GT1 Battle Continues in 18th Hour at Le Mans
No. 64 Corvette C6.R Gains Time on Track, Loses Ground in Safety Car Period
LE MANS, France – The Corvette vs. Aston Martin rivalry continued at the three-quarter mark of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After 18 hours of flat-out racing, the No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen was on the same lap as the class-leading No. 009 Aston Martin. The two GT1 machines were ranked fourth and fifth overall. Behind them in the GT1 standings were two Corvettes and two Aston Martins in alternating positions.
Magnussen was relentless in his pursuit of the Aston Martin in his early-morning stint, cutting seconds from the Aston Martin’s advantage on virtually ever lap. By 9:45 a.m. the Dane had trimmed the margin to 2:13 when a full-course caution for oil on the track brought out the safety car. Caught behind the safety car after a pit stop and driver change, the Corvette lost nearly half a lap to the Aston Martin. Gavin dug deep to fend off Aston Martin driver Pedro Lamy and avoid going a lap down.
After travail during the night, the dawn signaled a new day for the No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R of Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Max Papis, although the car was 10 laps down to the leader and sixth in the GT1 division. Fellows replaced Papis at 5:17 a.m. and handed off to O’Connell at 7:10 a.m. Fellows returned for another stint at 9:03 a.m., and Papis took over at 10:51 a.m.
“Through the night we worked hard to stay on top of tire compound and pressure changes,” said engineering director Doug Louth. “In a 24-hour race you have to be in full learning mode as you get into conditions that you haven’t seen in practice and then figure out how to implement lessons ASAP. But cueing tire mounting, setting pressures for track temperature projections more than one hour out, and scheduling sets into the tire warmers makes this a very interesting proposition.”
“At 5 a.m., we started to hold our own again after a rough night,” Louth noted. “Somehow the Astons go very well after dark, so we were glad to see the morning and hopefully a chance of running them down. Last year our guys could go quicker in daytime conditions, and based on our Saturday afternoon performance, it seems this is true again in 2006. With our chassis/aero package and within the adjustments we have available mid-race, we clearly have better performance on a hotter track. I would say we’re fortunate that this is the longest day of the year!”
NO. 63 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R QUOTES:
Johnny O’Connell: “Things are going well. I was pleased with the performance of the car, and the second stint was really good. We ran low 3.53s and turned our fastest times of the race. The crash took us out for three laps, the clutch cost us five or six laps, so right now we’re in the position that if no one in front of us has a problem, I think we’ll finish about where we’re at now. We’ll keep pushing hard in case someone does have a problem, and but for the clutch problem we’d be running third. It’s a frustrating situation, but the performance of the car has been exceptional, given what it’s been through.”
Ron Fellows: “The track is pretty fast. I had just a little trouble getting comfortable with the entry, but the car is good. I couldn’t equal the lap times of the leaders, but even if we turn the fastest lap it’s not going to make much difference for us. We have to stay running at this point and get to the end. You don’t want not to finish. Ten laps is 40 minutes on the track, and anything can still happen.”
NO. 64 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R QUOTES:
Olivier Beretta: “The medium tires are working a lot better than the softer ones we had on earlier. We still have a long way to go before we can catch the Aston, but then again there is still six hours of racing left. We’ll see, anything can happen at Le Mans.”
24 Hours of Le Mans GT1 Standings at 18 Hours:
1. (009) Sarrazin/Lamy/Ortelli, Aston Martin DBR9, 266
2. (64) Gavin/Beretta/Magnussen, Corvette C6.R, 265
3. (62) Piquet Jr./Garcia/Brabham, Aston Martin DBR9, 260
4. (72) Policand/Goueslard/Alphand, Corvette C5-R, 258
5. (007) Enge/Turner/Piccini, Aston Martin DBR9, 257
6. (63) Fellows/O’Connell/Papis, Corvette C6.R, 256
Release Date: June 18, 2006