Corvette Racing Sweeps Grand Prix of Mosport
Gavin and Beretta Claim GT1 Points Lead as Corvettes Score 1-2 Finish in Canada
BOWMANVILLE, Ont. Corvette Racing labored long and hard in the Labor Day Weekend Grand Prix of Mosport, and the toil paid off with the team’s seventh victory of the season in the American Le Mans Series. The 2-hour, 30-minute race was literally won in the pits as a quick final stop by the crew of the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R vaulted Oliver Gavin into the lead at the 2-hour mark.
Gavin and his teammate Olivier Beretta scored their fifth win in their last six starts (including a victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans) to take a 1-point lead in the GT1 championship standings. The No. 3 Compuware Corvette of Ron Fellows and Johnny O’Connell finished 2.022 seconds behind its sister car as Corvette Racing posted its 30th 1-2 finish since 2001.
“Strategy and pit work won the race for us,” Gavin said. “We didn’t have the fastest car on the track today. What won it for us was the Corvette Racing team and the hard work they’ve put in this year.”
The Corvettes’ winning streak was in jeopardy as recent rule changes equalized the performance of the C6.Rs and their rivals. A Saleen S7R started on the GT1 pole and led the first hour and 53 minutes of racing. But the pace took its toll when the Saleen had to make its final pit stop earlier than its rivals and take on more fuel. Both Corvettes were gone in 30 seconds on their final stops with four fresh tires and enough gas to run to the finish.
“All the boys on the No. 4 car did a brilliant job on the pit stops,” Gavin explained. “I didn’t have any traffic on my out-lap, and I pushed very hard. I came out of the pits about a second ahead of Johnny and the Saleen was coming quickly. Fortunately I had Johnny between us, so he had to defend the position and I managed to stay in front.”
The top four contenders in the GT1 class – the twin Corvettes, the Saleen S7R and the Maserati MC12 – ran in tight formation at the start of the race. After nearly an hour of racing, the class-leading Saleen held a 12-second margin over the pursuing Corvettes, but pitted five minutes earlier. That pattern was repeated when the leading trio made their decisive final stops an hour later, setting up a sprint to the finish. Remarkably, there were no caution periods during the race.
“The No. 4 and the No. 3 car had almost identical pit stops,” reported Ray Gongla, crew chief for the victorious No. 4 Corvette C6.R. “We were quicker by about a second, and that was just enough to make the difference on the track. We really push to do quick stops, and our engineers’ strategies were spot-on. The drivers did their job, the crew guys did their job, and together we got it done today.”
O’Connell had to fend off the rapidly closing Saleen in the final laps. He finished .644 seconds ahead of his pursuer at the checkered flag.
“It was hard, hard work,” O’Connell said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve pushed that hard. It was a really good fight and an exciting race for the fans.”
O’Connell’s teammate Ron Fellows was hoping for his second victory of the weekend after winning the SCCA World Challenge race with Team Cadillac on Saturday. He was disappointed with today’s result, but he was enthusiastic about the show at his home track.
“It was the best race of the year and that bodes well for the remaining events,” said the Canadian star. “The quality of the racing the fans saw today doesn’t get any better. They were running qualifying laps at the finish, and I’m proud of the job that Johnny did to keep second place.”
The victory by Gavin and Beretta gave them a 1-point lead (147-146) in the GT1 drivers championship with two races remaining.
“We have strong competition, and I want to congratulate them on a fantastic race,” said Beretta. “It was a perfect day. I have to be honest, I’m happy to lead the points. But the important thing is always that a yellow Corvette wins.”
Gavin shared his teammate’s joy: “The momentum is going our way,” said the Briton. “We’ve had some luck, but we’ve also raced very well. This is the second season that Olivier and I have worked together, and everything is falling into place.”
Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan was elated with the team’s performance under pressure. “Today we had to rely heavily on the experience of the entire team – the drivers, the crew and the engineers,” he said. “It was obvious that we were unable to chase down the Saleen; the cars had virtually identical speed. When that happens, you have to race hard and count on every person on the team – and that’s exactly what happened today.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 1. The 10-hour/1,000-mile endurance race will be televised live on the SPEED Channel (check local listings).
Grand Prix of Mosport GT1 Results
1. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 119
2. O’Connell/Fellows, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 119
3. Borcheller/Mowlem, Saleen S7R, 119
4. Bertolini/de Simone, Maserati MC12, 118
5. Weickardt/Rugolo, Dodge Viper, 112
Oct. 1, Petit Le Mans, Road Atlanta, Braselton, Ga.
TV: SPEED, Oct. 1, 11 a.m. EDT
Release Date: Sept. 4, 2005