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08-11-2007: Gavin and Beretta Score Seventh GT1 Win of Season at Road America
Source: Corvette Racing

Pace Car Plays Decisive Role in Rain-Soaked Eighth Round of ALMS Series

ELKHART LAKE, WI - Road America lived up to its reputation as one of North America's premier road racing circuits as it hosted a wet and wild eighth round of the American Le Mans Series. Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta scored their seventh GT1 class win of 2007 in their No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. The "two Ollies" completed 91 laps of the 4-mile course, finishing one lap ahead of the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R driven by Jan Magnussen and Johnny O'Connell and three laps in front of the No. 27 Maserati MC12 of Didier Theys and Fredy Lienhard.

The race began under sunny skies, but the arrival of heavy rain at 1:24 into the 4-hour race signaled the start of a full-course caution period that lasted one hour and four minutes. The race leader was between the No. 4 and No. 3 Corvettes when the caution period began, and consequently Gavin gained nearly a full lap on O'Connell when the field was realigned.

"The first two laps in the rain weren't too bad, but then it got really treacherous," Gavin reported. "It was one of those times when you're thinking, 'Just keep it on the track, don't make any silly mistakes.' The team made a really good call on when we had to come in and put on rain tires. Fortunately when I went back out, I was on the right tires for the conditions, but even at that the car was aquaplaning at 45 mph."

Misfortune again stalked the No. 4 Corvette as Magnussen had to start the race from pit lane. The GT1 pole winner made up ground quickly, gaining nine positions and moving to within seconds of Beretta by the sixth lap. Magnussen's charge was aided by a caution period when several cars tangled in the first corner, and he took the GT1 class lead at 1:04 when Beretta made a slight miscue.

"It wasn't the best situation to start from the pit lane, but it was what we had to do," Magnussen said. "Obviously having a yellow early was a big help, but Olivier was really pushing and I was doing my best to keep up. I lost the balance a little towards the end of the stint, but then he had a moment and I passed him, so I was in the lead when we made the first pit stop."

The No. 4 Corvette regained the lead after the first round of pit stops shortly after the first hour of racing as Gavin replaced Beretta and O'Connell replaced Magnussen. Both cars returned to the pits 12 minutes later for rain tires as the deluge began and lightning filled the sky.

Gavin gained valuable track position during the full-course yellow, but the effects of the extended caution period were taking their toll. Running at the back of the slowly moving queue of cars, Gavin began to feel lightheaded. He pitted at 2:11 and turned the car over to Beretta.

"I think I was running too close to the cars in front and getting fumes in the cockpit," he explained. "I needed to come in, and fortunately we were in a position to do that and still stay in the lead. I had just done my required one hour in the car, so that was good for the championship points."

There was more drama as Magnussen passed Beretta in Turn 11 with 49 minutes remaining to get back on the lead lap. Then just before the Corvettes' final pit stops for a splash of fuel in the closing minutes, Beretta spun in Turn 8. He recovered and finished ahead of his teammate.

"I braked a little late and went in the gravel," said Beretta, who extended his ALMS record for career wins with his 35th victory. "But the overall result was good, and it's always nice to bring a win home. Olly did a good job working on the setup on the car this week, and after we found the setup, the crew did fantastic pit stops."

The Ollies' seventh win in eight ALMS events extended their lead in the championship standings to 40 points with four races remaining.

"We had a little bit of everything today with the rain and lightning," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "Both Corvettes essentially ran a flawless race, and if the pace car hadn't been between them when the caution period began, it would have been a dogfight to the end. And when you look at the Maserati's lap times, you can see the potential of that car. It's going to be something to deal with as we go forward."

NBC Sports will televise today's race tape-delayed at 2:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday, August 12. Corvette Racing's next event is the Grand Prix of Mosport at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, on Sunday, August 26. SPEED Channel will televise the race live at 3 p.m. EDT.

Generac 500 GT1 Results:
  1. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 91
  2. O'Connell/Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 90
  3. Theys/Lienhard, Maserati MC 12, 88