Corvette Racing Rebounds with Pole-Winning Run in Portland
Beretta Claims Record 18th Career Pole, O’Connell Qualifies Second in Portland Heat Wave
Portland, Ore. – There was no relief from the 100-degree heat at Portland International Raceway today, but there was some relief for Corvette Racing from the rulemakers. After performance handicaps imposed at the preceding race in Salt Lake City were rescinded, Corvette driver Olivier Beretta won the GT1 pole for the 18th time, extending his American Le Mans Series record for career poles. Beretta covered the 1.94-mile road course in 1:09.399 with the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. Johnny O’Connell qualified second in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R, just .126 seconds behind his teammate.
“I really wanted to do my best today because I wanted to show that the Corvette is the car to have even with the performance handicaps,” said Beretta. “The track was unbelievably slippery today. The heat also doesn’t help the handling, and the extra weight we are carrying makes it very difficult on braking.”
Earlier today IMSA, the sanctioning body for the American Le Mans Series, rescinded the performance handicaps imposed on the Corvettes at the preceding round in Salt Lake City, citing a conflict with the series’ prohibition on performance adjustments at consecutive events. Consequently the Corvette C6.Rs reverted to the specifications used in the Lime Rock Park race on July 1.
“I think it’s important to recognize that the decision announced today was the result of officials rectifying an issue with one of the series’ fundamental rules about applying performance balancing, and I applaud them for that,” commented Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “We still have the disadvantages of 199 more pounds and 10 liters less fuel, and Aston Martin is up one column in the intake restrictor chart, which is equivalent to 35 or 40 horsepower. We will have to overcome all of that in tomorrow’s race. It’s not a good situation, but it’s certainly better than the last race.”
“Pirelli is clearly making great progress in producing competitive tires for the Aston Martins,” Fehan noted. “We saw that in the last race, and it’s continued here. I hope that by the time the series goes to Petit Le Mans we will be running straight up according to the ACO rules. That would be good for the series because it says that we have two top-tier tire manufacturers involved.”
Beretta is aiming for his fourth career victory at Portland International Raceway, while O’Connell and his teammate Ron Fellows are hoping to reprise their victories in 2001 and 2004 at the Oregon track.
“It’s just so hot here that the conditions are very challenging,” said O’Connell, who set his qualifying time on his first lap. “My qualifying run wasn’t a great lap and it wasn’t an awful lap. Olivier did a super job and got me by a tenth of a second.”
“This is simply the hottest track we’ve run in years, and it’s a stretch for the drivers, cars, engines and tires,” O’Connell noted. “The difficult task for the race will be to make the race cars last for a full tank of fuel because the track isn’t very friendly right now.”
The Portland Grand Prix, the sixth round of the 10-race 2006 American Le Mans Series, will start at 6 p.m. PDT (9 p.m. EDT) on Saturday, July 22. The two-hour, 45-minute race will be televised tape-delayed on CBS Sports on Sunday, July 23, at 3 p.m. EDT.
Portland Grand Prix GT1 Qualifying:
1. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:09.399/101.880 mph
2. Fellows/O’Connell, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:09.525/101.696 mph
3. Enge/Turner, Aston Martin DBR9, 1:10.016/100.983 mph
4. Lamy/Sarrazin, Aston Martin DBR9, 1:10.070/100.905 mph
Release Date: July 21, 2006