O’Connell Wins Battle for Mosport GT1 Pole
O’Connell Edges Beretta with Quicker Time in Final Qualifying Lap
BOWMANVILLE, Ont. – Johnny O’Connell claimed his second GT1 pole of the season and the fourth of his American Le Mans Series career today in a pitched battle with his Corvette Racing teammate Olivier Beretta in qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Mosport. O’Connell wheeled the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R to a fast time of 1:13.878 (119.825 mph) on his fifth and final qualifying lap, snatching the pole from Beretta’s No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R by .069 seconds. Beretta turned in a 1:13.947 time (119.713 mph) on his fourth flying lap, but encountered traffic on his final circuit on the 2.459-mile Mosport International Raceway road course and could not improve his time.
“We had the pole for two or three laps, and then Olivier nailed one and put a quicker time up there,” O’Connell recalled. “I heard the excitement in (crew chief) Dan Binks’ voice, ‘You’re minus three, minus three!’ Then on my last lap I got a good run through Turns 1 and 2, but at the exit of Turn 2 a Viper had spun. Binks said, ‘He’s out of the way!’ so I stayed with it and ran really hard into Turn 3. I could tell I was pulling some time on Olivier, and knew I had to carry some serious speed into Turn 8. I took some chances there, and it paid off.”
In this morning’s practice session, Oliver Gavin had an off-course excursion in Mosport’s high-speed Turn 2 in the No. 4 Corvette C6.R, followed by a head-on encounter with the tire barrier. Gavin was unhurt, and the crew had the car back on track for afternoon practice and qualifying.
“I think the story today is what the guys on the No. 4 Corvette did,” O’Connell declared after qualifying. “O.G. had a big shunt this morning, and then for the team to rebuild the car in just a few hours and get it that good – I think their car was better after the wreck than it was before! Hats off to everybody at Corvette Racing for their work on the No. 4.”
Beretta appeared to have a lock on his record 23rd career ALMS pole until O’Connell pulled out a quicker time on his ultimate lap. “We just had traffic after my faster lap,” Beretta explained. “I’m really happy about the crew. They did a fantastic job – the car was great. They worked very hard and prepared the car well. But this is just not our year, so I am looking forward to November and thinking about next season.”
“I’m fine, but feeling very disappointed,” said Gavin, who was examined and cleared to drive by medical personnel at the track. “I had the accident at Elkhart Lake, and then to get back in the car at Mosport and have another incident is a big disappointment for the guys. It seems that this year is just going from one thing to another.”
The Corvette Racing crew replaced the front bodywork, radiator, brake ducts, suspension cradle, and the front suspension on the No. 4 Corvette C6.R.
“We’re well prepared for accidents, and we were fortunate that the frame wasn’t damaged,” said team manager Gary Pratt. “We carry two sets of spares for each car, so we had plenty of parts on hand – but with another tough race coming up next week in Detroit, hopefully this will be the last incident of the weekend.”
The Grand Prix of Mosport at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ont., is scheduled to start at 3:05 p.m. EDT on Sunday, August 24. SPEED will televise the race live at 3 p.m. EDT.
Mobil 1 Presents the Grand Prix of Mosport Qualifying:
1. O’Connell/Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:13.878/119.825 mph
2. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 1:13.947/119.713 mph
3. Borcheller/Ducote, Aston Martin DBR9, 1:15.611/117.078 mph
Release Date: August 23, 2008