(English) Inter Europol Competition take a fighting second-place LMP2 finish at the 92nd 24 Hours of Le Mans!

16 czerwca 2024

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Having taken a sensational victory last year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Centenary edition of the most prestigious sportscar race in the world, expectations for Inter Europol Competition were naturally high heading into this year’s race. The team and drivers did not disappoint.

The Silver-Gold-Gold driver trio of Jakub’ Kuba’ Śmiechowski, Vlad Lomko and Clément Novalak proved to be very strong, despite this being only Vlad’s second race at Circuit de la Sarthe, while Clem was making his Le Mans race debut. Kuba, of course, had a win already, and this was his sixth race at the circuit.

The trio of drivers, engineers, and crew put in a scintillating performance on track and off to secure second position, less than 20 seconds behind the eventual race winner. Once again, the Warsaw-based squad showed a challenging and highly competitive performance.

The race week began with the traditional scrutineering session in central Le Mans, with the drivers mixing with the fans and media. Sunday was the test day, with plenty of successful running in the warm and dry conditions. The first official practice session took place on Wednesday, and then it was straight into qualifying.

We recorded the 11th-best time in the LMP2 class. However, as underlined last year at Le Mans, where we started P13, and more recently at Le Castellet with P11, the qualifying position is not crucial to the race result; the race pace counts.

Vlad was charged with the opening two stints, dropping back with a sensibly cautious first lap. Following the first stop, he was making ground and up to eighth, while three of our LMP2 rivals had already hit trouble and eliminated themselves from contention. Rain in the second hour was significant, as Vlad stayed out on the slicks, as did one other rival, while all others boxed for wets.

This vaulted Vlad to second position, lapping faster than those who had made the switch, who had to stop again as the circuit was just too dry at that point in proceedings. Following the classy strategy call, Vlad completed his three stints; Clem jumped in to run P2, 10s behind the class leader, with 21 hours remaining.

Shortly afterwards, Clem passed the #10 LMP2 to take the class lead, but a front left wheel issue and subsequent nose damage forced an unscheduled atop and dropped Clem down to ninth position and off the lead lap.

As day turned to night, Kuba had his first stints before Vlad was back behind the wheel again. Following a lengthy Safety Car period at midnight, Vlad took wet tyres for a second time, resuming P7, but back on the lead lap again and, therefore, in contention.

Heavy rain approaching a half distance was problematic for Clem, who was concerned about aquaplaning and visibility after a particularly heavy burst of rain. He ran P3 at the time, and a safety car was deployed for a lengthy race period.

When green flag running resumed, a heavy accident halted the race action again for some time and into the final six hours with a lengthy safety car with Vlad at the wheel. He handed over to Clem, who made good use of a safety car restart soon after to make a pass on track for P3, closing within five seconds of the leader.

Into the closing stages, the stakes increased, and the team used every tactic at its disposal, running at the front for some time and then second following the crucial final pit stop. Clem gave his all in the tricky damp conditions, taking the chequered flag second, 18 seconds away from victory. However, this was another impressive result from Inter Europol Competition, in returning to Le Mans and proving it is amongst the very best in sports car racing.

The team will be in action shortly as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship resumes at Watkins Glen. Following fourth and sixth positions at Daytona and Sebring, respectively, Kuba and teammates Nick Boulle and Tom Dillmann are keen to secure the season’s first podium. Today’s result will undoubtedly provide additional motivation!

Sascha Fassbender, Team Manager
„Last year, some people questioned us about our victory here at Le Mans and did not give us the respect that we deserved. This year, we are second, 18 seconds behind the race winner, and we have proved what the team can do once again.

„It’s been a good season. We won at ELMS Paul Ricard and came here to Le Mans confident in the performance we could deliver. It was a hard race for us; we had to fight.
„We lost a lap and had to fight back, which shows the team’s depth and quality and how we operate. The car ran flawlessly, like last year, and this is how we are: a group of people with the passion and drive to work with the Inter Europol Competition; while it’s not a full repeat of last year, we are grateful for the result.

„Now we look ahead, we’re already thinking about the next race at (ELMS) Imola. We have a goal, always push, and want to finalise the Paul Ricard result and ensure we get that one-two. And we also want to win the Le Mans Cup and the Liger Series. I’m proud today; the guys did an amazing job.”

Kuba Śmiechowski

„The car really was great again, Clem and Vlad were outstanding, and I feel they played a huge role in the result, but overall, it is amazing to be on the podium and back up last year’s result with the team.

„It was a very difficult race for us, to be honest. In the first three hours, we had the wheel issue and lost the lead lap, and I was convinced that it would be hard for us to fight back. We took some risks strategy-wise to stay out on slicks when it was raining and hopefully get a safety car to return to the lead lap. We did manage to fight back, but we were always a little on the back foot, but a great result.”

Vlad Lomko
„At the beginning, it looked like it was all over, with some wheel issues and going a lap down. We also damaged the floor, so we were down on downforce from then on.

„It was a crazy race, and we managed to recover. We made great strategy calls – sharp and precise – and everyone did a great job. I think this is the best result possible for the issues we had.

„It’s a team program, over 60 of us here at Le Mans, and it’s great to be with them. I know many of the staff here from European Le Mans, great engineering, and I love the team culture!”

Clément Novalak

„It’s not a bad debut at Le Mans, and I hope I can be back next year to try and go one better! The team has done an amazing job. They won here last year and second this, but I must admit it’s a little bittersweet as we were not that far away from a win. The performance was strong, and we were the quickest car on the track at many points in the race.

„We had some unlucky moments, and that meant that we had to chase from hour four onwards, so it’s impressive to come away with second place. I’ll sleep well tonight.”

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