Corvette Racing Qualifies 1-2 for Petit Le Mans
Beretta Wins GT1 Pole for Record 17th Time, Sets Road Atlanta Qualifying Mark
BRASELTON, Ga. – Corvette Racing won the first skirmish in the battle of Atlanta as the twin Corvette C6.Rs qualified first and second in the GT1 class ahead of the British Aston Martin team for Saturday’s Petit Le Mans. Olivier Beretta won the pole for a series-leading 17th time, lapping the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta circuit with a record-setting time of 1:16.627 (119.331 mph) in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R.
Beretta’s teammate Johnny O’Connell of nearby Flowery Branch, Ga., qualified second in the GT1 class with a lap at 1:16.778 in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R, just 15 hundredths of a second behind Beretta’s pole-winning time. Both Corvettes eclipsed the 1:17.034 qualifying record set by O’Connell in April, and they were the only GT1 entries to run quicker than 1:17 on this roller coaster 12-turn circuit.
Saturday’s 1,000-mile/10-hour race is the rubber match in the ongoing endurance racing rivalry between Corvette Racing and the Prodrive Aston Martin team, which qualified its DBR9s third and fourth in the GT1 class. Aston Martin won the season-opening Sebring 12-hour race in March, and Corvette raced to a 1-2 finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
“The C6.R has shown again that it is the best car in GT1,” said Beretta, who won the pole for the third time in 2005. “Qualifying is not the main target, but everyone wants to show that the car is quick, and today the Corvette was the car to do it.”
Beretta teamed with Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen to win last year’s Petit Le Mans. He and Gavin trail O’Connell and Ron Fellows by one point in the GT1 drivers championship going into the ninth round of the 10-race American Le Mans Series.
“The race is very long and has a lot of traffic, but we have a strong team, a reliable car and a good setup,” Beretta noted. “Olly and Jan are fantastic teammates; we want the same thing in the car, and we work well together. When we change drivers, the car is always quick.”
Beretta won the pole on his third flying lap, running quicker on every circuit. He trimmed his times by more than a tenth of a second to finally capture the pole. O’Connell vaulted from fourth to second on his final qualifying lap to claim the No. 2 spot on the GT1 grid.
“I didn’t even think about how fast we would go,” said O’Connell. “We didn’t go out in this morning’s practice session, and I think that might have cost us in qualifying because our brake bias was just a little off. On my fast laps I locked up the brakes slightly and that always costs some time. The good news is that we have a great race car for a long run, so we should be good shape in the race. The Corvettes are first and second on the grid, but we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.”
“Today we had an ideal track surface – and don’t discount the tremendous engineering effort by Corvette Racing to get these cars set up to be able to run that fast,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “I thought low 1:17s would be fast enough to take the pole, but on any given day with the right temperature, the right wind and the right amount of rubber, this track can come in quickly.
“Not only do we have cars that are quick, but they will be able to take care of their tires and deliver maximum fuel economy,” Fehan added. “Those are the things you must do to be successful in endurance racing.”
Petit Le Mans, the ninth round of the American Le Mans Series, is scheduled to start at 11:20 a.m. EDT on Saturday, Oct. 1 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. SPEED Channel will provide live television coverage of the 1,000-mile/10-hour race from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. EDT (check local listings).
Petit Le Mans GT1 Qualifying:
1. Gavin/Beretta/Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:16.627/119.331 mph (qualifying lap record)
2. O’Connell/Fellows/Papis, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:16.778/119.097
3. Brabham/Turner/Kane, Aston Martin DBR9, 1:17.020/118.722
4. Kox/Lamy/Enge, Aston Martin DBR9, 1:17.144/118.532
5. Borcheller/Mowlem/Kelleners, Saleen S7R, 1:17.234/118.393
6. Bertolini/de Simone/Babini, Maserati MC12, 1:17.501/117.986
7. Weickardt/Rugolo/Belloc, Dodge Viper, 1:19.636/114.822
Release Date: September 30, 2005