Roda: Qualifying Isn’t Important

by Nick Smith

Gianluca Roda is putting the Le Mans week troubles for Larbre Competition behind him saying that qualifying isn’t the key to a good 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Corvette C7.R suffered from transmission problems on Wednesday which knocked back their preparations, forcing the team to compromise outright pace in qualifying in favour of race setup work.

Roda said, “We spent the four practice and qualifying sessions searching for a good set-up, and yesterday evening we were able to find something that will work for us in the race. But qualifying really isn’t that important at Le Mans; it’s all about being there or thereabouts come Sunday afternoon.”

Roda’s co-driver Paulo Ruberti said that the team initially took a wrong turn with regards to setup. He added, “It’s been tough because we started out in the wrong direction with the set-up. But we’ve turned it around and the car feels better in race trim. We just need to stay out of trouble and drive a consistent 24 hours if we’re to make our way to the front by the finish. Le Mans is the world’s greatest race and this year is my sixth appearance. I really do love racing here.”

The third driver in the car, Kristian Poulson, commented, “Honestly, the past couple of days were tough while we chased set-up but I think we’ve found something now. We don’t have the fastest car here but it feels like the Corvette is heading in the right direction, so I am more confident after Thursday night than I was on Wednesday. The set-up wasn’t there but we’ve changed a lot on the car since. I love Le Mans; I have raced here five times and won twice. In my experience the car should be easy to drive so you’re not fighting it over the 24 hours. I think that’s now the case so let’s see, especially if we can stay out of trouble. I’m looking forward to the Drivers’ Parade later today as there’s always a lot of fans and its good fun.”

The #50 Corvette eventually qualified in tenth place in the LM GTE Am for the double points round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The time, a 3:59.522 was set early in the Wednesday evening session. The two sessions on Thursday, both run in dry conditions, were used for race preparation.

Team manager Jack Laconte was pragmatic, saying that there was no way to make up for the lost time. He said, “Wednesday’s transmission problem definitely had a knock-on effect in terms of costing us precious preparation time. It’s not something we’ll be able to make up now. Fortunately it didn’t rain in either of Thursday evening’s qualifying sessions so we had time to work on our dry set-up. That will make a difference this weekend because we’re not expecting a fully wet race. But there’s still no denying that we lack top-end speed, even if we’re ready in terms of systems checks, bedding in the engine, gearbox and brakes, suspension settings and the drivers completing their laps. As always this race will come down to consistency, which is what we’ll be focusing on. We’ve had our issues but there’s no denying that the Aston Martins are untouchable in terms of overall performance, anyway. Another major problem for us is the fuel tank’s lack of capacity, which handicaps us as we will have to do 13-lap stints as opposed to the 14 that our competitors will run, something that’s the responsibility of the organisers. But in adversity, Larbre will prove itself.”

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