Corvette Racing Rockets to 1-2 Finish in Houston
Gavin and Beretta Continue Hot Streak, Finish Second Overall in Lone Star Grand Prix
HOUSTON – Under a full moon and under the lights on a balmy Friday night at Houston’s Reliant Park, Corvette Racing posted a 1-2 finish in the GT1 class in the inaugural ALMS Lone Star Grand Prix. Drivers Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta continued their hot streak, winning their seventh consecutive ALMS race. The “two Ollies” finished second overall in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R behind the winning LMP1 Audi R8, and took the GT1 title by 15.811 seconds over their teammates Johnny O’Connell and Ron Fellows in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R.
Both Corvettes had flawless runs in the two-hour, 45-minute contest, finishing one lap ahead of their Aston Martin Racing rivals. The victory was Corvette Racing’s 11th straight win in ALMS competition and the team’s 32nd 1-2 finish since 2001.
“We had three targets this weekend,” said Beretta, who scored his record 26th career ALMS victory. “The first goal was to qualify the Corvettes first and second in GT1, and we had two yellow Corvettes in the front row. The next target was to put the Corvettes first and second on the podium, and we did that. The third and most important target was not to damage the cars because that is very easy to do on a track like this. We pushed hard because we needed to win, but we drove with our heads. We hit all three targets and had a perfect race.”
Beretta took the lead at the start, followed by Darren Turner in an Aston Martin and Fellows in the second Corvette. Fellows passed Turner for second place at the 16-minute mark, and then took the lead from Beretta at 30 minutes. The running order was unchanged after the first round of pit stops for fuel, tires, and driver changes. In the second hour, with O’Connell in the No. 3 Corvette and Gavin in the No. 4, the two Corvettes turned back a challenge by Stephane Sarrazin’s Aston Martin as they nearly equalled their qualifying pace. A spin by the Aston Martin driver at 2:12 took the pressure off the Corvettes.
The race was decided when the Corvettes made their final pit stops as traffic and a full-course caution slowed O’Connell’s entry. When racing resumed, Gavin emerged as the leader in GT1 and second overall in the running order.
“Corvette Racing did everything right,” said Gavin after driving the final 98-minute stint. “The computer simulation work the engineers did before the race and the adjustments the crew made in the setup at the track produced a fantastic win on a circuit we had never seen before. We were carrying a 176-pound handicap, and it was hard, hard pushing all the time. Johnny was driving brilliantly in the No. 3 car, and he didn’t make a mistake, not one inch. It couldn’t get any closer.”
“I caught traffic and then a yellow flag on my in-lap, and when they all slowed down it probably cost me four seconds,” O’Connell explained. “I came out of the pits about a second behind the No. 4 Corvette, and that was the difference. The good news is that we’re leaving here with two cars that aren’t damaged, and Ron and I will go to Mid-Ohio next weekend and hope that our luck changes there.”
Despite limited practice time on a brand-new circuit, Corvette Racing got up to speed quickly on the bumpy 1.7-mile temporary course.
“As I said when we arrived here, I think Corvette Racing is the best prepared team in the series,” said program manager Doug Fehan. “Tonight’s result showed that all of our hard work, preparation and pre-race analysis produced a setup that could get the job done – and the drivers didn’t put a wheel wrong all race.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio on Sunday, May 21. The third round of the 10-race ALMS will be televised on CBS starting at 1 p.m. EDT.
Lone Star Grand Prix GT1 Results
1. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 138
2. Fellows/O’Connell, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 138
3. Lamy/Sarrazin, Aston Martin DBR9, 137
4. Enge/Turner, Aston Martin DBR9, 137
5. Ruberti/Weickardt/Konrad, Saleen S7R, 16
May 21, 2006, American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio, Lexington, Ohio, 2.25-mile road course TV: CBS, May 21, 1 p.m. EDT.
Release Date: May 12, 2006