Corvette Racing Qualifies Second and Third in GT1 for ALMS Season Finale
O’Connell Leads Chevrolet’s Charge for Sixth Manufacturers Championship
MONTEREY, Calif. – Corvette Racing’s yellow Compuware Corvette C6.Rs were sandwiched between a pair of green Aston Martins as qualifying for Saturday’s American Le Mans Series season finale was completed today at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Johnny O’Connell will lead the charge for Chevrolet’s sixth consecutive GT1 manufacturers championship after qualifying his No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R second in the GT1 class at 1:21.229 (99.18 mph). Olivier Beretta was third quickest at 1:21.351 (99.03 mph) in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. Stephan Sarrazin set the quickest time in the division at 1:21.012 (99.45 mph) in the No. 009 Aston Martin DBR9, while Tomas Enge was fourth at 1:21.515 (98.83 mph) in the No. 007 Aston Martin DBR9.
“In qualifying we had just a little too much understeer and I couldn’t carry the speed I needed across the middle of the turns,” O’Connell said. “Overall I’m very pleased; everyone at Corvette Racing has done a good job, we’ve improved the car a lot since we arrived, and the Michelin tires are working well on the new track surface.”
“It’s going to be a really good fight,” O’Connell predicted. “It’s going to come down to the team that doesn’t make any errors and runs a clean race.”
The twin Corvettes turned six flying laps during the scheduled 20-minute qualifying session. O’Connell recorded his quickest time on his third time around the 2.238-mile road course, while Beretta logged his fastest time on his fifth lap. In contrast, Sarrazin took the pole on his second lap and then returned to the pits. Enge went on the track with less than four minutes remaining after being delayed with a reported electrical problem; he turned only one hot lap to finalize the GT1 grid.
“We’ve got very consistent cars for the race, and I believe we can run competitive lap times,” observed Steve Wesoloski, GM Racing road racing group manager. “The question is: How hard are the Aston Martins pushing? When they only do two laps in qualifying and they’re faster than us, it’s apparent that the performances may not quite be balanced yet.”
“The Corvette drivers are pleased with their cars,” Wesoloski reported. “We did a lot of tuning with tires and shocks to get adjusted to the new grip level of the track. Overall Corvette Racing is in good shape for the race.”
A Corvette must finish first or second to secure Chevy’s sixth GT1 manufacturers’ title in Saturday’s four-hour timed race. Teammates Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta can lock up their second straight drivers championship by completing 70 percent of the laps.
“The main target is to put one of the two yellow Corvettes in at least second place,” said Beretta. “We need and we deserve the manufacturers championship because of all the handicaps we have had to overcome this year.”
The race will start at 2:45 p.m. PDT in daylight and conclude at 6:45 p.m. in darkness. The changing track conditions promise to be a challenge for the ALMS teams and drivers.
“It’s going to be difficult,” O’Connell conceded. “At this time of year the visibility can be a problem when the sun is low on the horizon. As the sun falls, it gets more and more difficult to pick up the edge of the track because a lot of dirt gets carried onto the track. It’s also going to be challenging for teams to adjust to the difference in track temperature and its effect on the tires.”
“Fortunately the organizers had the foresight to have a practice session yesterday at the same time that the race will end,” Wesoloski added. “We got a good read on how quickly the track temperature comes down, and that should help us to select the right tires to use at that critical time of the race.”
The Monterey Sports Car Championships, the season finale of the 10-race American Le Mans Series, is scheduled to start at 2:45 p.m. PDT (5:45 p.m. EDT) on Saturday, Oct. 21. The four-hour race will be televised live on SPEED Channel from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage at www.americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA live timing and scoring.
Monterey Sports Car Championships GT1 Qualifying:
1. Lamy/Sarrazin, Aston Martin DBR9, 1:21.012/99.45 mph
2. Fellows/O’Connell, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:21.229/99.18 mph
3. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:21.351/99.03 mph
4. Enge/Turner, Aston Martin DBR9, 1:21.515/98.83 mph
Release Date: October 20, 2006