Aiming for the Coupe de France

Aiming for the Coupe de France

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What’s going on in his head when he brakes at over 230 km/h at the end of the straight, with a competitor to his left trying to pass on the inside? He’s just been overtaken. Is he calm, or is he shouting profanities from behind the visor of his helmet? How does he stay calm and focused for thirty minutes of racing, only to regain his place the next lap? Memorize every braking point, modify your strategies, and always try to stay ahead of the race. Protect tires, combat rising oil temperatures…

For the past few years, we’ve been following Laurent in his quest for motor racing. Often stationed on the outskirts of circuits to take photos, in his workshop or during the many hours of driving to reach circuits in the six corners of France, all these questions remain unanswered. And even though we’ve asked him many times, Laurent can’t enlighten us. “That’s racing, that’s just the way it is.” Then it will surely be easier to tell you about Team 511’s first full season, how Machinistic’s Motorsport department came to support Laurent and his team. What’s this yellow M3 in our colors?

Motor racing is a world of its own in the passion we share. One thing’s for sure: once you’ve even put your finger in, you’ll end up diving headfirst into the deep end of the competition. Whether it’s by taking a test [aïe le temps passé devant les reportages de vintage racing ndlr], or, if you’re more radical, harnessing yourself in a bucket. Perhaps it’s the decorations on racing cars, the risks drivers take, the engines that sing, the tug-of-war that motivates us to follow these disciplines. Maybe it’s a need to excel, to get a good dose of adrenalin, to like dusting off the cuts on display in the garage, or simply to be the fastest. The fact remains that racing is a powerful vehicle for experiencing intense moments.

With model racing cars all over his apartment, photos of the greatest F1 drivers and the Nürburgring track on the walls of his workshop… Laurent chose option B, a bucket seat or nothing. After several years as a motocrosser, then modifying BMW E30s and a Z3 M for Track Day use, Laurent set about preparing his new car for competition. No longer fighting alone against the stopwatch, our friend now wanted to compete on equal terms with other amateur racers from all over France. It’s a project that takes time to build up, in line with the budget allocated and the time needed to prepare the car and organize a racing team. The car would have to meet criteria that suited his tastes, which could be summed up as “a rear-wheel drive car with a good engine”, but also an FIA category in which he would feel comfortable, capable of putting in a full season and going for top places.

On 4 stanchions, with basic tools. This is how the M3 E36 chosen to be transformed into a race car was prepared. In a workshop barely big enough to accommodate such a project, Laurent’s every spare hour was put to good use to obtain FIA Group N homologation for this Series 3. What a destiny for this car, Dakar Yellow, equipped to run on LPG and all original equipment on the day of purchase. But isn’t an M3 born to be a racetrack beast? There’s no doubt about it, and you only have to lift the hood and look at the technical parts of the six-cylinder to be convinced. In the Group N category, the heart of the beast remains original, and only the suspension and safety features such as the roll bar are authorized and/or imposed. Obviously, there were doubts during the assembly of the car. When the M3’s body was bare, I think every one of his friends wondered if he shouldn’t have left the car in its original state. But it’s not when you’re in the middle of icy waters, in the solitude of mechanics, that you have to give up. There’s no choice but to shuffle the nuts to avoid drowning in abandonment, which would mean that the car never finds its wheels again… And that the dream of racing never surpasses that of the simulator and Gran Turismo.

In 2019, the M3 is ready to go and takes part in one of the last races of the season, in the Coupe de France des circuits, in Dijon. The results didn’t live up to our driver’s expectations, but the car is running and that’s already a great victory. 2021 and 2022 will see the addition of a race each year, at Le Mans and then at Val de Vienne. The car is getting better and better, and the race team is starting to get organized in a way that’s helping to boost performance, even if these early experiences include a few setbacks. We remember a front tire blowout at the end of the straight in Dijon, giving Laurent the cold sweats he needed to avoid the walls, ending the race in the gravel trap. Or a run-in with an R8 LMS, where the brakes failed, costing the fast sprout a trip to the body shop. Reminders that racing sometimes requires taking risks, or assuming those of others, and that any decision in the driving can suddenly stop the weekend or the season. Despite this, as he gained experience, became more at ease and understood his car, Laurent climbed onto the podium on several occasions, without yet taking first place, but surprising a number of drivers who had been established in the French Cup for several years.

2023, here we come! Let the fight begin. The year of the big plunge and the full season, the official formation of the Team 511 racing team and the hunt for the French championship title. This adventure is finally taking a turn for the better, with the commitment needed to achieve the objectives. Seven races across France, on legendary circuits. A commitment, among friends, to accompany Laurent. There’s nothing more exciting than helping a friend realize an idea, and thanks to this adventure, we’re discovering the world of racing together.

To whet your appetite for the 2024 season, here’s a quick summary of last season:

Nogaro: First races of the season, first victories!

Dijon-Prenois: Deplorable weather, fog and rain, but two wins, including a scratch victory (Grp N and GT categories combined) in the deluge, ahead of the GT3 Cup.

Pau-Arnos: A tussle in the first race, with lap times slower than in qualifying; and then, wham, the car on two wheels in the pif paf at the end of the straight.

Ledenon: Two first-place finishes, with the truck suffering the most as it pulled the car up the ramp to the circuit.

Croix-en-ternois: Union break, this weekend was skipped.

Albi: Discovering a city circuit, the challenge of overtaking at the start of the race in the rush is over. Two second places, we learn that race strategy can change the game.

Val-de-vienne: Two second places, the competition is tough, the car and driver are on fire.

Le Mans – Bugatti: Will we talk about it in the next article?

As part of the team, and because this article is intended to summarize and introduce Team 511 on Machinistic, I’d just like to say that it’s been a great time spent with friends, traveling around France, meeting new people and discovering a whole new world. While the team has taken shape, with Laurent at its head, Damien as chief mechanic and Armand as communications manager, other friends regularly take part in the weekend, always with the same idea in mind: to create a good atmosphere. That’s what racing is all about: getting together as a group, living a unique experience and making memories.

The best thing, if you’re motivated, is to come and see us on the circuits, support the team, and there’s always a drink to be had and a good time to be shared!

Why not meet up again soon at the Bugatti circuit in Le Mans on the weekend of October 21/22? Last race of the season, with, if all goes well, the title of French Circuit Champion under the chequered flag?

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