Corvette Racing Qualifies 1-2 at Road Atlanta
Local Hero O’Connell Claims First Career Pole at Home Track
BRASELTON, Ga. – Corvette Racing driver Johnny O’Connell relied on his knowledge of Road Atlanta and his very quick No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R to win the GT1 pole for Sunday’s Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta. It was the first time in his ALMS career that spans 55 events that O’Connell, a resident of nearby Flowery Branch, was the fastest qualifier.
Olivier Beretta was the second fastest qualifier in Corvette Racing’s No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. Both yellow Corvettes eclipsed the track record set by Ron Fellows in a Corvette C5-R in September 2000.
“I don’t win a lot of poles because I worry more about the race setup than a one-lap qualifying setup,” O’Connell said after covering the 2.54-mile road course in 1:17.034 (118.701 mph), more than 2.4 mph faster than the previous record. “I figured I had five good qualifying laps on my tires, and I got one clear lap when I needed it. My timing was good.”
“I’m happy about my first pole, but I’m happier that I’m going into the race tomorrow with an excellent car,” O’Connell continued. “Everybody at Corvette Racing has done an amazing job with the new C6.R. Our greatest strength is our engineering department, and when you have a team that brings a car to the race track that’s this good, it makes a driver’s job easy.”
Olivier Beretta will start alongside O’Connell on the front row after posting a 1:17.323 qualifying time (118.257 mph).
“Johnny had a very quick lap and I say, ‘Good job!’ to the guys with the No. 3 Corvette,” said Beretta. “I am happy about how qualifying went. My tires were warmed up and I was ready for a good run on my second lap, but I got into traffic so I had to slow down. But I am very happy to see two yellow Corvettes on the first row.
“The temperature was warmer today and that affected the handling of the chassis,” Beretta explained. “The important thing is we have been working since the first practice session and understand what to do. I am quite confident in my Corvette.”
Conditions were ideal at Road Atlanta, with mild temperatures and sunny skies that enhanced performance.
“The track is phenomenal and the grip has been great all weekend,” explained Steve Wesoloski, program engineering manager for Corvette Racing. “Even as it got warmer today, the track didn’t get slick. We were able to run a pole-winning lap after making a long run in practice, so we understand what our race pace is. The drivers are happy with the car, the tires are working well, and some new aerodynamic bits we’re trying seemed to improve the balance.”
Although O’Connell is the toast of Road Atlanta today, his focus is on tomorrow’s race.
“Everyone on the crew is happy, but I’ve never put any emphasis on qualifying,” he said. “It’s not where you start, but where you finish.”
The Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta will take the green flag at noon EDT on Sunday, April 17. The 2-hour, 45-minute race will be broadcast on CBS from 1-3 p.m., and American Le Mans Series Radio will have live flag-to-flag coverage at www.americanlemans.com.
Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta GT1 Qualifying:
1. Fellows, O’Connell/Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 118.701 mph
2. Beretta, Gavin/Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 118.257
3. Bertolini, DeSimone/Maserati MC12, 117.747
4. Borcheller, Mowlem/Saleen S7R, 117.031
5. Figge, Dalziel/Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, 116.685
6. Weickard, Rugolo, Belloc/Dodge Viper/111.530
Release Date: April 16, 2005