Corvette Racing Encounters Traffic and Trouble in Lime Rock
Corvettes Damaged in Chain Reaction Accident, Team Battles Back to Finish Ninth and 10th
Corvette Racing heeded the advice of company co-founder Louis Chevrolet today at the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park. "Never give up!" was Chevrolet's motto, and the team was true to that credo after a chain reaction accident damaged both Compuware Corvette C6.Rs at just 20 minutes into the two-hour, 45-minute race. After the Corvette crew repaired their battered race cars, Olivier Beretta and Tommy Milner battled back to bring the No. 3 Corvette C6.R home in ninth place while Jan Magnussen and Oliver Gavin finished 10th in the No. 4 Corvette C6.R. Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller won in the No. 55 BMW M3 GT by a 20-second margin over the Long/Bergmeister Porsche.
Magnussen and Beretta were running fourth and fifth respectively in the GT class when the melee occurred near the exit of the West Bend turn leading to the fast downhill Diving Turn. An LMPC prototype had contact with a Ferrari, and the pursuing pack of GT cars had nowhere to go. The No. 4 Corvette collided with the third-place BMW, and was in turn collected by the No. 3 Corvette. Both Corvettes sustained damage to their left front corners and went to the pits for repairs. The No. 18 LMPC was subsequently penalized for avoidable contact, but the Corvettes had already paid a high price.
Led by crew chief Dan Binks, the No. 3 crew replaced a damaged upright and installed a new nose in the pit lane. Brian Hoye and the No. 4 Corvette crew took their car behind the wall and installed a new nose assembly. Beretta rejoined the fray 17 laps behind the leader, and Magnussen was back in the race with a 22-lap deficit.
"That's part of racing at Lime Rock when you have cars running that close," said team manager Gary Pratt. "Somebody spins, somebody checks up, and four or five cars get into each other. We had a lot of pieces and parts to change."
"I'm not sure who hit who, but somebody got together," Magnussen said. "The BMW ran into them, I ran into the BMW, and Olivier ran into me. When I won here in May, Lime Rock was pretty good; today it was back to just being Lime Rock."
"It was like a bicycle race in a living room," Beretta said. "I could not see through all the smoke; suddenly I saw Jan's brake lights and it was too late to stop. The crew did a fantastic job to get me back in the race. I'm not worried about the car after a crash because I know these guys will make the car as good as new. I don't even think about it, I just get on with it because I trust them 100 percent."
The Corvettes racked up the laps, pitting for fuel, tires, and driver changes with 63 minutes to go. Milner replaced Beretta in the No. 3 Corvette C6.R and Gavin replaced Magnussen in the No. 4 Corvette C6.R. The two steadily gained positions throughout the final hour as others in the GT class also encountered misfortune and mechanical problems. At the end of the race, the Corvettes had clawed their way up to points-paying positions.
"It was an uneventful stint for me, just trying to stay out of traffic and stay out of trouble," Gavin said. "Our race was really turned on its head when Jan was caught up in that accident. We tested a few things later in the race, but the car was pretty badly beaten up so it wasn't a straightforward test session. We did finish 10th and got a point, so that's better than nothing. We’ll move on to Mosport and see what we can get there."
-source: corvette racing