Corvette Racing Qualifies First and Second in GT1 for Inaugural Houston Street Race
Fellows Wins 16th Career ALMS Pole in Corvette C6.R’s First Race on Street Circuit
HOUSTON – Corvette Racing’s twin Corvettes will start the inaugural ALMS Lone Star Grand Prix at the front of the GT1 class after Ron Fellows and Olivier Beretta qualified first and second respectively. Fellows turned the quickest qualifying lap for the 16th time in his ALMS career with a time of 1:08.035 (89.425 mph) in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R on the 1.7-mile, 10-turn temporary circuit in Houston’s Reliant Park. Olivier Beretta was just a heartbeat behind at 1.08.090 (89.352 mph) in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. Less than six tenths of a second separated the Corvettes from their Aston Martin rivals.
“It’s just really cool when you have so little time on a track you’ve never seen before and have a car that’s this good,” said Fellows. “I think the crew really enjoys this kind of challenge. It’s a real treat to drive the C6.R on a street circuit. We’ve made one spring change and a couple of small bar adjustments, and so far so good.”
Fellows turned his fast time on his second hot lap, and might have gone even quicker.
“I didn’t get quite the lap I really wanted,” Fellows reported. “After I got that 8-flat lap, and thought my next one was going to be the good one – and then I had traffic for the rest of the qualifying run. We were fortunate to get in that good lap when we did.”
Beretta did the qualifying honors in the No. 4 Corvette, taking the second spot in GT1 just .055 seconds behind his teammate.
“During the practice sessions we were struggling with understeer,” Beretta reported. “We were working in the right direction, and we found something in qualifying. I didn’t have as much front grip as I wanted, and I didn’t want to make a mistake, so I pushed as hard as I felt comfortable. We have two yellow Corvettes in the front, and that is the goal.”
“On this kind of track, you need to start with a car that you can really trust and have confidence in,” said Beretta. “The Corvette was very good, but on a street circuit, you can’t put a wheel wrong.”
Recent performance adjustments announced by series officials have affected the relative performances of the Corvettes and their competitors. The C6.Rs now must weigh 176 pounds more than their Aston Martin rivals and have proportionately smaller intake air restrictors.
“The closeness of the qualifying time is a testament to the performance balancing the series has been trying to achieve,” commented Corvette Racing program director Doug Fehan. “I fully expected that with the Aston Martins having a 176-pound weight advantage and a larger air restrictor this race would be a real challenge for us. But Corvette Racing came here very well prepared, and analyzing the data is our engineering specialty.”
After trailing the quickest Aston Martin in practice, the Corvettes cut their lap times by more than a second in qualifying.
“We made a few small changes to the cars, the drivers liked the setup, the temperatures were cooler and there was a little more rubber on the race track,” Fehan noted. “So there were several factors that contributed to the differential between practice and qualifying.”
Dan Binks, crew chief for the pole-winning No. 3 Corvette C6.R, agreed: “The engineering staff has done a great job,” he said. “They’ve done their homework, and that makes it easy for the crew. We changed the springs a little, the gear ratios were right on, and Ronnie let ‘er rip. The No. 4 car was right there, keeping us honest, so that was fun.”
Fellows, a veteran street racer, relishes the return to street circuits in the ALMS. “I love street races, and this is a traditional street course – it’s point and squirt out of the corners, it’s bumpy, and there are concrete walls everywhere,” said the Canadian. “I like it!”
“With the bumps, you really have to pay attention,” he cautioned. “You’re busy all the time, but it’s good fun. After two hours and 45 minutes around here, we’re probably going to feel like we’ve done 12 hours at Sebring.”
The Lone Star Grand Prix, the second round of the 10-race 2006 American Le Mans Series, is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. CDT on Friday, May 12. The race will be televised tape-delayed on Saturday, May 13, at 1 p.m. EDT on CBS Sports.
Lone Star Grand Prix GT1 Qualifying:
1. Fellows/O’Connell, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:08.035, 89.425 mph
2. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:08.090, 89.352 mph
3. Enge/Turner, Aston Martin DBR9, 1:08.427, 88.912 mph
4. Lamy/Sarrazin, Aston Martin DBR9, 1:08.629, 88.651 mph
5. Ruberti/Weickardt/Konrad, Saleen S7R, 1:10.368, 86.460 mph
Release Date: May 11, 2006