Corvette Racing Holds Second and Third at 18 Hours in Rainy Le Mans
Wet Track Challenges Everything in Early Morning
LE MANS, France, June 15, 2008 – Le Mans lived up to its reputation as the ultimate challenge in endurance racing when rain arrived at the Circuit de la Sarthe at 4:10 a.m. A combination of steady showers and persistent drizzle kept the circuit wet and treacherous as Sunday dawned.
At 9 a.m., with 18 hours of the race completed, the No. 63 and No. 64 Corvettes held second and third in the GT1 class, one and two laps behind the class-leading No. 009 Aston Martin respectively. The No. 007 Aston Martin slipped to fourth after an extended pit stop at 5 a.m., one lap ahead of the No. 72 Corvette C6.R of Luc Alphand Aventures in fifth. The changing track conditions, which went from wet to damp and back again, made tire decisions difficult. Lap times on the wet track were nearly 30 seconds slower than the times recorded in dry conditions.
Both Corvettes have made 21 pit stops to date with six hours still to go. At 7:28 a.m. the Corvette Racing crew installed a new right front brake rotor and pads on the No. 63 Corvette in one minute and 24 seconds. Jan Magnussen replaced Ron Fellows in the cockpit during the stop after the Canadian had spent nearly three hours on the wet circuit.
24 Hours of Le Mans GT1 Top Five Standings at 18 Hours:
1. (009) Brabham/Garcia/Turner, Aston Martin DBR9, 261
2. (63) Fellows/O’Connell/Magnussen, Corvette C6.R, 260
3. (64) Gavin/Beretta/Papis, Corvette C6.R, 259
4. (007) Frentzen/Wendlinger/Piccini, Aston Martin DBR9, 256
5. (72) Alphand/Policand/Moreau, Corvette C6.R, 255
CORVETTE RACING QUOTES:
Ron Fellows, No. 63 Corvette C6.R: “The conditions were changing every lap – there were dry areas in the Porsche Curves and then heavy rain in the front straight and in Dunlop. I got caught out by a shower in Mulsanne, had to back up and lost maybe 30 seconds. At that point I think we’d spent too much time in semi-dry conditions, and then when it turned wet again we’d built up too much tire pressure. It’s incredibly difficult because the track changes every lap.”
Oliver Gavin, No. 64 Corvette C6.R: “I was in the car when it started to rain and I thought we might be able to get away with dry tires for a couple of laps. My engineer, Steve Cole, was looking at the weather radar and he thought that the showers might pass, but the weather just built and built. We went to intermediate tires for a while, but then realized we needed to go to full wets. The track was still very slippery and it took a long time to get the wet tires up to temperature. Olivier has been doing some great times, and with six hours still to go, we’ll have to see what the weather brings.”
Johnny O’Connell, No. 63 Corvette C6.R: “Our game plan went out the window when it started to rain. We had an unbelievably good stint before the rain, and we were just starting to double on soft tires. I was chasing down the Aston, and then the rain started. At that point you’re tired, the visibility is terrible, and you can’t tell where it’s raining on the track. Maybe we stayed out one lap too long on the slicks. Coming into pit lane, there was a car moving very slowly and I couldn’t get slowed down in time. There was contact, but I don’t think it affected the car’s handling. When this place is wet, it’s extremely difficult, and I think that everyone is struggling with the same issues.”