Corvette Racing Wins Inaugural ALMS Green Challenge at Petit Le Mans
O’Connell and Magnussen Clinch GT1 Drivers Championship with Eighth Win in 2008
BRASELTON, Ga. – A race that began with Johnny O’Connell’s daughter singing the national anthem on the starting grid at Road Atlanta ended 9 hours and 41 minutes later with a victory in the 1,000-mile Petit Le Mans for O’Connell and his teammates Jan Magnussen and Ron Fellows. O’Connell and Magnussen clinched the American Le Mans Series GT1 drivers championship with their eighth win of the season in the No. 3 Compuware with one race still to run.
The No. 3 Corvette C6.R completed 365 laps on the 2.54-mile road course, finishing six laps ahead of the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R driven by Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta, and Max Papis. The two Corvettes exchanged the lead in the GT1 class twice on pit stops in the first half of the race, but a malfunctioning throttle linkage at the 5:43 mark put the No. 4 Corvette six laps down to its sister car. The Corvettes finished 10th and 11th overall in the 37-car field.
The No. 3 Corvette C6.R also had the best score in the inaugural Green Challenge, securing the team award in the GT class for Corvette Racing and the manufacturer award for General Motors. Powered by cellulosic E85R ethanol made from waste wood, the winning Corvette had a score of 20.391, the best overall score in the competition based on based on performance, fuel efficiency and environmental impact.
“Going into the second half of the season, Corvette Racing’s goal was to win the first Green Challenge,” said Steve Wesoloski, GM Racing Road Racing Group manager. “Winning the Green Challenge with the best score among both GT cars and Prototypes was a team effort that combined the expertise of GM Powertrain, our engine supplier Katech, and Pratt & Miller Engineering.
“It’s not just about making the engine more efficient and more environmentally friendly,” Wesoloski explained. “We looked at things like reducing wheel bearing friction and aerodynamic drag to win the Green Challenge. Alternative renewable fuels are an important part of GM’s gas-friendly to gas-free program, and GM already has more E85-compatible vehicles on the road than any other manufacturer. Green Racing ties in with what the corporation is doing in production vehicles. We’re developing the technology to improve both efficiency and performance, and we’re proving it on the race track.”
The win was the 36th of O’Connell’s career, the 27th ALMS victory for Fellows, and the 22nd for Magnussen. Fellows and O’Connell last won Petit Le Mans in 2002, while Magnussen posted victories in 2003, 2004, and 2005.
“It’s huge to win the championship here,” said O’Connell, a resident of nearby Flowery Branch. “My goal this season was to win the championship. I was excited to go into this year with Jan and improve on what we’d built in 2007. To share this win with Ron is very special. We’ve shared cars for eight years, and to win Petit Le Mans together is great.”
Fellows teamed with O’Connell and Magnussen for three endurance races in 2008, winning two of them. He was driving the No. 3 Corvette when it completed 70 percent of the race distance, mathematically clinching the GT1 title for his teammates.
“I’m happy for Johnny and Jan, they’ve had a great season,” said the Canadian. “I’ve enjoyed the races we’ve run together, and we’ve done very well with a win at Sebring, a close second at Le Mans, and now a win at Petit Le Mans.”
Magnussen drove the final stint in the endurance race, which was interrupted by 11 full-course caution periods.
“In my last stint I was just cruising and trying to bring it home,” said Magnussen. “There was a lot on the line here with the championship and a win at Petit Le Mans, so I didn’t want to make any mistakes.”
“It’s fantastic to win the championship with Johnny,” said the Dane. “Last year we found how it feels when you don’t win the championship, so be able to win it in the way we’ve done it, with eight wins, is just fantastic. Now we can go to Laguna Seca and have fun.”
Beretta was able to nurse the No. 4 Corvette C6.R back to the pits at an idle after the throttle linkage malfunctioned coming out of Turn 7. The crew made repairs and got the car back on track nine minutes later.
“The fact that the Corvette C6.R engine has so much torque enabled me to get back to the pits,” said Gavin. “Otherwise the hills here at Road Atlanta would have left me stuck out on the track. It was dicey because I had to drive the entire length of the straight with the engine on idle. I was staring in the mirror to make sure I wouldn’t get in anyone’s way – I was going about 25 mph, and they were passing me at 180!”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the Monterey Sports Car Challenge, the season finale of the 2008 American Le Mans Series, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., on Saturday, October 18. The four-hour race is scheduled to start at 2:45 p.m. PDT. NBC will televise the race tape-delayed at 2 – 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 19.
Petit Le Mans GT1 Results
1. O’Connell/Magnussen/Fellows, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 365
2. Gavin/Beretta/Papis, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 359
GT1 Championship Standings (unofficial after 10 of 11 events)
1. Chevrolet 225
2. Aston Martin 70
1. Jan Magnussen 217
Johnny O’Connell 217
2. Oliver Gavin 190
Olivier Beretta 190
3. Terry Borcheller 70
Chapman Ducote 70
4. Ron Fellows 60
5. Max Papis 52
6. Antonio Garcia 23
October 18, Monterey Sports Car Championships, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif.
TV: NBC, October 19, 2 – 4 p.m. EDT
Release Date: October 4, 2008