Corvette Racing Three Hour Report from Le Mans
Driveshaft Problem Sidelines Gavin in No. 64 Corvette; Magnussen Second in GT1 in No. 63 Corvette
LE MANS, France – Corvette Racing suffered a rare mechanical problem in the opening hours of the 24 Hours of Le Mans that sidelined the No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R. As showers swept over the Le Mans circuit and teams changed tires to cope with the rapidly changing track conditions, driver Oliver Gavin reported a problem with the drivetrain after his fourth pit stop at 1:39 into the race while the circuit was under a safety car period. Minutes later he lost drive to the rear wheels and pulled off the track between Arnage and the Porsche curves.
Crew chief Ray Gongla instructed Gavin via radio to disassemble and inspect his stranded race car using the tools on the car in order to diagnose the problem. After exhausting all possibilities to return the car to the pits for repairs, Gongla delivered the bad news to his driver at 2:12 into the race: “I’m sorry to tell you it’s a broken driveshaft,” Gongla said. “We’re done.”
This is the first time in eight years at the 24 Hours of Le Mans that a Corvette Racing entry has failed to finish the classic endurance race.
“I think this is the shortest 24-hour race I’ve ever been in,” said Gavin. “It’s a great disappointment because Le Mans is the focus of our year. We’ve been preparing for this race for a long time, and it hasn’t really sunk in yet that we’ve retired. I had no drive to the rear wheels, and I was hoping I could get back to the pits on the starter motor, but the marshals stopped me from doing that.”
“Olly did a great job of taking the car apart and telling us what he could see,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “It looks like there are some carbon shards in there that are indicative of a broken driveshaft. That renders the car immovable and we’ll have to retire it.”
There was drama of another kind in the pits for the No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R. Jan Magnussen started the race on slick tires although there was intermittent rain in the minutes leading up to the green flag. Starting fifth in the GT1 class, Magnussen moved to fourth on the third lap. He made his first pit stop at 44 minutes into the race, then a second stop for intermediate tires at 1:05 during the first safety car period. No sooner had the tires been changed when the sun came out and 11 minutes later the No. 63 Corvette was back in the pits for slicks while the track was still under caution. Magnussen made his fourth stop at 1:39 for fuel only during the second safety car period.
When racing resumed, Magnussen was second in the GT1 class behind the No. 009 Aston Martin. At the three-hour mark, he had completed 37 laps and was 8.6 seconds behind the class-leading DBR9 driven by Darren Turner. The No. 72 Corvette C6.R of Policand/Goueslard/Alphand was holding fifth in class.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans will finish at 3 p.m. (9 a.m. EDT) on Sunday, June 17. SPEED is televising 17.5 hours of coverage in North America.
24 Hours of Le Mans Top Five GT1 Standings at 3 Hours:
1. (009) Brabham/Rydell/Turner, Aston Martin DBR9
2. (63) Fellows/O’Connell/Magnussen, Corvette C6.R
3. (59) Garcia/Menten/Fittipaldi, Aston Martin DBR9
4. (007) Enge/Herbert/Kox, Aston Martin DBR9
5. (72) Policand/Goueslard/Alphand, Corvette C6.R
Release Date: June 16, 2007