Corvette Racing's Reign Continues at Mid-Ohio
Source: GM Media
May 21, 2006
Corvette Racing Scores Fifth Straight 1-2 Finish in American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, Ohio - Morning rain gave way to brilliant sunshine today as Corvette Racing continued its reign in the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio. Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta extended Corvette Racing's winning streak at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to five straight ALMS victories in the GT1 class. A runner-up finish by Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell made it five consecutive 1-2 finishes at Mid-Ohio by Chevy's factory team.
It was a record-breaking day for Gavin and Beretta as they set the mark for most consecutive GT1 wins with their eighth straight victory, a streak that begin in July 2005. Beretta notched his record 27th career ALMS title, and Corvette Racing equaled the series record for most consecutive GT1 victories by a marque with its 12th straight win.
Gavin and Beretta drove their No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R to a 1.833-second victory over the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R of Fellows and O'Connell. The Corvettes finished one lap ahead of the Aston Martin DBR9s of Enge/Turner and Lamy/Sarrazin.
"The car was just magic and it performed brilliantly," said Gavin. "The engineers and crew did a superb job, and it was a pleasure to drive the C6.R. The grip was getting better and the lap times quicker as the fuel load burned off, and the car stayed under me for my entire stint."
Gavin took the point in the GT1 class on the first lap, passing the pole-winning Aston Martin at the drop of the green flag. He extended his Corvette's advantage to a 27-second lead before the first round of pit stops that took place after more than an hour of green-flag racing.
"It was a bizarre start because as we came around the first corner they dropped the green flag and caught everyone by surprise," Gavin recalled. "I was fortunate because all of the guys in my lane started to go, a gap appeared, and I shot through the middle of it. I got past the Aston and a couple of other cars."
Beretta replaced Gavin and Fellows replaced O'Connell when the two Corvettes pitted at 1:04 into the race. Tomas Enge took the lead briefly on the restart after the first full-course caution, but pitted minutes later with a punctured tire. The second round of pit stops took place under caution at 2:03 and sealed the Astons' fate as savvy pit strategy by the Corvette team put their rivals a lap down. The second stop also decided the race between the two Corvettes when the No. 3 Corvette stalled leaving its pit box and officials subsequently assessed a stop-and-go penalty for a pit lane infraction.
"Olly did a perfect job as usual, the crew did fantastic pit stops, and the Corvette C6.R was very strong and very fast," said Beretta. "My car was just a little loose at first, but after the second yellow the Corvette was flying and I was cruising. The most important thing is that after two difficult races in a row, we have two perfect cars to fly to the 24 Hours of Le Mans."
Although Fellows was disappointed with another runner-up finish, he was elated by the performance of the Le Mans-spec Michelin tires that the team used this weekend.
"We just can't seem to buy any luck," said the Canadian. "The stall after the pit stop was my fault. I just stalled the engine leaving the pits on hot rear tires, and then I couldn't get it restarted. When we did get to race, I learned a lot about the tires that we're going to have for Le Mans on a very similar surface."
Corvette Racing's two race cars and tons of equipment will be airlifted to France later this week in preparation for the Le Mans test day on June 4.
"This is the note upon which we wanted to depart for France," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "We ran Le Mans-spec tires here and learned a great deal. Today's result shows the dedication of this team and the thoroughness of our preparation. We had great adversaries in the Aston Martin team who showed all the speed they needed. We implemented a strong pit strategy and demonstrated why Corvette Racing is the best in the world."
Corvette Racing's next event is the 24 Hours of Le Mans in Le Mans, France on June 17-18. The world's most prestigious sports car race will be televised live in the U.S. on SPEED Channel.