Corvette Racing Takes Third at Road America
Magnussen and O’Connell Repeat Podium Finish with New GT2 Corvette C6.R
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The battle raged over hill and dale at one of America’s great racing circuits. When the smoke cleared, Corvette Racing was on the podium for the second consecutive American Le Mans Series race with the new GT2 Corvette C6.R.
Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen finished third in the GT2 division of the Time Warner Cable Road Race Showcase at Road America in their No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R, one lap down to the winning No. 90 Rahal-Letterman Racing BMW of Joey Hand and Bill Auberlen. Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta finished sixth in the GT2 class in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R after an unscheduled pit stop following contact with another car.
The GT2 race was essentially decided when the first full-course caution period began at 15 minutes into the two-hour, 45-minute race. The race-leading prototype was between the Nos. 90 and 92 BMWs and the rest of the GT2 entries. When officials started a wave-by to regroup the field, the BMWs effectively gained a one-lap advantage on their rivals. At that point, it became a race for third among Corvette, Porsche, Ferrari, Panoz, Ford and Viper.
O’Connell was fifth with 20 minutes to go when he passed Pierre Kaffer’s Ferrari 430 GT in the first turn to take fourth in GT2. Then he pulled off a pass on Patrick Long in the championship-leading Porsche 911 RSR with two minutes remaining to capture the third spot on the podium.
“It’s fun to have Corvettes racing again!” O’Connell exclaimed. “Kaffer was doing a great job, but I could see that he was struggling on used tires. He had a wiggle exiting Turn 1 and that allowed me to get by him. Then I had to chase down Patrick in the Porsche. There were a couple areas where we were faster, so I was thinking about setting him up there. Then going into Turn 5, he carried a little too much speed and missed the apex, so I had to throw it in there. There was some contact, but it only happened because he opened the door. We had a great race.”
Magnussen started the No. 3 Corvette C6.R from fourth on the GT2 grid. After the BMWs gained a lap as a result of the safety car, Magnussen found himself in the middle of an intense four-car fight for third with Joerg Bergmeister (Porsche), Jaime Melo (Ferrari) and his teammate Beretta all within 1.33 seconds of each other. Magnussen passed Bergmeister at the 47-minute mark to take third, and seven minutes later Beretta passed Melo for fifth.
“I had a good fight with Bergmeister,” Magnussen said. “The Corvette was a little faster in some places, and he was faster in other places. It was a matter of picking my place to go for it, and it came at Turn 5. The Corvette C6.R really stops well, so that was a good place to pass. I couldn’t open a gap, but I could control the pace.”
Beretta had a front-row view of the action. “Where I was sitting, it was a great show,” he said. “It’s nice for the fans, for the drivers, for the teams, and for the manufacturers. Everyone wants that. I’m really happy about Corvette Racing’s work. This is the second race with the GT2 Corvette and we are already in the hunt. The main target is to finish the race and have a good pace, and I’m happy about what we have done so far.”
Both Corvettes pitted under caution at 1:14 for fuel, tires and a driver change. O’Connell replaced Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette and Gavin replaced Beretta in the No. 4 Corvette. After the pit stop exchange, Gavin was fourth and O’Connell fifth. The No. 92 BMW was penalized for a pit infraction, leaving the No. 90 BMW a lap ahead of the field.
O’Connell then passed Gavin for fourth at 1:26. Six minutes later the No. 4 Corvette pitted for a new right-side door, losing a lap.
“On the second restart there were some slower cars at the front of the pack and we all bunched up behind them,” Gavin said. “I managed to work my way through and into fourth place behind the Ferrari. Then coming down through Canada Corner, a prototype clipped the mirror off my right door. At that point Johnny got by me and I was told I had to pit because the rules require a right-side mirror. That kind of ruined our race. We were going to be able to run all the way to the finish, but then there were two more full-course cautions and we were a sitting duck. It really just wasn’t our day.”
The No. 3 Corvette with O’Connell on board pitted again at 2:11 for tires and fuel, while Kaffer’s Ferrari took fuel only. With four fresh Michelin tires, O’Connell was able to overtake the red F430 on a restart at 2:27, and then pass Long’s Porsche in the final minutes.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited about racing for third,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “We look at this as a victory for Corvette Racing. The unfortunate part is that we were beaten by three cars – two BMWs and the pace car. Nonetheless it was a great show, a tremendous duel to the finish, and a fantastic effort by the Corvette Racing team to bring both cars home.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ont., on August 28-30. The two-hour, 45-minute race is scheduled to start at 3:05 p.m. EDT on Sunday, August 30. SPEED will televise the race live at 3 p.m. EDT.
Time Warner Cable Road Race Showcase GT2 Results:
1. Hand/Auberlen, BMW E92 M3, 69
2. Mueller/Milner, BMW E92 M3, 68
3. O’Connell/Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 68
4. Bergmeister/Long, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 68
5. Melo/Kaffer, Ferrari 430 GT, 68
6. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 67
7. Robertson/Robertson/Murry, Ford GT MK 7, 66
8. Law/Neiman, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 65
9. Feinberg/Hall, Dodge Viper, 63
10. Henzler/Miller, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 56
11. Farnbacher/James, Panoz Esperante GTLM, 54
August 30, Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport, Mosport International Raceway, Bowmanville, Ont.
TV: SPEED live, 3 p.m. EDT
Release Date: August 16, 2009