O’Connell and Magnussen Continue Hot Streak in Sultry Mid-Ohio
No. 3 Corvette C6.R Scores Fifth Victory of the Season
LEXINGTON, Ohio – Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen extended their streak in the American Le Man Series, winning the GT1 class in today’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It was the fourth win in a row and the fifth win of the season for the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R. O’Connell and Magnussen completed 98 laps and finished 18.487 seconds ahead of the No. 4 Corvette C6.R driven by Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin.
With temperatures in the mid-90s and high humidity, the weather was as hot as the racing. The sibling rivalry between the sister Corvettes produced a shoving match as the cars emerged from the pits after their final stops. The Corvettes had entered their respective pit stalls nose-to-tail just before the two-hour mark, and left simultaneously with O’Connell in the No. 3 and Beretta in the No. 4. As the drivers jockeyed for position, they failed to heed a red flag at the pit exit and both were subsequently summoned to the penalty box.
“We are a very competitive group,” said O’Connell after tallying his 33rd career ALMS victory. “Both cars left at the same time and it was like the Hatfields and McCoys for a moment with two guys arguing for the same area of road. It was just two great race cars today running in very difficult conditions.”
O’Connell started in the pole-winning No. 3 Corvette, while Beretta started in the No. 4 Corvette. O’Connell handed off to Magnussen at the 50-minute mark during the first of three full-course caution periods, while Gavin replaced Beretta on the next lap. Two more cautions ensued, including an extended cleanup after a pit fire. With 46 minutes remaining in the two-hour, 45-minute race, both cars made their final stops for fuel, fresh tires, and driver changes.
“I was concerned when we did that last driver change because it was a short fill and that makes driver changes difficult,” O’Connell reported. “I think both cars dropped off the jacks at the same time and then it was a drag race to the pit exit.”
After serving their penalties, racing resumed at 2:26 for the two Corvettes, and O’Connell passed Beretta for the lead and the victory.
“A prototype drew down inside of him and he went wide,” O’Connell recalled. “I was on the proper line and my momentum carried me by. He was just gathering it up, but there was a gaggle of prototypes doing battle and it was chaotic.”
Magnussen had a comparatively quiet race. “As soon as I got in the car, it was just yellow flag after yellow flag,” said the Dane. “I sat behind the safety car for most of my stint. Up until that point, it was a rather boring race, but that changed about 30 seconds after I got out. We are here to win and that fact that our only competitor is our teammates doesn’t make it any easier. Today’s race showed everyone we’re not just parading around.”
After struggling in practice and qualifying, the No. 4 Corvette was on the pace in today’s race.
“We had a very good car, which is a testament to our engineer Steve Cole and crew chief Mike West, who both worked tirelessly,” said Gavin. “We had a problem on Thursday and Friday, and we could only start tuning the car this morning in warm-up. The direction that Steve went with the car was very good.”
“My stint was very fragmented – it never really got going and we spent a lot of time circulating behind the pace car,” Gavin reported. “It was unbelievably hard on the restarts because the smoothness of the track doesn’t clean the pickup off the tires properly. For the first four or five laps after a yellow, you have to tiptoe around.”
With their Mid-Ohio victory, O’Connell and Magnussen increased their lead in the GT1 drivers championship to 16 points (126-110) with five races remaining.
“Who says you need more than two cars in a class to have exciting racing?” asked Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “I think what we saw today are two cars that are separated by thousandths of a second on the race track and separated by thousandths of a second in pit lane. Each of them is trying to win. I think it was exciting for the fans, and it was certainly exciting for us in the pits. It’s hard to deny the intramural rivalry that exists, and we saw two guys racing hard and getting caught up in the heat of the moment. We’ll all learn a lesson from today’s race.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the Generac 500 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., scheduled to start at 4 p.m. CDT on Saturday, Aug. 9. SPEED will televise the race tape-delayed on Sunday, Aug. 10, at 2 p.m. EDT.
Acura Sports Car Challenge GT1 Results
1. O’Connell/Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 98
2. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 98
GT1 Championship Standings (unofficial after six of 11 events)
1. Chevrolet 130
2. Aston Martin 23
1. Jan Magnussen 126
Johnny O’Connell 126
2. Oliver Gavin 110
Olivier Beretta 110
3. Ron Fellows 30
4. Max Papis 26
5. Terry Borcheller 23
Chapman Ducote 23
Antonio Garcia 23
Release Date: July 19, 2008