Corvette C6.R Passes First Le Mans Test with Flying Colors
Test Day Provides Essential Information on New Corvette Race Cars for Upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans
LE MANS, France – Corvette Racing introduced its new C6.R race cars to Le Mans in a day of trouble-free testing on the Circuit des 24 Heures. The extended test session provided valuable information on the new race cars for both Corvette Racing’s six drivers and GM Racing engineers. Today’s test was the only opportunity for Chevy’s factory team to evaluate its new cars on the 8.5-mile course before the start of official practice and qualifying on June 15.
The No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R driven by Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen ran a fast lap of 3:54.183, placing it fourth among the nine GT1 class cars on the course today. The No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R of Johnny O’Connell, Ron Fellows and Max Papis completed the 13.6-kilometer circuit in 3:56.174, placing it sixth on the GT1 speed chart.
The No. 63 Corvette ran a total of 91 laps, the most by a GT1 entry, and its sister car completed 89 laps. Neither car had any mechanical issues as the team evaluated tires, brakes, shock absorbers and aerodynamic settings.
“I think we found again today that there is only one Le Mans,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “We made some great improvements in the cars today, and we still have a ways to go before the race.”
“Much of what we projected for Le Mans was extrapolated from what we had learned at Sebring, Atlanta and Mid-Ohio,” Fehan explained. “Now that we’ve actually run the C6.Rs at Le Mans, we have real data to analyze. In the days ahead, the Corvette Racing engineering team will be looking at that information and coming up with a testing plan for race week.”
“Corvette Racing has never been on the pole at Le Mans, and that’s not our objective,” he continued. “Our objective is to win the race, and we know how to do that. We just want to get a car that’s a little quicker and a little more comfortable for the guys to drive.”
“It was a good day,” said three-time ALMS champion and two-time Le Mans winner Ron Fellows. “The track was very dirty for the first half of the morning session, but that’s to be expected. This was the first time for the C6.R on a high-speed circuit like Le Mans, and our first opportunity to run Michelin’s Le Mans-spec tire. We made improvements all day; the car was getting easier to drive and more comfortable. I expect in another week and a half, we’ll be just fine.”
Two-time Le Mans winner Oliver Gavin concurred: “We learned a lot, and there were several things we did to make the car more comfortable,” said the Briton after he turned the fastest lap of the day for Corvette Racing. “We’ve run through a reasonable program, and Olivier (Beretta) has done some good work with the tires.”
“I’m happy that we’ve progressed with the car,” Gavin added. “Our competition seems to be going fast and we have to see how that plays out on race week. This race is a lot more than going fast; it’s about finishing. If you can race smart and stay out of the pits, you will be a winner.”
Olivier Beretta is a fan favorite at Le Mans; he’s won the race three times previously, including a victory in his first season with Corvette Racing in 2004.
“Right now everything is working according to the plan that the team set up before we came,” said the Monegasque. “We are trying many different things on the car because with the new C6.R, this is like the baby that takes its first steps at Le Mans. All of the testing that we did in America and the simulations never give you exactly the same results as when you put four wheels on the track. We have a lot of information and we will have one more week to think and to make some changes.”
“Performance was not the target of the day,” Beretta noted. “The target of the day was to learn the maximum about the car and then to work to be ready for the big week to come.”
Max Papis has returned to Corvette Racing for Le Mans as the third driver with Fellows and Johnny O’Connell, while Jan Magnussen is teamed with Gavin and Beretta for the endurance race. Both drivers were reacquainted today with the Corvettes they last drove in the Sebring 12-hour race in March.
“We are still in the development stage with the C6.R and we have a lot to learn about this track,” said Papis. “The car definitely behaves differently than the C5-R and we are still on the learning curve. It’s one thing to go fast in practice, but to win a 24-hour race is a different game.”
Corvette Racing came to the Le Mans test with a long to-do list that included evaluating brakes and tires. Although the nine-hour test was cut short by light rain in the final 90 minutes, the team still worked its way through most of the items.
“On the engineering side, we have a ton of data,” reported Steve Wesoloski, recently named Road Racing Group Manager at GM Racing. “We’ll go back and look at the changes we’ve made, make sure that we’ve got good correlation with our computer simulations, and plan our adjustments for the next practice and qualifying sessions.”
Johnny O’Connell shares the team’s optimism. “That’s one of the great things about Le Mans – we have a week for the guys to go over the data,” he said. “We’ll find out race week whether they deserve Christmas bonuses.”
Practice and qualifying for the 24 Hours of Le Mans is scheduled on June 15-16. The race begins at 10 a.m. EDT (4 p.m. local time) on June 18.
24 Hours of Le Mans Test Day Summary, GT1 Class:
1. Enge-Kox-Lamy, Aston Martin DBR9, 3:50.033
2. Brabham-Sarrazin-Turner, Aston Martin DBR9, 3:50.539
3. Fomenko-Vasiliev-Bouchut, Ferrari 550, 3:53.635
4. Gavin-Beretta-Magnussen/Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 3:54.183
5. Goueslard-Dupard-Vosse, Ferrari 550, 3:55.340
6. O’Connell-Fellows-Papis/Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 3:56.174
7. Pescatori-Gollin-Ramos, Ferrari 550, 3:58.199
8. Bartyan-Malucelli-Seiler, Ferrari 550, 3:58.428
9. de Fournoux-Daoudi, Ferrari 575, 4:04.435
Release Date: June 5, 2005