Paul Dalla Lana says a strong performance in the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be critical in the GTE-Am championship fight after missing out on the title the last two years due to poor results in the French endurance classic.
The Canadian and co-drivers Pedro Lamy, and Mathias Lauda enter Le Mans with a slim five-point lead in the FIA World Endurance Championship title race over Clearwater Racing, with double points on offer this weekend.
Dalla Lana came close to Le Mans glory on several occasions in the past and finished runner-up in the championship in 2014 and 2015 and third last year in the team’s Aston Martin Vantage GTE, admitting that mishaps at Le Mans has cost the team a chance of the world title.
It included a late-race accident in 2015, while leading the race, that eliminated the British squad on the spot.
“If you want to win [the GTE-Am] championship, you have to get points here,” Dalla Lana told Sportscar365. “That’s been the lesson for us the last couple of years.
“We do see this as a separate event and it’s got that pressure to do well today but also to maximize the result for what you can do. I hope we get the right balance on that one.
“This is a dream race to win. We’ve been close. Three years ago we led for over half the race, had a mechanical [problem], and the sister car didn’t and won.
“Anything can happen as we know. We’re just looking forward to being clean and carrying it into the morning.”
Dalla Lana said the strength of GTE-Am has been on the rise in recent years, culminating in a stout 16-car field, more than tripling the size of a normal WEC grid in the class.
“I don’t know why, maybe just partly around BoP and different packages, but everyone seems a lot closer this year,” he said. “Even in the first few races, there we were fighting right there at the end.
“It’s good. That’s what we’re here to do, and there’s another 11 [Le Mans-only] competitors that we haven’t really raced against.
“There’s some strong lineups out there and I think it’s going to be a heck of a race.
“We wait all year to be here, and it’s a great feeling to be back at Le Mans. The fans, even the energy on a lazy Sunday afternoon has been fantastic here. It’s a really super-cool event, and I’m happy to be back.”
With the GTE-Am field so close this year, the top-eleven cars were within 1.3 seconds at the test day earlier this month, Dalla Lana said minimizing mistakes would be the key to a good result.
“It’s about who makes the fewest mistakes, and that’s for the championship as much as it’s for Le Mans,” he said. “We’re very focused on consistency and just getting it done.
“The guys have found their stride this year and I’m feeling good. I think we have a good car, and it’s nice to see a lot of new competitors in the race.
“It’s hard to look down the field and get a full flavor for it, but I think we’ll be at the sharp end when the time comes.
“The car is good, the team is good, and as I said, if we just do our part, especially me, I think we’ll be right there.”