Corvette Racing Takes Third in Eventful Utah Grand Prix
Magnussen and O’Connell Battle Back to Podium Finish After Pit Lane Penalty
SALT LAKE CITY – Sometimes the box score doesn’t tell the whole story of a race. Corvette Racing’s third-place finish in the American Le Mans Series Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix was the result of a determined effort in the heat of the Utah high desert. Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen overcame intense competition on the track and a penalty in the pit lane to take their No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R to a hard-earned podium finish at Miller Motorsports Park.
The No. 3 Corvette C6.R finished one lap behind the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GT and the runner-up No. 92 Rahal Letterman BMW M3 GT. The No. 4 Corvette C6.R of Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta encountered an electrical problem on the second lap, finishing 10th after losing three laps to the leaders during repairs.
“We’re not winning, and that’s what we’re here for, but we will,” said Magnussen. “When we can have good results on our bad days, then I’m sure it will be fantastic on our good days.”
O’Connell started seventh in the GT class, lost a spot in the opening laps, and then methodically began to overtake his rivals. He was fifth at 30 minutes into the 2-hour, 45-minute race, and third at the 50-minute mark. Magnussen then took over just as the first hour was completed, and set off in pursuit of the leaders.
“The idea is to push hard and stay out of trouble,” said O’Connell. “At the start a GT car went inside of me, but we got that position back and then started picking guys off. The car was good under braking, and as the fuel load went down we were getting quicker. When (crew chief) Dan Binks is telling me that guys are coming back to me, that’s like blood in the water for a shark.”
As the air temperature climbed to 90 degrees and the track sizzled at 112 degrees, Magnussen put the heat on the second-place BMW of Bill Auberlen. The Dane pitted for fuel and tires with 36 minutes to go, but a brush with the air jack hose incurred a stop-and-go penalty. Magnussen emerged in fifth, and moved up to fourth when the No. 45 Porsche pitted. With nine minutes left on the clock, he passed the No. 92 BMW of Dirk Mueller for third coming out of Turn 6.
“It was a good, fair fight with both BMWs,” Magnussen said. “I managed to get by for third after he made a small mistake. I faked a move going in and he reacted to it. It was unfortunate that we had that penalty in the pits. It was one of those small things – sometimes the luck goes your way and sometimes the luck goes against you. I think our year has been the latter so far.”
Crew chief Binks explained: “When I unplugged the air jack wand, it bounced against the wall and went under the tire. At the time you get upset, but the officials made the right call. We got a penalty, and Jan raced his heart out to third.”
The No. 4 Corvette’s race unraveled on the second lap when it slowed in Turn 5 with no fuel pressure. Beretta’s attempts to restart the car were futile, and it was towed into the pit lane. The Corvette crew quickly repaired an electrical connection and Beretta rejoined the fray.
“I made a good start, and suddenly the engine cut out,” Beretta said. “I knew I could not restart the car by myself on the track. These are the kind of things you want to forget and think about the next race. We have had so much bad luck, I hope it will end soon.”
The No. 4 Corvette pitted at 1:06 for fuel, tires, and a driver change as Oliver Gavin replaced Beretta. Gavin then ran to the finish on one set of Michelin tires, turning laps as fast as the leaders, but the deficit was too great to make up.
“The team showed great character today,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “You can’t work any harder for a third-place finish than we did today. Hats off to Johnny, Jan and the crew for never giving up – their effort paid off with a podium finish, and that’s important in the points race.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. The 2-hour, 45-minute race will start at 2:05 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 24, and will be televised live on SPEED. Live radio coverage will be available on American Le Mans Radio, Sirius Channel 127, and XM Channel 242.
Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix GT Results:
1. Melo/Bruni, Ferrari 430 GT, 85
2. Auberlen/Milner, BMW M3 GT, 85
3. O’Connell/Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 84
4. Mueller/Hand, BMW M3 GT, 84
5. Bergmeister/Long, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 84
6. Fisichella/Vilander, Ferrari 430 GT, 84
7. Sharp/van Overbeek, Ferrari 430 GT, 83
8. Brown/Cosmo, Ferrari 430 GT, 83
9. Sellers/Henzler, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 83
10. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 82
11. Law/Neiman, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 81
12. Robertson/Robertson/Murry, Ford GT-R, 78
13. Dalziel/Goosens, Jaguar XKRS, 57
Release Date: July 11, 2010