Corvette Takes Third Consecutive GTS Victory at Sebring

Mar 20 2004 admin News Comments Off on Corvette Takes Third Consecutive GTS Victory at Sebring

Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Max Papis win legendary 12-hour race

SEBRING, Fla. – The General Motors Chevrolet Corvette Racing team took an impressive flag-to-flag GTS victory at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday. Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Max Papis claimed the class victory in the #3 Corvette C5-R.

“This is an historic race and it is great for us to win here three times in a row,” said Doug Duchardt, director of GM Racing. “Sebring was our nemesis in the beginning of our program and we’ve really put a lot of effort into developing the Corvette for this track. I believe we showed this weekend that we had the fastest car. This is a great win for the team and we are really looking forward to going to Le Mans and being competitive at La Sarthe.”

The #3 Compuware Corvette C5-R of Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Max Papis started Saturday’s race from the GTS pole position, 10th overall, after qualifying at a record-setting 1:57.052. The trio briefly surrendered the lead to the partner #4 Corvette C5-R, but again took over the lead on lap 30 and held on for the remaining 299 laps.

“The quality, determination and work ethic of this team never ceases to amaze me,” said Doug Fehan, GM’s program manager for Corvette Racing. “All winter this crew absolutely dedicated themselves to improving what we do and today was the culmination of that. It was just an amazing performance for Chevrolet and Corvette.”

Ron Fellows and Johnny O’Connell notched their third straight win together at Sebring; new teammate Max Papis recorded his first win in his first ever drive in the Corvette C5-R.

“My teammates and I have had such good fortune here not only to win but to race the Corvette,” said O’Connell. “History will record the Corvette C5-R as one of the most important race cars of all time. The car was running strong from start to finish and we did not have any problems whatsoever. My hat goes off to our crew for their hard work this weekend.”

With Saturday’s victory, O’Connell becomes the first driver in the 52-year history of Sebring International Raceway to capture six class wins, with one of them overall in 1994.

The #4 Corvette C5-R started off from the back of the grid when officials withdrew Oliver Gavin’s qualifying time after the car’s rear wing endplates were found to be out of specification. Gavin marched through the pack and took over the lead but eventually surrendered position after a stop-and-go penalty for driving over an air hose during a pit stop at lap 27. On lap 84, Gavin took over from Jan Magnussen and complained of a soft clutch pedal; the Briton was only able to go halfway around the 3.7-mile circuit before pulling off course, unable to keep the car engaged in gear. The Corvette Racing team withdrew the car as it was unable to come back to the pits under its own power.

“The #4 team did not have a successful day but as a team we have a car on the top step of the podium and that is most important,” said Olivier Beretta, driver of the #4 Corvette C5-R. “I have always wanted to race for this team so today I am very proud to be a part of Corvette Racing. Next we go to Le Mans and we are all very excited.”

The Corvette Racing team will next take to the track in April for Open Testing before the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.

Provisional Results (GTS Class)
Pos. Car Drivers Laps
1 #3 Chevrolet Corvette C5-R Fellows/O’Connell/Papis 329
2 #25 Ferrari 575 GTC Bosch/Sullivan/Biagi 307
3 #63 Saleen S7R Borcheller/Mowlem/Brabham 257
4 #71 Dodge Viper GTS-R Weickardt/Belloc/Allen 121
5 #26 Ferrari 575 GTC Deletraz/Hezemans/Barde 101
6 #4 Chevrolet Corvette C5-R Gavin/Beretta/Magnussen 83