From Long Beach to Le Mans: Corvette Racing’s Overseas Odyssey
Le Mans Test Day Sets the Stage for Sports Car Racing’s Main Event
LE MANS, France – This is only a test – but it’s an important one. Corvette Racing will participate in the Le Mans Test Day on Easter Sunday, April 24. This one-day outing on the legendary French circuit will play a key role in the team’s preparations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 11-12, 2011.
“Every lap at Le Mans is valuable,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “It’s impossible to test there outside of the race environment because the course uses several miles of public highway. When you have even one day to gather information it’s extremely beneficial, especially when your competition is going to be there. Corvette Racing’s objective is to maximize the value of our time on the Le Mans track and then apply that when we return for the race in June.”
Once a fixture in the run-up to the 24-hour race, the stand-alone test day had been suspended for several years. Its return to the calendar in 2011 posed a logistical problem for teams competing in the American Le Mans Series, which hosted its second round in Long Beach, Calif., last Saturday.
“The schedule makes it difficult, expensive, and risky to get the cars and equipment from Long Beach to Le Mans in time for the test,” said Corvette Racing team manager Gary Pratt. “Everything would have to be crated up and flown from LAX on Sunday morning after the ALMS race. Even a short delay in customs or air transport could mean that the shipment wouldn’t arrive in time for the test.”
“Fortunately one of our customers, Larbre Competition, has a Corvette C6.R that is available for the Le Mans test,” Pratt explained. “This is a chassis that we ran last year in Le Mans, and that Larbre raced at Sebring last month. It’s the same spec as our current cars and the Larbre team will compete with it in the GTE-Am class at Le Mans. Combining our resources for the test day and sharing the information that we gather will be a win-win for both organizations.”
Corvette Racing’s four full-season drivers – Tommy Milner, Olivier Beretta, Oliver Gavin, and Jan Magnussen – will attend the Le Mans test, along with key Corvette Racing personnel. At the top of the to-do list is the requirement to qualify Milner to race at Le Mans after a three-year absence. He went to the 24-hour classic in 2006 and 2007 with the Panoz team.
“I’m 25 years old, I’ve been to Le Mans twice, and yet it’s been so long since I’ve raced there that I have to do 10 laps to qualify again to drive,” Milner said with a laugh. “I’m looking at the test as a briefing on what it’s like to drive at Le Mans in a Corvette C6.R. It will be a great opportunity to get comfortable in the car and to get seat time without the pressure of the race week.”
Olivier Beretta, Milner’s full-season teammate, agreed: “It is very important to go to Le Mans when you have the rare opportunity to drive on the same track that you will race on,” he said. “The only difference will be the weather, but Europe has been very warm recently and I hope the good weather will stay for another week. Then after the test we will have more time to think about and get ready for race week.”
Driver Jan Magnussen will be reunited with an old friend at the Le Mans test day. “We’ll be using my car from last year, so I should know it well,” said the Dane. “The weather during April may not be representative of the conditions during the race, but the test is a opportunity for the drivers to get back into the rhythm of Le Mans. It is a different track to drive because you have to attack in certain places and not in other places, so it’s helpful to get a few laps and work on the setup. Corvette Racing has always done a very good job of looking at all of the data and being right on when the race is there.”
Oliver Gavin will be teamed with Magnussen at Le Mans this year, a combination that scored three consecutive GT1 class wins in 2004-06. “It’s fantastic to be going to Le Mans because any time running on that track is precious,” Gavin noted. “You’ve got to make the most of it because it’s such a unique circuit and such a unique environment. It’s great for Larbre Competition to work together with Corvette Racing. You think you’ve got loads of time with a full day to test, but it whizzes by so quickly. Each driver is keen to get as many laps as possible, and you’ve got to make the most of it. I’m sure the engineers will have a very detailed plan for every second of the test day.”
Release Date: April 20, 2011