Rocky Road for Corvette Racing in Lime Rock ALMS
Gavin and Beretta Finish Fifth, O’Connell and Magnussen Retire After Contact
LAKEVILLE, Conn. – Lime Rock Park proved to be no walk in the park for Corvette Racing in today’s American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix. Suspension damage resulting from contact sidelined the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R, while a stop-and-go penalty effectively took the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R out of contention for a victory.
The No. 4 Corvette C6.R of Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta finished fifth in the GT class, two laps behind the winning No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche. The No. 3 Corvette C6.R of Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen finished 12th after retiring shortly after the first hour with 35 laps completed.
After rain throughout Friday’s practice and qualifying sessions, race day dawned hot and humid, with the thermometer at 88 degrees at the start of the two-hour, 45-minute race. The Corvettes started fourth and sixth in the 13-car GT field, and held those positions through the opening laps as the GT cars formed a six-car freight train on the roller coaster 1.5-mile circuit.
At 22 minutes into the race, there was contact between O’Connell’s Corvette and the No. 62 Ferrari of Jaime Melo going in the first turn. The Ferrari ended up in the barrier and subsequently retired; Melo was not injured. When racing resumed, the Corvettes emerged third and fourth in the GT category.
“Melo had a legitimate run on me going down the hill, I got caught up by guys running 10 seconds off the pace, and he came up the inside,” O’Connell said. “In my view, he moved to the left, made contact, and that’s what caused him to go off. I know that he’s very disappointed, but it is what it is.”
Beretta was vigorously defending fourth place against a pair of BMWs when he was notified to come into the pits to serve a stop-and-go penalty for blocking. At the 40-minute mark he complied with the officials’ decision. Five minutes later, Gavin took over the No. 4 Corvette and drove it to the finish.
“I was very upset with the penalty because everything was good in our first race in GT at Lime Rock,” Beretta said. “I was bumped three times – I was the victim, and yet I got the penalty. I just moved one time to defend my line, I was not zigzagging. It was just racing, but the penalty destroyed our race.”
Seconds later, the No. 3 Corvette’s race came to an abrupt end in Turn 1 after contact with a GTC entry damaged the left rear suspension. The immobilized race car was loaded onto a flatbed and taken to the Corvette Racing transporters. After inspecting the damage, the team retired the car.
“By the time the car got back to the transporter and the crew took a look at it, we knew that we didn’t have enough time to make the repairs and still complete 70 percent of the laps that are required to score points,” explained team manager Gary Pratt.
Gavin’s two-hour stint in the No. 4 Corvette was relatively uneventful. Caught out by a safety car that split the GT field, Gavin lost a lap to the leaders. He got back on the lead lap with one hour to go when the leaders pitted, but didn’t get the caution that he needed to rejoin the frontrunners. Gavin’s stint did have its own share of drama, however, with a quick spin in the uphill chicane and a close encounter with a Ferrari in Turn 1. Then light rain began to fall in the final 10 minutes.
“When I got in the car I knew I was going to be behind because of the extraordinary penalty we received,” Gavin said. “From that point onwards we were just trying to get that lap back. We had a bit of an incident with a Porsche trying to go around the outside in Turn 5 and lost the rear of the car, and that cost me maybe 10 seconds. When it started to sprinkle and the track got slippery, I thought it could be a time for us to capitalize so I tried to go around the outside of the Patron Ferrari in Turn 1. I don’t think he saw me, and he pushed me wide into the marbles.
“It seemed that everything we tried today just didn’t work out,” Gavin noted. “At least we came away with a fifth place, but it’s frustrating that we can’t seem to get a break at the moment.”
“At the end of the day, we had cars that were competitive at Lime Rock,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “We hadn’t turned a lap in the dry until warm-up this morning. If you are looking for a silver lining at Lime Rock, it was quite an accomplishment for the Corvettes to be able to run with teams and cars that have years of experience here.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the Mid-Ohio Sports Challenge at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. The 2-hour, 45-minute race will start at 3:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 7, and will be televised by CBS Sports on Sunday, August 15, at 12:30 p.m. ET. Live streaming video can be viewed on americanlemans.com, and live radio coverage will be available on American Le Mans Radio, Sirius Channel 127, and XM Channel 242.
American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix GT Results:
1. Bergmeister/Long, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 161
2. Auberlen/Milner, BMW M3 GT, 161
3. Mueller/Hand, BMW M3 GT, 161
4. Salo/Kaffer, Ferrari 430 GT, 160
5. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 159
6. Sharp/van Overbeek, Ferrari 430 GT, 157
7. Law/Neiman, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 157
8. Sellers/Henzler, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 156
9. Dalziel/Goosens, Jaguar XKRS, 152
10. Brown/Cosmo, Ferrari 430 GT, 150
11. Robertson/Murry, Ford GT-R, 110
12. O’Connell/Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 35
13. Melo/Bruni, Ferrari 430 GT, 22
Release Date: July 24, 2010