Corvette Racing Leads Le Mans GT1 at Six Hours
Gavin/Beretta/Magnussen Hold Narrow Margin over Aston Martin; Fellows/O’Connell/Papis Battle Back from Early Incident
LE MANS, France – After the first six hours of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R driven by Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen held a 13-second lead in the GT1 class over the 009 Aston Martin. The No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R of Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Max Papis was seventh in class after battling back from a close encounter with the guardrail early in the second hour. The independent Corvette C5-R of Luc Alphand, Patrice Goueslard and Jerome Policand was fourth in the GT1 division.
The Corvettes started third and sixth in the GT1 class when the 49-car field took the green flag at 5 p.m. Gavin took the first stint in the No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R and O’Connell was first up in the No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R.
Gavin quickly moved from third to second on the first lap, passing the No. 007 Aston Martin and hounding the class-leading No. 009 Aston Martin, while O’Connell held position in fifth. On the third lap, O’Connell passed the No. 66 Saleen S7R for fourth. When the first full-course caution period began at 5:20 p.m., the Corvettes and Aston Martins all made early pit stops for fuel. Quick pit work by the Corvette Racing crew put Gavin in the GT1 lead and O’Connell second.
At 6:08 p.m., the No. 63 Corvette C6.R spun on a slick track as O’Connell entered the Porsche Curves, damaging the wing, rear bodywork and left-front suspension. The car came into the garage at 6:10 p.m. The crew replaced the damaged wing and suspension, and 11 minutes later Max Papis took the No. 63 Corvette back into battle. After half a lap, Papis radioed to the crew, “Everything’s fine. Beautiful job, guys!”
On the other hand, everything went smoothly from the start on the No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R. Gavin had the best of starts and during the first pit stop under caution on lap 6, the crew got the car out first, where it would remain for the next six hours. Only the replacement of the front grille and taping the front end cost the team very little time in the pits.
Beretta replaced Gavin in the No. 64 Corvette C6.R at 6:16 p.m. and held P-I over the No. 009 Aston Martin through his stint. Jan Magnussen took over from Beretta at 7:13 p.m. and waged a fierce battle with the second-place Aston Martin, inexorably increasing his margin from two to 20 seconds. Gavin returned to the No. 64 at 9:53 p.m., and a few minutes later he turned the quickest lap of the race at 3:52.957, bettering his 3:53.100 qualifying time.
Fellows replaced Papis in the No. 63 Corvette C6.R at 7:10 p.m., and O’Connell took over from Fellows at 9:51 p.m. The Corvette had climbed from ninth to seventh in the class standings.
NO. 63 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R QUOTES:
Johnny O’Connell: “I was just going into the Porsche Curves and everything was normal. I don’t think anything broke; I may have got into some fluid or maybe I just lost it. The car made a slow, lazy spin and got into the guardrail. I fought it as long as I thought was wise. It wasn’t a big hit, but big enough to mess up a toe link.”
Max Papis: “The guys did a great job to put the Corvette back together. I think the front or rear toe is a bit off. That’s not the way we wanted to start, so we have an uphill road, but we’ll fight for it. The car is very competitive despite the problem we had with it.”
Ron Fellows: “The car felt very good right from the time I left the pits. It was just a matter of figuring out what the car liked. It darts around a little, but I was very happy with my stint. I felt that I could drive it the way I needed to drive, and that’s all you can ask for. The last few laps the track was greasy and I couldn’t get the same lap times as earlier, but I think that was the temperature.”
NO. 64 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R QUOTES:
Oliver Gavin: “It’s quite slippery out there! At the start a few LMP cars were slow out of the blocks so that’s how we got past them and into the top 20 so quickly. Then I had a good run with Pedro (Lamy, in the Aston Martin) for a few laps and had a look at some point but decided against trying to pass him. We then managed to pass both Aston Martins during the pit stops when the safety car came out. We came in second and fourth and went out again in first and second. The crew did a superb job. Other than that it’s quite warm in the car, but I guess that’s not news.”
Olivier Beretta: “Oliver gave me a perfect car. In my first stint I didn’t know quite what to expect so I took it easy at first. But the car handled brilliantly, so in my second stint on new tires I pushed a bit harder. So far so good.”
24 Hours of Le Mans GT1 Standings at 6 Hours:
1. (64) Gavin/Beretta/Magnussen, Corvette C6.R, 89
2. (009) Sarrazin/Lamy/Ortelli, Aston Martin DBR9, 89
3. (62) Piquet Jr./Garcia/Brabham, Aston Martin DBR9, 87
4. (72) Policand/Gouselard/Alphand, Corvette C5-R, 86
5. (67) Pergl/Kox/Vasiliev, Ferrari 550 Maranello, 86
6. (66) Mowlem/Borcheller/Fittipaldi, Saleen S7R, 86
7. (63) Fellows/O’Connell/Papis, Corvette C6.R, 85
The 24 Hours of Le Mans started at 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. EDT) on Saturday, June 17, and will conclude at 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. EDT) on Sunday, June 18. The SPEED Channel is televising 20 hours of live coverage in the U.S., from 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. EDT on Saturday and from 8 p.m. EDT on Saturday to 11:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday. Audio coverage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans can be heard over the Internet at www.radiolemans.com.
Release Date: June 17, 2006