Midterm Report: Mid-Ohio Marks Second Half of Season for Corvette Racing
Chevy’s Factory Team Looks Back on Six Races and Looks Ahead to Six More
LEXINGTON, Ohio – With six races in the rearview mirror and six races on the road ahead, Saturday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course marks the start of the second half of the season for Chevrolet’s factory road racing team. Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen have won four of the five American Le Mans Series contested to date, driving the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R to victories in Sebring (with third driver Ron Fellows), Long Beach, Salt Lake City, and Lime Rock. On June 15, they finished second in the GT1 class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, again joined by Fellows. Defending GT1 champions Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin scored a win in St. Petersburg in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R, and they finished third in the GT1 division in Le Mans with Max Papis as third driver.
“The team and drivers have done a fantastic job since the start of the 2008 season,” said GM Racing Road Racing Group manager Steve Wesoloski. “The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the key event of the year for Corvette Racing, and that was our focus in the first half. It was vital that both Corvettes survive every race because they were the cars going to Le Mans. The drivers knew what was expected, and they delivered. Competing against your teammates can be frustrating, but they raced hard and fair. The drivers understand that having both cars finish is a win for Corvette Racing.”
“If I were doing a midterm report, I’d start with the engine, which is the heart of the race car. Our LS7.R small-block V-8s have performed flawlessly on both the E10 that we ran at Sebring and the cellulosic E85R ethanol that we have used at every ALMS event since St. Petersburg. Our partnership with GM Powertrain and Katech Engine Development has again produced perfect results. Chassis development is ongoing, and the engineers continue to improve the performance of a platform that’s been raced since the program’s inception.”
“In the second half of the season we’ll focus on the Green Challenge competition at Petit Le Mans that the series has created in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and SAE International,” Wesoloski revealed. “The Green Challenge will measure performance, fuel efficiency and environmental impact – and we will prepare just as hard for this competition as we do for any race. Fuel efficiency is extremely important in the current circumstances, and when coupled with a renewable alternative fuel like cellulosic E85R ethanol, the Green Challenge becomes a significant opportunity for Corvette Racing and GM to demonstrate our technology.”
“Our technical partners are also looking at ways to put Corvette Racing in front in the Green Challenge, whether it’s Michelin tires with reduced rolling resistance or Mobil 1 lubricants that minimize frictional losses and improve fuel economy. It’s a big project, and one that we relish as a race team. We want to win the Green Challenge trophy for Chevrolet and GM.”
Going into the Mid-Ohio round, O’Connell and Magnussen have a slim 12-point lead (106-94) over Gavin and Beretta in the race for the GT1 drivers championship. A victory in Ohio will bring 20 points – but a DNF before completing 70 percent of the race brings zero.
“In the last few years we had a lot of bad luck, but this year the luck has gone our way more often than not,” said O’Connell. “In order to win in this series, you have to have a great team, great race cars like the Corvette C6.R, and a little bit of luck. Jan is very quick, we get along well, and we complement each other’s strengths. Hopefully we will be able to keep the momentum going, but we know there is still a long way to go this season.”
“Our race last year at Mid-Ohio was an example of luck going wrong,” O’Connell recalled. “I won the GT1 pole and then the car was disqualified for failing the stall test. That set the tone for our race. I look forward to going back there to rectify that. Mid-Ohio is a great track that lends itself to our type of racing. I went to college in Ohio at Dennison University, so my history goes back a long way at Mid-Ohio.”
Gavin and Beretta are hoping that the second half of the season will bring a change of fortune to the No. 4 Corvette C6.R.
“It’s been an interesting season so far,” said Gavin. “We’ve seen the introduction of cellulosic E85R, which is a great part of the Corvette Racing program. Alternative fuels are something that the ALMS and Corvette Racing really want to promote, and we’re making a big effort to become greener. We’ve found an improvement in performance with cellulosic E85R, and our small-block V-8 engines are running strong. That’s been a massive plus to the program.”
“We’ve had great crowds at every event, so I think the ALMS is very strong as a series. We would certainly like to see more entries in the GT1 class, and I hope that the Aston Martin returns to contest the second half of the season.”
“In terms of results, it’s been a bit of a scrap for the No. 4 Corvette,” Gavin conceded. “We’ve had some problems, and that happens sometimes in racing. We’re making the best of it to put those behind us. We have a new crew chief in Mike West, and he’s learning quickly. It’s a big job, and he’s done extremely well. Olivier and I have been fast at every event, but we have to translate that into victories in the second half of the year.”
With upcoming races at Mid-Ohio, Road America, Mosport, Detroit’s Belle Isle street course, Road Atlanta, and Laguna Seca, Corvette Racing still has a long and winding road to travel until the GT1 championships are decided.
Corvette Racing’s next event is the Acura Sports Car Challenge at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, scheduled to start at 2:10 p.m. EDT on Saturday, July 19. NBC will televise the race tape-delayed on Sunday, July 20, at 12 p.m. EDT.
Release Date: July 16, 2008