Corvette Racing Finishes on Podium at Petit Le Mans
Gavin, Beretta and Magnussen Take Third in GT1 as Championship Race Tightens
BRASELTON, Ga. – The Battle of Atlanta was fought over hill and over dale today at Road Atlanta as Corvette Racing finished third and fourth in the 1,000-mile Petit Le Mans endurance race. The penultimate round of the American Le Mans Series saw intense wheel-to-wheel combat between the Corvette C6.Rs and the Aston Martin DBR9s. Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen finished third in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R behind the No. 007 and No. 009 Aston Martins. Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Max Papis were fourth in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R.
Corvette Racing was again handicapped with performance adjustments, spotting their rivals a 110-pound weight advantage and larger engine restrictors. The Corvettes were able to make it a race for the first seven hours, but extended pit stops to change the front brake rotors and calipers proved costly.
“When you combine the weight and the restrictor penalties that have been imposed on the Corvettes, we’re at a 50 to 60-horsepower disadvantage,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “In order to compensate for that on a track like Road Atlanta you have to try to make up the difference. We tried to do that with brakes today – it was the only option we had.”
“Obviously it was less successful than we’d hoped, but the reality is that we were already relegated to third- and fourth-place finishes based on the performance adjustments,” Fehan explained. “It was certainly worth a try to move up a little bit, but we simply can’t race with these penalties.”
When the race began under sunny skies at 11:46 a.m., the four GT1 contenders ran within seconds of each other for the first 90 minutes. The pole-winning No. 3 Corvette led the first 48 minutes, and the No. 4 Corvette slotted into second after Fellows pitted. Luck was with the No. 009 Aston Martin as the car gained nearly a lap during the first pace car period, and minutes later O’Connell’s No. 3 Corvette suffered misfortune when it was forced off the road in the high-speed Esses by an LMP1 prototype. An unscheduled pit stop to clear the grille cost O’Connell a lap. At 5:39 into the race, contact between O’Connell and Darren Turner’s No. 007 Aston Martin resulted in a spin for the Corvette and a black-flag penalty for the Aston Martin.
“It’s disappointing,” said O’Connell. “I had a really good car but then I got turned backwards by Turner and lost a lot of time that would have been better spent trying to catch the 009 car. After I was forced off the track in the Esses, we were really lucky not to have to buy a new Corvette. It was a big slide.”
“Considering I was run into twice today, it’s amazing that we were still in the race,” O’Connell continued. “Corvette Racing builds about the strongest race car out there.”
The first sign of trouble for Corvette Racing came shortly after seven hours when Magnussen pitted. Gavin replaced the Dane in the cockpit while the crew replaced the front brakes on the No. 4 Corvette C6.R in four minutes. Sixteen minutes later Fellows pitted and the crew performed similar service on the No. 3 Corvette as Papis took the wheel.
“There were no indications of brake problems because the stopping power doesn’t change with carbon brakes like it does with steel,” Fellows explained. “But obviously the extra weight we’re carrying compared to the Aston Martins wore out the brakes.”
The extended pit stops cost the Corvettes two laps and decided the contest.
“It was quite an eventful race right from the start,” Gavin recalled. “The Astons were very fast on the straights and we were doing all we could to keep up. It’s a great shame that the brakes were overtaxed because the crew and the pit stops were flawless. But that’s all part of racing and we’ll learn from it and move on to Laguna Seca.”
While Corvette Racing lost the battle at Road Atlanta, the season-long war will be decided in the series’ season finale in Monterey, Calif., on Oct. 21. Chevrolet and Corvette Racing have a seven-point lead in the manufacturer and team championships; Beretta and Gavin lead the drivers’ standings by 11 points. With 23 points on the line at Laguna Seca Raceway, the championships hang in the balance.
“It’s almost impossible to compete because the competition adjustments have gone too far, especially on a track like this,” Papis commented. “Corvette Racing never gives up, but at the end of the day the competition adjustments were a little too much.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the season-ending Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday, Oct. 21. The four-hour race will begin at 2:45 local time (5:45 p.m. EDT). The ALMS season finale will be televised live on the SPEED Channel from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. EDT.
Petit Le Mans GT1 Results
1. Enge/Turner, Aston Martin DBR9, 374
2. Lamy/Sarrazin, Aston Martin DBR9, 373
3. Gavin/Beretta/Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 372
4. Fellows/O’Connell/Papis, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 371
GT1 Championship Standings (unofficial after 9 of 10 events)
1. Chevrolet 170
2. Aston Martin 163
3. Saleen 14
1. Olivier Beretta/Oliver Gavin, Corvette C6.R, 157
2. Tomas Enge, Aston Martin DBR9, 146
3. Stephane Sarrazin, Aston Martin DBR9, 140
4. Ron Fellows/Johnny O’Connell, Corvette C6.R, 136
5. Darren Turner, Aston Martin DBR9, 133
6. Pedro Lamy, Aston Martin DBR9, 124
Oct. 21, Monterey Sports Car Championships, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif.
TV: SPEED, Oct. 21, 8 p.m. – 12 a.m. EDT
Release Date: September 30, 2006