Comics, Le Mans – In a fold as large as the one in 24 Hours of Le Mans, the stories count in the thousands. By pushing the door – in fact all the way up – to the Glickenhaus stand, we met a character apart. At age 65, Vincent Barthe returned to service, “retire” by a Romain Dumas who knew who to count on to continue developing the project that Jim Glickenhaus had dreamed of. It must be said that the two men have “a special relationship for almost 20 years”inherited from a long collaboration with Porsche. “I’m the first to go to him and ask him if what I did was okay or not”says Romain Dumas. “Same for him, I can tell him that I want it a little more, or that it’s been a little messy there. We’re not hiding anything, it’s good.”
Vincent Barthe is the tire technical consultant for Glickenhaus, a team he joined this season to enrich it with his valuable knowledge and impressive experience. Because this man’s past, which is so quickly captivating when you talk to him, talks a lot about: At 24 Hours of Le Mans, he’s always had the same role in big projects … and often victorious.
“At Le Mans, my first project is really the Peugeot 905”he tells Motorsport.com. “Afterwards, there was the Toyota project, right after the 905. And then I started the whole McLaren / BMW project with the GT. In 1998, I restarted the Williams program with the BMW V12. I went straight to Porsche, where I spent 15 years of my career, each time with the same role.In all the teams I made, I was more and more involved because of the experience, because for not being an easy boy either! I hate to lose! There are many victories “and it warms the heart: you feel that the job is well done, not to perfection, because nothing is perfect, but it is the culmination of hard work that has paid off.”
Casual but professional
By agreeing to put his precious experience at the service of Glickenhaus, Vincent Barthe develops in the environment of a team where his voice counts and where he is much listened to by the drivers. His responsibility in the shadow of the stand is enormous: he is responsible for tire control on the track, the choice of tires according to the weather conditions, the pressure, the control of the heating temperatures.
Glickenhaus # 709 at its stand in Le Mans.
“It’s a young team, a great team, with a lot of potential”he strikes firmly. “Of course there are still a lot of things to improve, it’s like everywhere. There are always a few points to improve, but it gets put in place very slowly, the team grows, there is no bigger wolf. It lacks a little bit of organization, but “It’s because it’s a very young team with a little lack of experience. They’re very motivated, that’s for sure. which is the charm of a professional team, but which still has points to improve to grow a little more.”
“There are a few people who currently work at Glickenhaus, and who I met at Joest with the LMP1 Audi, who I found at Porsche, and who I then get along really well with. They asked to lend a hand. , because they were a little tight. in terms of knowledge and tire handling. I said yes, why not. These are people I really appreciate. The atmosphere is more relaxed [que dans un team d’usine, ndlr], Jim Glickenhaus is a passionate gentleman who is interested in everything that happens. Compared to a factory team, to what I experienced with Porsche, McLaren or Peugeot, there are still two or three small steps to take to be able to reach this level. We really are not that far away. “
We have a responsibility, we drive children at 300 km / h, we have to take care.
When he talks about the drivers and the relationships of trust that need to be maintained with them, the emotions are to touch and feel in the eyes as well as in the tone of Vincent Barthe. These pilots, he calls them lovingly “my children”aware that he is also the weight that rests on his shoulders towards them. “You do not make Le Mans, or you do not win such a race, it is not a job like the others”he warns. “We have a responsibility, we drive children at 300 km / h, we have to be careful.”
Vincent Barthe kept an eye on the tires on the Peugeot 905 back in the 90s.
About “a tire is a tire”, the subject has obviously evolved during the course of technological development. What impresses Vincent Barthe the most is the endurance of the tires today. “Years ago, for example, the 905s, we only made one stay, or one and a half stays”he says. “You have to be careful, because a tire on Le Mans is still exposed to heavy loads in terms of load, in terms of speed. With the 905, we only did one lap. In the Audi years, we could make three, four or five. stints, we no longer played on the same course.
Vincent Barthe wanted 1000 other stories to tell us, but the nostalgia does not shake him. It is now that he writes with Glickenhaus, driven by the passion that characterizes him and by the trust that is in him that cannot be denied. “We need a guy we can be sure we can rely on when we ask for something.”sums up Romain Dumas. “His experience is just important. Anyway, these Endurance races, it’s a team spirit. When you manage to have it all, in addition to having quality people, then at least that’s what we have to try to have.”
The near future will tell us whether Vincent Barthe will have the great fortune this weekend at Le Mans to once again experience one of those victories that warms his heart so much.
With Benjamin Vinel