Corvette Racing First and Second in Provisional GT1 Qualifying for 24 Hours of Le Mans
Magnussen and Gavin Set Fast Times in First Four-Hour Qualifying Session
LE MANS, France – With the possibility of rain tomorrow, there was a sense of urgency when tonight’s first four-hour qualifying session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans began. When qualifying concluded shortly before midnight, Corvette Racing was first and second in provisional GT1 qualifying. Jan Magnussen turned the quickest time in the GT1 class at 3:49.406 in the No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R, with Oliver Gavin a heartbeat behind at 3:50.766 in the No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R.
The two Corvettes completed a total of 86 laps on the 8.48-mile Circuit de la Sarthe. Qualifying will continue with a second four-hour session on Thursday evening to set the starting grid for the 76th running of the world’s most revered sports car race. However, rain showers are predicted for tomorrow.
“Speedwise, we’re faster than we’ve ever been here, as you can see by our lap times tonight,” said Magnussen. “We need a ‘friendly’ car for a 24-hour race, and I’m sure the Corvette Racing engineers will come up with just the right answer for us.”
Magnussen and Gavin ran their quick laps at the 15-minute mark in the second two-hour session that began at 10 p.m. A 33-minute red-flag period then interrupted the session, and a second red flag ended qualifying nine minutes early.
“Jan did a great time, so that’s very encouraging for the team,” said Gavin. “In terms of our speed, it’s looking good, but how often does this race really come down to speed? So often it comes down to keeping clean, being smart and staying out of the pits.”
“The circuit is still quite green, but it’s coming in all the time,” Gavin continued. “We’re still figuring out what to do to make the tires perform at their best. It’s a learning process, and I think we’ll have a really good picture of what to do by the end of Thursday. So far it seems that Max, Olivier and myself are all very comfortable in the car.”
The Le Mans regulations require that all drivers complete three laps in darkness during qualifying. With the time lost to red flags tonight, Johnny O’Connell and Olivier Beretta must now complete their night qualifying runs on Thursday.
“We still have to get Johnny and Olivier through three laps in the dark, so that’s a minor concern,” said GM Racing Road Racing Group manager Steve Wesoloski. “The extended red-flag period cost us quite a bit of time tonight. With a chance of rain tomorrow, we can still run three slow laps and get all of the drivers qualified.”
“We don’t place a lot of value on the pole for a 24-hour race, but it’s good to see that our cars are able to be near the top of the charts,” Wesoloski noted. “The ACO cleaned the track with vacuum trucks tonight, so the track was good very early in the session. That allowed us to do more setup work instead of waiting for the track to come in. We accomplished a lot in the first two hours, then we were able to give the drivers a different setup and go after a quick lap early in the 10 o’clock session. You never know what the competition is doing, but all things considered, we’re very satisfied with the Corvettes’ performance.”
Practice and qualifying for the 24 Hours of Le Mans will conclude on Thursday, June 12, with two timed sessions from 7-9 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight. 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 Times – First Session:
1. (63) Fellows/O’Connell/Magnussen, Corvette C6.R, 3:49.406
2. (64) Gavin/Beretta/Papis, Corvette C6.R, 3:50.766
3. (50) Bouchot/Bornhauser/Smet, Saleen S7R, 3:50.920
4. (55) Kox, Rusinov/Hezemans, Lamborghini Murcielago, 3:52.175
5. (009) Brabham/Garcia/Turner, Aston Martin DBR9, 3:52.266
6. (007) Frentzen/Wendlinger/Piccini, Aston Martin DBR9, 3:52.527
7. (72) Alphand/Policand/Moreau, Corvette C6.R, 3:53.990
8. (73) Gouselard/Blanchemain/Pasquali, Corvette C6.R, 3:55.736
9. (53) Negrao/Hardman/Leventis, Aston Martin DBR9, 3:57.371
10. (59) Menten/Fittipaldi/Borcheller, Aston Martin DBR9, 3:58.193
Olivier Beretta, No. 64 Corvette C6.R: “I did very few laps during the test day because of the weather, and I had only two clear laps today. It’s very good that Max had a long run tonight, and tomorrow it will be my turn. I was happy to see that the engineers have worked very hard since last year at Le Mans. I was quite impressed with the car. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a proper run at this track, and I was very comfortable right away. I’m feeling very confident.”
Ron Fellows, No. 63 Corvette C6.R: “A suspension change took some of the harshness out of the car, and I think there’s even more time to be found in the car in a race setup. We have a fast car, but we just need to make it a little more comfortable for the race.”
Johnny O’Connell, No. 63 Corvette C6.R: “Overall we have a good race car. We’re fast, but we still need to work on the rear grip a bit. The track still needs to come in as well, and with a few tweaks tomorrow we’ll be right where we want to be.”
Max Papis, No. 64 Corvette C6.R: “We definitely have a great car in the No. 64 Corvette. It was nerve-wracking to be out there tonight because there were many inexperienced drivers learning the track and there was a lot of oil as well. I was taking it easy and still running quick lap times. The crew has done an amazing job preparing both Corvettes, and I am more motivated than ever to bring a victory to Corvette Racing. I’m just waiting for 3 o’clock on Saturday to start the race.”
Release Date: June 11, 2008