Corvette Racing at Mid-Ohio: Who’ll Stop the Reign?
Corvette Racing Pursues Perfection in American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, Ohio – Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell, and Corvette Racing bring a perfect record to the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio on May 21, the third round of the 10-race American Le Mans Series. O’Connell and Fellows have won the GT1 class in all four ALMS events contested on the 2.25-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, 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 and 2005 when they edged their Corvette Racing teammates Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta to score their third and fourth victories at Mid-Ohio. Now Chevy’s factory road racing team is aiming to extend its winning streak and increase its lead in the drivers and manufacturers championships on the 13-turn Mid-Ohio circuit.
The Mid-Ohio round also marks the final skirmish with Aston Martin Racing before the two marques begin their battle at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Just days after the checkered flag falls at Mid-Ohio, the two Corvettes will be flown to France to participate in the Le Mans test day on June 4.
“You have to have good fortune to win four times at any track, and certainly we’ve had that,” said Fellows. “Last year could have gone either way, and we had a little luck. Racing at Mid-Ohio is a bit like running a street race because there aren’t a lot of places to pass. When you get into traffic you have to be patient. Johnny and I have been successful there by racing smart and making sure that we have a strong race car at the end.”
“Some of those wins have been the result of good luck, but Ron and I are both quick at Mid-Ohio,” O’Connell added. “The track is a lot like Sonoma, where we won five straight races. When you’ve won races at any track, you go there with the mindset that you can do it again. I think Ron and I are relaxed and comfortable on the circuit and we’re usually pretty good at setting our car up for a medium-speed track like Mid-Ohio.”
“The circuit is very fun, very busy, but very difficult for passing,” he noted. “With the Aston Martins running less weight and a bigger restrictor than us, it could be really difficult for the Corvettes.”
If Fellows and O’Connell are to maintain their perfect record at Mid-Ohio, they’ll have to beat their Corvette Racing teammates Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta. Gavin and Beretta are the hottest drivers in the ALMS after winning the 2005 GT1 drivers championship and scoring seven straight victories in ALMS competition. They go to Mid-Ohio after wins in the season-opening Sebring 12-hour endurance race and last weekend’s inaugural Lone Star Grand Prix street race in Houston.
“Mid-Ohio is a real racer’s track,” Gavin declared. “The track has been resurfaced, and that may take away some of its quirkiness and character because a driver always had to look for the concrete patches on the apexes. It’s quite a technical track, and you need a car that’s good in both fast and slow sections. There is a lot of elevation change, so you put your trust in the corner workers when you are coming over crests and blind turns. Fortunately the marshals at Mid-Ohio do a great job.”
“The fact that this will be our last race before Le Mans is not lost on any of the drivers,” Gavin said with a smile. “We will be racing hard, but I’m sure that we’ll be reminded by the team that we need to roll these cars onto an airplane in just a few days to fly them to Le Mans.”
The Mid-Ohio round is the closest thing to a home race for Corvette Racing, which is headquartered in suburban Detroit.
“We’re always excited when Corvette Racing goes to Mid-Ohio because we bring a lot of friends, family and GM executives to see what world-class road racing is all about,” said Steve Wesoloski, GM Racing road racing group manager. “That adds a little pressure, but also a lot of fun.”
“After races on the Sebring airport circuit and the Houston street course, Mid-Ohio puts us back on a traditional road course,” Wesoloski continued. “The race will give us a good idea of what we’re going to have on our hands in Le Mans against the Aston Martin team. It will be interesting to see how Corvette Racing’s experience at Mid-Ohio stacks up against the performance concessions that have been given to Aston Martin.”
Just the Facts
- 2006 marks Corvette’s 50th anniversary in international road racing. John Fitch and Walt Hansgen drove a Corvette to a Class B victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1956, the first step onto the world stage that established Chevy’s sports car as a contender in top-level competition.
- Corvette Racing has scored 11 straight victories in ALMS competition, a winning streak that began at Road Atlanta in April 2005. A victory at Mid-Ohio will tie the ALMS record for the most consecutive wins in the GT1 division.
- Olivier Beretta, driver of the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R that he shares with Oliver Gavin, holds the record for the most ALMS career victories (26), the record for all-time ALMS poles (17) and the record for fast laps (17).
- Corvette Racing holds the ALMS records for most wins by a team (42) and the most 1-2 finishes (27).
The two-hour, 45-minute American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio, the third round of the 10-race 2006 American Le Mans Series, is scheduled to start at 12 p.m. EDT on Sunday, May 21. The race will be televised on CBS Sports starting at 1 p.m. EDT.
Release Date: May 15, 2006