Corvette Racing Claims First GT1 Pole for 24 Hours of Le Mans
Magnussen Qualifies First and Gavin Takes Third in Final Qualifying Session
LE MANS, France – Corvette Racing won the GT1 pole at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time as Jan Magnussen set the pace in tonight’s final qualifying session. Magnussen’s 3:47.669 lap time in the No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R was the quickest in the GT1 division, while Oliver Gavin qualified the No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R third in the category at 3:48.539.
“It was a really good lap,” said Magnussen. “We’ve hit on something good, and we just need to work on the setup in small steps.”
Predictions for evening showers in the Loire Valley proved to be inaccurate, but a flurry of red flags interrupted the first hours of qualifying and practice. The first session, scheduled to run from 7 to 9 p.m., lost a total of 52 minutes to two red flags. Magnussen and Gavin both turned their fast times on their first flying laps at the start of the night qualifying session at 9:45 p.m.
“It didn’t start off too well because we were all packed together,” Magnussen recalled. “I thought I’d be able to pass two GT2 cars in front of me on my out lap, but I didn’t catch them until Tertre Rouge on my first flyer. I lost some time on the straightaway, but just as I was starting to get angry, a prototype whipped past me. I got into his slipstream and got back all of the time I’d lost!”
Magnussen’s pole-winning time was 4.461 seconds faster than the C6.R’s qualifying pace in 2007. Last year the top Corvette qualified at 3:52.130, putting it third in the GT1 field.
“Winning the pole at Le Mans is historic, but at some point in time it was also inevitable,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “It’s a testament to the team’s perseverance, dedication to the mission, flawless preparation, and most of all, to GM management’s belief in the value of this program. That commitment has allowed Corvette Racing to compete here at Le Mans for nine consecutive years, and that continuity is what produces success.”
“The Corvettes’ improvement in performance is attributable not only to the guys who work on the cars, but also the engineers who develop the chassis and aerodynamics, our partners at Michelin, and Katech, which has been our partner on engine development since the program’s inception. Everybody knew they had to put their shoulder to the wheel this year. We weren’t happy with the outcome last year, and I think tonight we showed just how unhappy we were.”
The last time Corvette won a class pole at Le Mans was in 1976 when John Greenwood set the fast time in the IMSA class with a 3:54-second lap. Chicanes were subsequently installed on the course to slow the cars.
“It’s always great fun going out there and racing against Jan, trying to put a good lap down,” said Gavin. “But we’re not just racing the No. 63 Corvette – there is some really strong competition here. It can’t get any tighter at the top, and they are the cars that are going to be in contention for a win.”
“Hats off to the crew at Corvette Racing,” Gavin continued. “They’ve done a marvelous job of preparing the cars and finding a substantial amount of speed. Of course I’m disappointed to not be the fast qualifier, but we’re going to look at the data with my engineers and see where the differences are. The car will be virtually brand new for the race.”
The Le Mans regulations require that all drivers complete three laps in darkness during qualifying. After losing track time to red flags in yesterday’s session, Johnny O’Connell and Olivier Beretta both completed their mandatory night qualifying laps.
“It was very important to complete three laps in darkness to qualify, and I was quite happy during my night test,” said Beretta. “Jan did a very good lap, and both cars were very quick. The conditions were very good – the track was cool and clean.”
“Le Mans qualifying is good for the ego, but it doesn’t make the race,” Beretta cautioned. “We still have 24 hours in front of us. We just have to stay cool and calm, and see what happens.”
On Friday the drivers will participate in the Parade des Pilotes (drivers parade) through the streets of Le Mans while the Corvette Racing crew installs fresh LS7.R small-block V-8 engines in the Corvette C6.R race cars. The 24 Hours of Le Mans will start at 3 p.m. local time (9 a.m. EDT) on Saturday, June 14 and finish at 3 p.m. (9 a.m. EDT) on Sunday, June 15. SPEED will televise the start of the race live on June 14 from 8:30 a.m. EDT to 12 p.m. EDT, and the finish from 9 p.m. EDT on June 14 to 9:30 a.m. EDT on June 15.
24 Hours of Le Mans LM GT1 Qualifying
1. (63) Fellows/O’Connell/Magnussen, Corvette C6.R, 3:47.668
2. (50) Bouchot/Bornhauser/Smet, Saleen S7R, 3:47.761
3. (64) Gavin/Beretta/Papis, Corvette C6.R, 3:48.539
4. (009) Brabham/Garcia/Turner, Aston Martin DBR9, 3:48.994
5. (007) Frentzen/Wendlinger/Piccini, Aston Martin DBR9, 3:49.060
6. (55) Kox, Rusinov/Hezemans, Lamborghini Murcielago, 3:52.175
7. (72) Alphand/Policand/Moreau, Corvette C6.R, 3:52.993
8. (59) Menten/Fittipaldi/Borcheller, Aston Martin DBR9, 3:53.031
9. (53) Negrao/Hardman/Leventis, Aston Martin DBR9, 3:53.475
10. (73) Gouselard/Blanchemain/Pasquali, Corvette C6.R, 3:55.736
CORVETTE RACING QUOTES:
Ron Fellows, No. 63 Corvette C6.R: “With this afternoon’s rain showers the track was very green again in the beginning, very slick. In the first half of the session we were still chasing the back of the car as it was still oversteering turning into he corners and in the middle of the corners. In the night session I found that the headlights were a bit off, but we’ll adjust that tomorrow. Other than that the car is just great and we’re looking good for the race.”
Johnny O’Connell, No. 63 Corvette C6.R: “The first issue of the day was to get my mandatory three nighttime laps in, which was just a formality. The car now feels way, way better than yesterday, and much more stable through the Porsche Curves. It improved dramatically since yesterday, as you can tell from Jan’s time. It’s nice to have a good car going into a race like Le Mans and we honestly expect to have a very good race.”
Max Papis, No. 64 Corvette C6.R: “It was a good stint, I ran seven consecutive laps in the dark. I felt we made very good progress with the car, and it’s getting faster and faster. Twenty-four hours is different than making one lap. It’s going to take staying out of trouble and driving super hard. Sometimes you need a little bit of luck; we didn’t have much luck last year, so hopefully we’ll get it all back.”
Release Date: June 12, 2008