O’Connell and Magnussen Win GT1 in Long Beach Street Fight
O’Connell Conquers the Streets of Long Beach to Score Milestone 30th ALMS Victory
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Johnny O’Connell celebrated the 30th victory of his American Le Mans Series career with an exuberant burnout that filled the streets of Long Beach with tire smoke. O’Connell and Jan Magnussen teamed up in their No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R to score a 1.374-second victory in the GT1 division over Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. O’Connell became the third driver in ALMS history to score 30 wins, and today’s victory propelled O’Connell and Magnussen to a four-point lead (66-62) in the drivers championship.
“I first raced in Long Beach in 1986, so to finally get a win here 22 years later is very special,” O’Connell said. “Corvette Racing is the team that’ s the most important in my career, and to show the performance of E85 ethanol racing fuel here in Southern California is a very cool moment.”
“I was giving it everything I had,” O’Connell reported. “You see the competition in the pits between the two crews and how close it was between the Corvettes on the track, so it doesn’ t take a big field of cars to make it an exciting race.”
The two Corvettes waged a fierce street fight on the 1.968-mile temporary circuit. Magnussen started on the class pole with Gavin in hot pursuit as both drivers had to contend with heavy traffic and debris on the circuit. The Corvettes pitted simultaneously under caution just after the first hour of the 100-minute race. The pit stop contest was a dead heat, and the No. 3 maintained its narrow lead.
“It was a crazy pit stop,” said Gavin, who ran the fastest lap of the race at 1:17.415. “I came in right behind Jan, couldn’t see the line for the pit lane speed limit, and nearly ran up the back of him. Then when we came into the pit box, all of a sudden there was an official on the hood of my car! I had to stop short, but fortunately the guys were ready with the fuel hoses and tires.”
With fresh tires and full tanks of cellulosic E85 ethanol racing fuel, O’Connell and Beretta duked it out in the final 37 minutes. The gap between the two stretched to 6.7 seconds, but Beretta mounted a furious charge in the closing laps.
“I think we were a little quicker than the No. 3 car today, but the traffic situation is very difficult on a street course,” said Beretta. “The whole team did a very good job. Olly was very quick in his stint, but traffic made the difference. At the end of the day, it’s good that the No. 3 Corvette won and we are taking both cars home in perfect condition to get ready for Le Mans.”
Magnussen notched his 16th career ALMS win as he and O’Connell backed up their victory in the season-opening Sebring 12-hour race.
“It was a good fight at the end, and Johnny did a hell of a job,” said Magnussen. “I think the weather cooled down a little too much for our race setup, so we had some small handling issues, but nothing that we couldn’t overcome. In the beginning I got through the traffic really well, but at the end of my stint it became harder and harder. At the same time that I was catching the front-running GT2s, the prototype leaders were coming by. That didn’ t leave a lot of room.”
Corvette Racing extended its reign as the most successful team in ALMS history with its 60th win in the series.
“Long Beach always proves to be a great event,” commented Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “The two Corvettes battled all day long, both crews executed flawless pit stops, and the engineering team developed great strategies. We had another perfect run with cellulosic E85 ethanol, so it was just a great day for Corvette Racing and for the environment.”
Corvette Racing’ s next event is the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City on Sunday, May 18, at 1:00 p.m. MT. SPEED will televise the two-hour, 45-minute event live at 3 p.m. ET.
Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series GT1 Results
1. O’Connell/Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 70
2. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 70
GT1 Championship Standings (unofficial after three of 11 events)
1. Chevrolet 70
2. Aston Martin 23
1. Jan Magnussen 66
Johnny O’Connell 66
2. Oliver Gavin 62
Olivier Beretta 62
3. Ron Fellows 30
4. Max Papis 26
5. Terry Borcheller 23
Chapman Ducote 23
Antonio Garcia 23
May 18, 2008, 1 p.m. MT, Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix, Miller Motorsports Park, Tooele, Utah
TV: SPEED live, 3 p.m. ET
Release Date: April 19, 2008