Bowtie Bullet Points: Chevrolet Notes for Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Corvette Racing Notebook for the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio, May 20-22
LEXINGTON, Ohio – Johnny O’Connell, Ron Fellows and Corvette Racing bring a perfect record to the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio, the third round of the American Le Mans Series. O’Connell and Fellows have won the GT1 class in every ALMS event contested on the 2.25-mile Mid-Ohio circuit, and Corvette Racing has posted 1-2 finishes in every ALMS race held at the scenic Ohio track.
O’Connell and Fellows held off teammates Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins to claim victories in 2001 and 2002. No race was held in 2003, but the layoff didn’t deter O’Connell and Fellows from returning to the top step of the podium in 2004 when they edged fellow Corvette racers Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta to score their third victory at Mid-Ohio.
O’Connell and Fellows penned another chapter in the history of Corvette Racing when they drove the new C6.R to its historic first victory at Road Atlanta on April 17. Gavin and Beretta were second across the stripe to score a 1-2 finish for Corvette Racing. Now after racing on high-speed courses in Sebring, Fla., and Atlanta, Chevy’s factory road racing team is aiming to extend its lead in the drivers and manufacturers championships on the tight 13-turn Mid-Ohio circuit.
“Mid-Ohio presents a challenge on several fronts,” said Doug Fehan, GM Racing program manager for Corvette Racing. “First, every track we visit this season is a new track for the Corvette C6.R. Track time is very limited during a race weekend, so we have to correlate what we learned previously with the C5-R with the new C6.R.
“Second, the Mid-Ohio race takes place just days before we have to load the race cars on an airplane to fly them to Le Mans,” Fehan explained. “The drivers will be on notice that the cars must leave Mid-Ohio in the same shape as they arrived.”
“Mid-Ohio is unique because it has both asphalt and concrete surfaces in several corners, so staying on the racing line is essential,” he advised. “The cars are set up for the optimum line, so the surface changes can surprise a driver if he’s just a little off. It’s also a difficult track because there are not many places to pass. The braking zone at the end of the back straight is the key passing area, but if the race car doesn’t have good straight-line speed, passing is difficult.”
With three victories in three starts at Mid-Ohio, Corvette Racing driver Ron Fellows has a winning formula for the Ohio track: “It’s a combination of good race cars, good calls in the pits, and good fortune,” said the Canadian ace.
“Mid-Ohio is like a mini roller coaster ride,” Fellows observed. “It’s good fun to drive. The track requires aggressive patience to get a nice rhythm through the turns; it’s one corner after another, with sharp elevation changes. The fastest corner is Turn 1, and it’s critical for a good lap time to get the car to work well there.
“The first time I went to Mid-Ohio and saw how beautiful it was, it looked like a manicured golf course,” Fellows recalled. “I thought, I don’t want to be the guy who goes off the road and puts tire tracks in the grass.”
The Engineering Report
“Mid-Ohio has a lot of mid-speed corners, so the goal is to find a balance between downforce and drag,” said Corvette Racing program engineering manager Steve Wesoloski. “The track doesn’t require the kind of low-drag, high-speed setup that we’ll run at Le Mans, but there are several reasonably fast sections. It’s important that we balance the car aerodynamically, and that’s done with wing adjustments and the rake angle of the car.
“Mid-Ohio’s mid-speed corners should even out the field in GT1,” Wesoloski predicted. “For example, the Saleen has been hampered by the rear wing rule this year, but Mid-Ohio suits their car’s design and setup. The tight, technical section tends to level the playing field.”
Home Field Advantage
The American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio is the ALMS event that’s closest to GM’s Michigan headquarters and the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky. Consequently the race is well attended by Corvette Racing’s friends and extended family.
“The track is close to the factory so many of the mechanics’ families and people from GM come to the race,” said Oliver Gavin, driver of the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. “They get to see the cars running on the track and experience what happens at an ALMS race. There is a family atmosphere, but there might be a little more pressure because so many people you know are watching.
“I like Mid-Ohio because it’s one of the first tracks I drove on when I came to America,” the Englishman recalled. “Mid-Ohio is a real driver’s circuit. You’re busy the whole time, and you have very little time to rest. It’s narrow and rather bumpy in places, and traffic is always an issue because there are long sections where you simply can’t get by safely. Generally if you have a good car at Atlanta or Sebring, you’ll have a good car at Mid-Ohio. We seem to have had good cars at both of those places, so I think we should be strong at Mid-Ohio.
“The drivers must be wary because Le Mans is so close,” Gavin noted. “I think it’s great to have three events before Le Mans. We’re racing every month, and that keeps the drivers and team fresh. The schedule also gives us three opportunities to learn about the new C6.R before the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
Release Date: May 17, 2005