Beretta Takes GT1 Pole in Lime Rock ALMS by .013 Second

Jul 06 2007 admin News Comments Off on Beretta Takes GT1 Pole in Lime Rock ALMS by .013 Second

Practice Times Set Grid After Rain Washes Out Qualifying

LAKEVILLE, Conn. – The roar of Chevy thunder at Lime Rock Park heralded the arrival of a summer storm that washed out qualifying for Saturday’s American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix. Corvette Racing’s twin Compuware Corvette C6.Rs were separated by 13 thousandths of a second in this morning’s practice session, and that razor-thin margin determined the GT1 starting grid after race officials cancelled the scheduled 20-minute qualifying session.

Olivier Beretta circled the tight 1.54-mile Lime Rock Park course in 51.411 seconds (107.837 mph) in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R that he shares with Oliver Gavin to capture the GT1 pole. The No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R of Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen was a heartbeat behind with a lap at 51.424 (107.810 mph).

“Corvette Racing has prepared the car well as always, “said Beretta. “Last year the race was not so good for us, so hopefully this year we’ll have a better result. But if it’s raining, it will be a difficult race.”

Last year at Lime Rock Park, Beretta’s race essentially ended in the mud in Turn 3 after being hit by a prototype. He’s hoping for a change of fortune this year.

“This track is very narrow, and there is different grip on the concrete and asphalt, but there is only one racing line in several corners,” Beretta explained. “When you go on the concrete, it’s like hitting a patch of water, so in traffic when you have to overtake a GT2 car or when a prototype overtakes you, it is quite tricky.”

The deluge that descended on the track dampened what promised to be a fierce intramural battle for the GT1 pole.

“It would have been nice to have qualifying because both Corvettes are going great around this track,” said O’Connell. “Olivier was a hundredth of a second quicker this morning, so the No. 4 Corvette got the jump on us.

“Without a doubt, this is one of those tracks that can bite you before you know it,” O’Connell cautioned. “The LMP2 prototypes love this race track, and when you add the Audi LMP1s into the mix, there are a lot of guys driving with a take-no-prisoners attitude. We have to hope that we’re not the ping-pong ball in this game because there’s no room for error on this track.”

Earlier today the crew of the No. 3 Corvette C6.R won $10,000 for its victory in the first round of the Klein Tools Pit Crew Challenge. Crew chief Dan Binks, mechanics David James, Mike West, Gary Young and Dave Barefield, and drivers O’Connell and Magnussen completed a simulated refueling, driver change, and four-tire change in 43.75 seconds. Their winning time was nearly three seconds faster than the runner-up Audi. The crew of the No. 4 Corvette C6.R, led by crew chief Ray Gongla, will also compete in the semifinal round of the Klein Tools Pit Crew Challenge, to be held at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.

“These guys rock!” exclaimed Binks, who led his crew to the inaugural Pit Crew Challenge championship in 2006. “Everybody practiced really hard in the last month, and we practiced even harder for the last three days. It’s going to be nerve-wracking when we compete in front of the hometown crowd in the next round in Detroit, but everyone on this team is up for it.”

The American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix, the sixth round of the 12-race ALMS series, will start at 3 p.m. EDT on Saturday, July 7. CBS Sports will televise the two-hour, 45-minute race tape-delayed at 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 8.