Corvette Racing Qualifies One-Two in GT1 for 24 Hours of Le Mans
Magnussen Wins Second Straight GT1 Pole for Classic 24-Hour Race
LE MANS, France – With days of persistent rain only a memory, qualifying for the 24 Hours of Le Mans was completed tonight in near-perfect conditions. With a dry track and cool evening air, Jan Magnussen won the pole in the GT1 category for the second straight year with a time of 3:54.230 in the No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R. Olivier Beretta was a heartbeat behind at 3:54.702 in the No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R to give the Corvette Racing team a one-two qualifying sweep in the final race for the factory GT1 Corvettes.
“So far so good!” said Magnussen. “The Corvette C6.R goes really well and responds well to changes. I set my qualifying time on soft tires with a couple of laps on them already, which shows how good the car is. In the second part of the qualifying session Antonio (Garcia) did a long run to see how the tires would behave over a distance. With the new rules on tire changes, we’ll have to double-stint them to avoid losing too much time in the pits. Tonight we learned how hard we can push them.”
The Corvette Racing team devoted the majority of the first two-hour session to tuning the chassis/aero package and evaluating the Michelin tires under race conditions. Then in the closing minutes of the session, Beretta and Magnussen traded fast times. The Dane finally claimed his second Le Mans GT1 pole with two minutes to go.
“Winning the GT1 pole at Le Mans is fitting after 10 years of intense competition and a great way to begin the ending of Corvette’s reign in the GT1 category at Le Mans,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “Tonight’s performance certainly reflects the advances in technology that General Motors has developed through the Corvette Racing program.”
Following a 35-minute break, the second two-hour qualifying session ran from 10 p.m. to midnight. While the first session had been routine, the second proved eventful. Olivier Beretta had a quick spin in the No. 64 Corvette C6.R in the second chicane on the Mulsanne Straight, while Antonio Garcia had to contend with a punctured tire in the No. 63 Corvette C6.R.
“The car was very good, faster than on my best lap, and I just lost it in the second chicane,” Beretta reported. “It had nothing to do with the car, just the driver! The engineers worked very well, and gave us a very good car. I’m happy with how the test went tonight because we didn’t have a lot of time. We used the hours we had very effectively, and I’m feeling confident for the race.”
“I did a long run in the second half of the qualifying session to see how the tires would behave,” Garcia said. “Unfortunately I had a slow puncture on the fifth or sixth lap, but the team spotted it on the telemetry and talked me through it, so I got to the pits without blowing the tire. In the first half of the stint it was difficult to brake into the corners, but after that the tires got better and the car was easier to drive, even when low on fuel. The traffic is very difficult though – a lot of prototypes are quite slow and the drivers are not very consistent in their driving.”
Johnny O’Connell, who will share the No. 63 with Magnussen and Garcia, was upbeat after the session. “I’m surprised how well everything is going, considering we managed very little in terms of dry-weather setup yesterday,” the Georgian said. “All of us are rather optimistic for the race and the main issue will be how the LMP race cars will race you, how impatient they will be to get by you.”
Four-time Le Mans winner Oliver Gavin agreed: “It’s been a very good day, and I think we made some significant progress at the end of the session,” said the Briton. “It was good that Marcel (Fassler) got some extended time in the car. I drove the No. 64 Corvette at the end, and I was very happy with it. Olivier did an excellent job with the tire evaluation and the car setup – it was really his day today. We just missed out on the fastest GT1 qualifying time, but congratulations to Jan for that. Now we’re focused on our job on Saturday and Sunday, and that’s getting another Le Mans victory for Corvette Racing. This is one of the best race cars I’ve ever had here, so I’m very content.”
After limited time in yesterday’s rain-plagued practice session, Swiss driver Marcel Fassler was able to do an extended stint in the No. 64 Corvette C6.R.
“I was looking for my braking points and learning how to handle the traffic,” Fassler said. “By the end of the stint I was feeling quite comfortable. My goal for the race is to be consistently fast, and to make no mistakes.”
The 77th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. CET (9 a.m. EDT) on Saturday, June 13 and finish at 3 p.m. CET (9 a.m. EDT) on Sunday, June 14. SPEED will provide live television coverage in the U.S. from 8:30 a.m. to noon ET and 4:30 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and midnight to 10 a.m. ET Sunday. Flag-to-flag coverage of the race can be heard on SIRIUS channel 126, XM channel 243, and radiolemans.com.
24 Hours of Le Mans LM GT1 Qualifying Times:
1. (63) O’Connell/Magnussen/Garcia, Corvette C6.R, 3:54.230
2. (64) Gavin/Beretta/Fassler, Corvette C6.R, 3:54.702
3. (66) Lichtner-Hoyer/Gruber/Muller, Aston Martin DBR9, 3:56.126
4. (72) Alphand/Goueslard/Gregoire, Corvette C6.R, 3:57.170
5. (73) Jousse/Maassen/Clairay, Corvette C6.R, 3:57.564
6. (68) Apicella/Yogo/Yamagishi, Lamborghini Murcielago, 4:21.812
Release Date: June 11, 2009