Beretta Repeats as St. Petersburg GT1 Pole Winner
Corvettes Debut Cellulosic E85 Ethanol Racing Fuel on the Streets of St. Pete
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Born in an apartment overlooking the first turn of the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, Olivier Beretta has a natural affinity for street circuits. Today the Monegasque won the GT1 pole for Saturday’s American Le Mans Series Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg for the second consecutive year. Beretta claimed his record-setting 21st career ALMS pole, turning a fast lap of 1:09.727 (92.934 mph) in his No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. Johnny O’Connell qualified the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R second at 1:10.268 (92.218 mph) on the 1.8-mile temporary circuit alongside Tampa Bay. Terry Borcheller was third in an Aston Martin DBR9 at 1:11.523 (90.589 mph).
ALMS teams had less than two hours of practice before the qualifying session began under sunny skies and a strong offshore breeze. The second practice session was curtailed due to a red flag, compelling Beretta and O’Connell to go directly into qualifying.
“The only thing I was a little worried about is that I couldn’t run at the end of practice because of the red flag, but Ollie (Gavin) did a very good job on setting up the car,” Beretta said. “I was confident in the Corvette’s performance, and on the first lap I said, ‘I can drive this,’ so I pushed hard.
“I had no traffic at all at the start, then I picked up two slow GT2 cars, but it didn’t affect me. The car was perfect, I just had to drive it and the quick lap time came.”
Corvette Racing ran a new formulation of cellulosic E85 ethanol racing fuel for the first time today. Unlike conventional grain-based ethanol, the E85R that powers the twin Corvette C6.Rs is made primarily from wood waste.
“I was surprised about the performance of the E85R ethanol because it’s a new thing that I had never driven in my race car before,” Beretta reported. “I think it’s good because we have excellent performance and also we are doing something positive for the environment. It’s not the solution, but it’s a start.”
“I really don’t notice any difference with the E85R, which is great,” said O’Connell. “There’s no loss in performance, and maybe even a little gain. Our first race with ethanol racing fuel is a scientific experiment and we’ll see how it works tomorrow. Corvette Racing is committed to running this renewable fuel, and if there’s one thing this team is good at, it’s making things work.”
“I’m disappointed about qualifying because we were faster in practice,” O’Connell conceded. “We missed a little on our tire pressures and then on each of my fast laps I had traffic going into the first corner. We’ll sit down with the engineers, take a look at all of the data, hopefully come back with a better setup tomorrow.”
Heavy traffic is predicted for Saturday’s one-hour and 55-minute street race. “There are a couple of dangerously slow GT2 cars out there, and then there are the P1 and P2 cars trying to get by us,” O’Connell noted. “You have to be smart, survive to the finish, and hope that everyone uses their head.”
The Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg, the second round of the 11-race American Le Mans Series, is scheduled to start at 1:25 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 5. The race will be televised on ABC starting at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg GT1 Qualifying:
1. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:09.727/92.934 mph
2. O’Connell/Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:10.268/92.218 mph
3. Borcheller/Ducote, Aston Martin DBR9, 1:11.532/90.589 mph
Release Date: April 4, 2008