Corvette Racing Celebrates Fourth of July with 1-2 Finish
Beretta and Gavin Roll to Lime Rock Victory
LAKEVILLE, Conn. – America’s favorite sports car celebrated America’s birthday with a declaration of racing dominance today at Lime Rock Park. Corvette Racing’s C6.R race cars swept to their fourth straight 1-2 finish today in the American Le Mans Grand Prix of New England. This time it was Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta who led the parade in GT1 with their No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R, finishing third overall and two laps ahead of the No. 3 Compuware Corvette driven by Ron Fellows and Johnny O’Connell.
Holiday traffic on the nation’s highways paled in comparison to the heavy traffic on the 1.54-mile Lime Rock Park road course. With the Corvette duo circling the circuit in less than 55 seconds, the 2-hour, 45-minute race was full of fireworks. The No. 3 Corvette rebounded from an encounter with a tire wall after being forced off course, while the No. 4 Corvette bounced back after suffering a punctured tire without losing a lap.
“In its first time at Lime Rock, the Corvette C6.R performed fantastically,” said Gavin, who drove the final 1-hour, 40-minute stint in the winning car. “Lime Rock is tight, twisty, and there is a lot of traffic here, but it was smooth running for us. Olivier did a tremendous job in the first stint, and it was unfortunate what happened to the No. 3 car because we were lining up to have a good race. From then onwards we were just being patient and trying to stay out of trouble.”
“The only drama was when I felt the left rear tire deflating,” Gavin reported. “That was a bit alarming, but the team handled it perfectly. I radioed that I was coming in literally seconds before turning into the pit lane, yet they were ready to change the tire when I arrived in the pit box. The team responded magnificently.”
Beretta was the fastest qualifier in the GT1 class on Saturday, setting the ALMS all-time record with his 15th career pole. Today he used his Corvette C6.R’s speed advantage to slice through the field in the early stages.
“My car was awesome, no problem at all,” said Beretta, who teamed with Gavin and Jan Magnussen to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans two weeks ago. “The track is very narrow and the traffic is unbelievable, but we knew that from our here experience last year. My engineer and the crew did a perfect job, and the car was flying.”
Today’s race was no stroll in the park for the No. 3 Corvette, however. Running second in class at the 56-minute mark, Fellows had a close encounter with an LMP1 prototype and caromed into a tire barrier.
“I just got forced off the road in Turn 7 with no place to go,” said Fellows. “I didn’t think he was going to try the pass, but as I started to turn in, he stuck his nose in. A little more patience on his part would have been helpful. When you get off line here there’s so much dirt and rubber that it just sucked me off the road.”
Fellows nursed the battered car back to the pits, and the Corvette Racing team went into action. The car sustained damage to the front and rear fenders, but after a liberal application of tape and a change of tires, it was back on track with Johnny O’Connell at the wheel. The incident dropped the No. 3 Corvette C6.R to fifth in class, however.
O’Connell then chased down his rivals relentlessly, cutting their advantage by seconds every lap. Just before the two-hour mark, a strategic pit stop vaulted O’Connell to second in the GT1 class standings.
“Another 1-2 finish is a great result for Corvette Racing, but this was a tough one today, with the bumps and the heat,” said O’Connell. “It was just bad luck getting pushed off the track, but the crew did a great job fixing the car. We ran some quick laps even with her all torn up.”
Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan reflected on the Corvettes’ performance on a day that commemorates the American Revolution.
“From top to bottom, we’ve got the total package,” Fehan declared. “The drivers, the cars, the crew, the engineers – they all stepped up and made it happen today. Today’s result was a testament to the design of the Corvette C6.R. We’ve demonstrated time and time again that these cars are built for endurance racing. The No. 3 Corvette took a terrific hit, yet Ron was able to drive it back to the pits and the team was able to make repairs. Not only did that car continue to race, but it finished second in class and fourth overall.”
“At the end of the day, we’re in the entertainment business,” Fehan noted. “Anyone who wasn’t entertained by today’s events either had the TV turned off or they were in a coma.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway on July 15-17. The race will be televised on Sunday, July 17, on CBS at 3 p.m. EDT.
American Le Mans New England Grand Prix GT1 Results
1. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 159 laps
2. O’Connell/Fellows, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 157
3. Borcheller/Mowlem, Saleen S7R, 156
4. Bertolini/Babini, Maserati MC12, 156
5. Figge/Dalziel, Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, 155
6. Weickardt/Rugolo, Dodge Viper, 11 (accident)
July 15-17, Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma, Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif.
TV: CBS, July 17, 3 p.m. EDT
Release Date: July 4, 2005