Beretta Captures Record 20th Career Pole in Houston GT1 Qualifying
Corvettes Qualify Within .18 Seconds on Bumpy Street Course
HOUSTON – A bumpy track, heavy traffic, and a half-spin couldn’t stop Olivier Beretta from extending his record for most career poles in the American Le Mans Series. Beretta hustled his No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R to the quickest GT1 qualifying time for Saturday’s Lone Star Grand Prix in Houston, capturing the pole for the 20th time in his ALMS career.
Beretta toured the 1.7-mile JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park temporary street circuit in 1:06.963 (90.480 mph), edging his Corvette Racing teammate Johnny O’Connell by just .180 seconds. Both Corvettes were quicker on the reconfigured circuit than the previous track record set by Ron Fellows in 2006 at 1:08.035 (89.425 mph).
“I just did my job and kept my Corvette out of the walls,” said Beretta. “Every time I get in the car, even when I feel something that doesn’t quite suit my driving style, I just cool down and Corvette Racing makes it work. At the end of the day, a driver is nobody without a great car and a great team, and this is what we have at Corvette Racing.”
“I tried to turn off my brain and just drive, and the quick lap time came,” Beretta continued. “My Corvette was very good on every lap, and we are still improving the car every time we go out.”
Beretta’s run for the pole was nearly sidetracked on his first hot lap when he was balked by a GT2 car and forced to make a half-spin to avoid contact.
“I understood that he was going to let me pass when he suddenly accelerated and I had to go to the outside line, which is very dirty,” Beretta explained. “I didn’t want to lock my brakes because these are the tires I will have to use in the race. There was a lot of space, so I just made a half-spin. It was just a racing incident.”
O’Connell turned a quick lap at 1:07.143 after crew chief Dan Binks and the mechanics for the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R made a suspension adjustment before the start of the 20-minute qualifying session.
“We changed the No. 3 Corvette right before qualifying with a significant spring change,” O’Connell reported. “It was much better for qualifying, but we came up short to the No. 3 Corvette again. But it’s a long race tomorrow, and hopefully we improved the car for the long run.”
“The guys on the No. 4 Corvette C6.R did a great job again, and we were a little bit closer than we were in qualifying at Long Beach,” O’Connell conceded. “But every racer wants to be the quickest, and we weren’t today.”
The notoriously bumpy Houston street circuit is a challenge for both drivers and engineers. Corvette Racing’s computer simulation and shock development programs are key elements in the team’s ability to adapt quickly to the demanding track.
“It is simply amazing that we can come to a track that’s as bumpy and slick as this one, put two different drivers in the cars, and have them turn qualifying laps within two tenths of a second,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “That’s a great testament to the team and to the Corvette’s capabilities, and certainly you have to take your hat off to the drivers. You can’t ask them to do any more than they’re doing.”
“The crew changed all four springs on the No. 3 Corvette just before it went out for qualifying, and that made the car better,” Fehan revealed. “We were also testing tires in the last practice session, and we gained knowledge that relates to the chassis setup. So we have another bank of data that we can refer to as we continue to go forward with this program.”
The Lone Star Grand Prix, the fourth round of the 12-race American Le Mans Series, is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. local time (6:30 p.m. EDT). The 2-hour, 45-minute race on the 1.7-mile JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park temporary street circuit will be televised tape-delayed by CBS Sports on Sunday, April 29, from 1-3 p.m. EDT.
Lone Star Grand Prix GT1 Qualifying:
1. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:06.963, 90.480 mph
2. O’Connell/Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:07.142, 90.237 mph
Release Date: April 20, 2007