Rain Dampens Corvette Racing’s First Qualifying Session for 24 Hours of Le Mans
Six Drivers Complete Required Laps in Darkness Despite Wet and Slippery Conditions
LE MANS, France – After days of brilliant sunshine and scorching temperatures, rain arrived just as Corvette Racing’s twin Corvette C6.Rs began the first of two qualifying sessions that will determine the starting grid for this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Raindrops began to fall on the Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans at 7:09 p.m. when Johnny O’Connell and Olivier Beretta drove out of the pits. Neither driver completed a lap at speed as the rainfall steadily increased.
With a promising weather forecast for Thursday, the team elected to keep its cars in the pits for the first half of tonight’s session. After a scheduled one-hour break, Corvette Racing checked off one important item on its Le Mans to-do list as all six Corvette drivers completed three laps in darkness as required by the race regulations.
“This team is always looking at the big picture, and that’s one of the reasons why this team is as successful as it is,” said O’Connell, driver of the No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R. “There’s no point in risking everything that has gone into this effort just to get in some laps on a race track that’s not going to be wet when we race. If we were to run tonight, we’d learn absolutely nothing.”
“There were some sprinkles as we went through the Dunlop chicane, and then the rain started coming down in Indianapolis and Arnage,” O’Connell reported. “By the time we got to the Porsche Curves, it was raining pretty hard. We were on slick tires, so we came straight into the pits and parked it.”
Oliver Gavin concurred: “It’s very tricky, with lots of puddles and bits that you’re trying to avoid, so I was very careful,” said the three-time Le Mans winner. “We’re not going to learn much in these conditions. It’s a shame because we’ve had three weeks of dry weather, and at the one moment when we want to get some work done, it pours down rain. It’s frustrating, but we’ve all got our laps in and we’re looking good for tomorrow’s session.”
As the rain steadily increased, the chief activity in the Corvette Racing camp was crew chief Dan Binks and mechanic David James waxing the No. 63 Corvette in the pit lane.
“We got it shiny and looking good after a lap in the wet,” Binks laughed. “We always want to have our Corvettes looking nice – and maybe play a few mind games with the Aston Martin guys while their cars are ripping around in the rain and getting dirty.”
“Seriously, we only have two race cars here, and they’re difficult to fix after a big wreck,” Binks explained. “It doesn’t look like it’s going to rain for the race, so there’s no reason to put our cars at risk. If we thought we’d have rain for the race then we’d be out there, but I think we’re in good shape.”
When practice and qualifying resumed at 10 p.m., O’Connell, Ron Fellows, and Max Papis cycled through the No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R with a best time of 4:54.941, while Beretta, Gavin and Jan Magnussen completed their appointed rounds in the No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R with a fastest lap at 4:51.557. With the cars turning lap times nearly a minute slower than those recorded during the open test on June 4, the Corvette team called it a day at 10:52 p.m.
Practice and qualifying for the 24 Hours of Le Mans concludes on Thursday, June 15, with two timed sessions from 7-9 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight. The 24 Hours of Le Mans will start at 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. EDT) on Saturday, June 17, and will conclude at 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. EDT) on Sunday, June 18. The SPEED Channel will televise 20 hours of live coverage in the U.S., from 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. EDT on Saturday and from 8 p.m. EDT on Saturday to 11:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday. MotorsTV will provide complete Le Mans race coverage in Europe, including practice and qualifying sessions. Audio coverage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans can be heard over the Internet at www.radiolemans.com.
Release Date: June 14, 2006