Facts: Following the loss of an important sponsor Larbre Compétition, which is running a ligier JS P217 in this year’s WEC Super-Season, has been forced to release Brazilian driver Fernando Rees; Rees himself announcing the information on his Instagram account yesterday.
To fill the funding gap the French team now need to engage a driver who will bring a substantial budget instead of running Rees, a professional, Gold rated, driver. Both Romano Ricci and Erwin Creed remain confirmed drivers for the #50 Ligier.
During the recent FIA WEC Prologue at Paul Ricard, Labre tested Romain Brandela and Thomas Dagoneau.
Questions and Speculation: Many of us were asking how Jack Leconte gathered the funds in the first place to run a successful WEC LMP2 Super-Season entry. Now perhaps the puzzle becomes clearer – the fact that the five-times Le Mans class winners were already testing other gentlemen drivers at the recent Prologue points towards known funding gaps and the whole effort being run on a shoestring.
Where did the chassis come from? What happens in the event of any damage at Spa, will the team even make it to the grid for Le Mans? And then what about after the season’s first Le Mans – will Labre head to Silverstone for the last of the European rounds in 2018 or just call it a day? And why does all of this matter?
Quite simply, it matters because one has to ask was it all a ruse just to get another entry to Le Mans? Do the Circuit du Val de Vienne based team even plan to contest the ‘fly-away’ races of the season or call it a day after the Blue Ribbon French event? in which case one could reasonably argue they took away a place at Le Mans from a better funded (non-French!) team.
Although this is not the first time the team has campaigned an LMP2 chassis – the first being in 2014 when Larbre entered a Morgan LMP2 in the first race of the European Le Mans Series season, the 4 Hours of Silverstone, with Keiko Ihara and Gustavo Yacamán and also in the 24 Hours of Le Mans as an ELMS entry with the addition of Ricky Taylor – the team have little experience with the modern Global LMP2 chassis having only competed in those two events with the older Morgan car and the costs and technology requirements to translate that into a WEC Super-Season entry are astronomical.
None of us other than Leconte can give a solid answer to any of the speculation above, but it will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out in the months to come.