O’Connell and Magnussen on a Roll with Road America GT1 Win
No. 3 Corvette C6.R Scores Sixth Victory of the Season as Gavin Walks Away from High-Speed Accident
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen are on a roll in the GT1 class of the American Le Mans Series. The pair scored their fifth win in a row and their sixth victory of the season today in the Generac 500 at Road America in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R. The No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R of Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin finished third, retiring after an accident in the high-speed Kink. Gavin was uninjured in the incident.
“Over the past three years I thought I must have been an adopted Irishman, but our luck has definitely come back,” declared O’Connell after tallying his 34th career ALMS victory. “The important thing is that Oliver is okay. Anytime you go off at the Kink it’s a big deal, so we’re grateful that he is all right. In fact, I welcomed him to the ‘I Wrecked at the Kink Club.'”
Prospects looked bleak for the No. 3 Corvette when Magnussen made an unscheduled green-flag pit stop at the 2:32 mark in the four-hour race, and then pitted again 12 minutes later under caution. But fortune smiled when the No. 3 Corvette avoided losing a lap when the safety car came out, and the additional pit stops ensured that it could run to the finish with only a splash of ethanol. The No. 4 Corvette, in contrast, still had to stop for a full tank of E85R ethanol, and would likely have surrendered the lead to its sister car as a result.
“I had a small problem and had to make a stop to have the crew check out the car,” Magnussen explained. “We came in, made some changes, and the car was absolutely great when we went back out. Having done that, our strategy was that we basically had to run behind the No. 4 Corvette and then we could win with a short splash of ethanol at the end.”
“The car wasn’t great at the beginning of the race, but everything came to us,” the Dane noted. “We made adjustments that gave us a good car at the end. Then unfortunately the No. 4 car had a bigger problem than we did.”
Gavin was leading the GT1 class when he went off course in the high-speed Kink, bringing out the fifth of seven full-course caution periods.
“Jan was behind me, I was pushing hard, and I was trying to make up some time,” Gavin reported. “I just turned the car in too quickly and got on the inside curb; the car shot across to the exit curb, and then onto the grass. By the time I was on the grass, there was no way I could hold it.”
“I’m all right, but I’m disappointed with myself for making such a mistake,” he admitted. “It was a pretty big impact – of all the places to go off, the Kink is not the place to do it. The car did stand up extremely well to the accident. It looked like it was going to be close at the finish, but unfortunately nothing seems to be going right for us this year.”
With the No. 4 Corvette on the sidelines, O’Connell was able to cruise to the checkered flag, finishing two laps ahead of the second-place No. 008 Aston Martin DBR9.
“My first stint was difficult,” said O’Connell. “The car was loose, but we fought through it. I think Jan liked the setup better than I did, and he drove an amazing stint. Then the way the pit stops played out, the race probably would have gone our way in the end.”
O’Connell and Magnussen increased their lead in the GT1 drivers championship to 23 points (151-128) with four races remaining on the ALMS schedule. Chevrolet leads Aston Martin 155-44 in the manufacturers’ standings.
“We managed to do three things today,” commented Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “First, we won the race, which was great for Corvette Racing. Second, we proved once again that safety is always paramount at Corvette Racing. It was an unfortunate accident for Olly, and while the car was damaged, the driver emerged unscathed. That’s a testament to the importance we place on safety.”
And the third?
“We provided a great deal of exposure for Champ Car by displaying their banner prominently on the front of the No. 4 Corvette after its encounter with the wall in the Kink.”
Corvette Challenge Bike Ride to Fight Cancer
On Friday evening, Gavin defeated Fehan in a bicycle match race held in conjunction with the Tour de Road America Bike Ride to Fight Cancer. The pair raced for one lap around the 4.048-mile course, with Gavin taking the victory by 50 yards after a fast and furious 9-minute sprint.
While Gavin was first on the track, Fehan won the Corvette Challenge fundraising competition, raising $3,845 in pledges to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Gavin’s supporters pledged $2,065 to the cause. With cash donations and mail-in pledges still to be tallied, contributions to the Corvette Challenge Bike Ride to Fight Cancer reached $5,910.
“Doug rode phenomenally,” said the victorious Englishman. “He pushed me the whole way, and it only came to the bit just before Canada Corner when I decided that if I was going to go, I had to go now. I had the right strategy, the setup on the bike was great – I have to thank all the engineers at Corvette Racing for working on it so hard. It’s been a really enjoyable event, and it’s also great for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. We’ve raised quite a bit of money for a worthy cause, and I’m ready for a rematch any time!”
Fehan took his defeat in stride. “I think Oliver’s marathon-based training program proved superior to my Cabernet and Patron Tequila-based conditioning program,” he said with a laugh. “Although I dominated the first two-thirds of the race, in Canada Corner I saw Oliver’s wife and three children looking so forlorn at his struggle to keep up that I dropped back and gave him the lead. My disappointment at not taking the win was offset by seeing the smiles on his family’s faces when he crossed the finish line first. That’s my story, and now I’m looking forward to a rematch – and I’m sure that Olly is too.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the Grand Prix of Mosport in Bowmanville, Ont., on Sunday, Aug. 24. SPEED will televise the race live at 3 p.m. EDT.
Generac 500 at Road America GT1 Results
1. O’Connell/Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 97
2. Borcheller/Ducote, Aston Martin DBR9, 95
3. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 76 (accident)
GT1 Championship Standings (unofficial after seven of 11 events)
1. Chevrolet 155
2. Aston Martin 44
1. Jan Magnussen 151
Johnny O’Connell 151 2. Oliver Gavin 128
Olivier Beretta 128
3. Terry Borcheller 44
Chapman Ducote 44
4. Ron Fellows 30
5. Max Papis 26
6. Antonio Garcia 23
Aug. 24, 3 p.m. EDT, Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport, Mosport International Raceway, Bowmanville, Ont.
TV: SPEED live, Aug. 24, 3 p.m. EDT
Release Date: August 10, 2008