GM Racing

Corvette C6.Rs to Start First and Second in Competition Debut at Sebring

Field Set by Practice Times After Rain Cancels Qualifying

SEBRING, Fla. - Corvette Racing's new Corvette C6.R race cars will start their first race in the top two spots in the fiercely contested GT1 class at the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. When heavy rain compelled American Le Mans Series officials to cancel qualifying for Saturday's 12-hour race at Sebring International Raceway, the twin Corvette C6.Rs were seeded at the top of the GT1 class based on their speeds in three practice sessions. Corvette Racing is aiming for a fourth straight victory in America's classic endurance event.

Oliver Gavin turned the fastest lap in the GT1 class and eighth fastest overall at 1:57.347/113.510 mph on the 3.7-mile, 17-turn road course in the #4 Compuware Corvette that he shares with Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen. The #3 Compuware Corvette driven by Johnny O'Connell, Ron Fellows and Max Papis was second fastest in the top production-based category; O'Connell posted the trio's fastest lap at 1:57.686/113.183 mph. The Corvettes will lead a field that includes entries from Maserati, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Saleen and Viper to the green flag at 10:45 a.m. on Saturday morning.

"All of the drivers have been equal throughout the week, so it was just good fortune that I was in the car at the right time," said Gavin. "I think all three of us could have done a time to be on the pole. This is an important year for Corvette Racing and the C6.R, and we're facing tough competition. Starting the ball rolling with a pole is a good start.

"There was a little more performance to come if we had qualified, but I think everybody had something in reserve," Gavin noted. "The competition from our teammates in the #3 Corvette would have been strong, and we were geared up to see where we all stood. The engineers at Corvette Racing have done a tremendous job so far."

Fellows concurred with the decision to cancel qualifying after the morning practice was held in a downpour.

"In terms of safety it was the right call," Fellows said. "With lightning in the area, you have to think of the safety of the track workers. From a driver's standpoint, there was so much standing water on the course that you had virtually no control in spots."

Corvette Racing completed three days of practice in dry conditions before the rain arrived, and the forecast calls for fair weather to return for race day.

"We looked at the weather situation and focused on doing a quasi-qualifying run in the second practice session in anticipation of the qualifying session being rained out," explained Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "We got in good laps with both cars, and we're very satisfied with their performance. The years of development we put into the C5-R have been rolled into the C6.R, so we've not seen any reliability issues."

With the starting grid now set, GM Racing engineers are focusing on their race strategy.

"We're surprised at the change in the grip level since we tested here last month," reported Steve Wesoloski, program engineering manager for Corvette Racing. "It's apparent when you look at the lap times in the other classes that the track is different. The key to the race will be to manage our tire strategy and make the right call on when to change compounds to suit the conditions and track temperature. This track will abuse a car, and 12 hours is a long race to run here."

The 53rd annual 12-hour Sebring race will be televised live on SPEED channel starting at 10:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, March 19.

Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring GT1 Starting Grid

Pos./Car/Drivers/Time

1. #4 Chevrolet Corvette C6.R/Gavin, Beretta, Magnussen/1:57.347

2. #3 Chevrolet Corvette C6.R/Fellows, O'Connell, Papis/1:57.686

3. #63 Saleen S7R/Kelleners, Borcheller, Mowlem/1:57.881

4. #58 Aston Martin DBR9/Kox, Lamy, Sarrazin/1:58.370

5. #57 Aston Martin DBR9/Brabham, Turner, Ortelli/1:58.519

Release Date: March 17, 2005

Photo credits ©2005 Richard Prince