT2 22

ILMC GTE Am final championship classification
1. Larbre Competition 93 points
2. Krohn Racing 62
3. Proton Competition 52
4. CRS Racing 50
5. AF Corse 47
6. Gulf AMR Middle East 23

Jack Leconte, Team Principal: “Our focus now turns to 2012 when I’m hoping we’ll be able to defend our title in the World Endurance Championship. The FIA and ACO announced the calendar over the weekend which will help us to firm up plans for a return to the top echelon of sportscar racing.”
2012 World Endurance Championship
17 Mar USA 12 Hours of Sebring
5 May Belgium Spa 6 Hours
3 Jun France Le Mans Test Day
16/17 Jun France Le Mans 24 Hours
25 Aug GB Silverstone 6 Hours
16 Sep Brazil 6 Hours of Sao Paolo (TBC)
30 Sep Japan 6 Hours of Fuji
20 Oct Bahrain 6 Hours of Bahrain
11 or 18 Nov China TBD

Photo by VSC Pictures

Larbre CompetitionLarbre Competition sealed their second successive Intercontinental Le Mans Cup title at last weekend’s Petit Le Mans with a runner-up finish at the Road Atlanta circuit’s American classic guaranteeing them the championship with a race to spare.

The team was on-track as early as September 24th in order to participate in the private test session held during the weekend prior to the event. After a total of four days running, during which 1,400kms were covered, they were able to enter the race with a perfect set-up on the #50 Corvette.

Despite being hit with three penalties during the 10 hour contest the three-man crew of Julien Canal, Patrick Bornhauser and Gabriele Gardel finished in an excellent second position, confirming them as 2011 GTE Am champions ahead of next month’s season-closing race in China (13 November).

This continuing success is a tribute to the hard work taking place at every level of the team: management, logistics, communications, engineering, mechanics and drivers. However the summit has yet to be reached, with Larbre Competition already preparing to enter the new World Endurance Championship (WEC) and their twentieth Le Mans 24 Hours in 2012.

Julien Canal: “Upon arrival at Road Atlanta we received technical and sporting support from the Corvette factory, which allowed us to quickly reach a good level of performance on what is a unique and tricky circuit. Thanks to this, and despite more than six minutes of penalties during the race, we managed to finish second and thus seal the 2011 ILMC championship title.

“I would like to thank Jack Leconte for the confidence he has shown in me this year, as well as all the technical staff who have provided us with a reliable and competitive car throughout the season. Finally, a big thank you to my two team-mates Patrick and Gabriele, with whom I have enjoyed a lot of good times. They are both great professionals and very good friends.”

Patrick Bornhauser: “There is always apprehension when arriving at a new circuit, but Road Atlanta has been a pleasant surprise with its many elevation changes and blind corners. It is a fascinating challenge, though the enjoyment is tempered by the sheer number of cars entered, which due to the track’s relatively short length creates a level of traffic I have never seen on any other circuit.

“The atmosphere within the team was as perfect as ever in America, allowing us to run a great race and take second at the finish, a position that could have been even better without the penalties handed out by race control. Nevertheless, the result gives us a second successive victory in the ILMC, a great achievement for the whole team.”

Gabriele Gardel: “We stared strongly with two days of testing, which was key to us getting a good feel for the track. The team worked extremely well and we easily found a good base set-up to use during the official testing days. Jack Leconte organised all the sessions perfectly, giving us a minimum of 100 laps before the race started.

“This is my fourth title with Jack and I am proud to further add to his and my own career haul. Without my team-mates Patrick and Julien and all the team I could have never done this. Thanks to every one of you for this wonderful moment.”

Jack Leconte: “The day prior to the race I organised a competition between the drivers on the fantastic ‘Legends at Château Elan’ golf course, which relieved the tension and saw a win for the seniors, Francis and Patrick.

“At the start Julien immediately took third position and was leading by his second stint. Then came the first safety car period, which we dealt with well. Safety cars are important to the Americans and are frequently deployed in order to spice-up the action.

“Having retired from March’s Sebring race as early as the first hour we were not able to fully familiarise ourselves with this particular American custom and a simple mistake during the second safety car period dropped the #50 to fifth place. Good strategy during the next five caution periods allowed us to retake first at the seven hour mark, but then a collision between our Corvette and the #57 Khron Ferrari that we were fighting for the lead resulted in another penalty, which dropped the #50 to second position.

“During the next safety car period we retook the lead once again, but in the final half-hour of the race yet another penalty was given for very ambiguous reasons, showing the race directors’ desire to ‘support’ the American Khron team’s entry. In total, the 7 minutes 30 seconds (which translates to five laps of the circuit) of penalties spent in the pits cost Larbre the win at Petit Le Mans.

“However this is quickly forgotten thanks to our second place finish and the 13 points scored at Road Atlanta, which has sealed this year’s ILMC championship – our second in a row –ahead of the series’ final round at Zhuhai, China on 13 November.”

GTE Am Result, Petit Le Mans:

1. Khron Racing Ferrari F430 355 laps

2. Larbre Competition Porsche 911 – 2 laps

3. AF Corse Ferrari F430 – 17 laps

4. Gulf AMR Middle East Aston Martin Vantage – 23 laps

5. CRS Racing Ferrari F430 – 45 laps

6. Proton Competition Porsche 997 – 192 laps

ILMC championship (GTE Am):

1. Larbre Competition 79 points

2. Krohn Racing 50

3. AF Corse 47

4. CRS Racing 39

5. Proton Competition 37

6. Gulf AMR Middle East 14

Photo credit: Julie Sueur and Larbre Competition