THEIR FIRST LE MANS: CORVETTE RACING Corvette Racing's group of drivers for the 24 Hours of Le Mans has a record any team in the paddock would envy. The six pilots have combined for 144 class wins in the American Le Mans Series and 17 at Le...
THEIR FIRST LE MANS: CORVETTE RACING
Corvette Racing's group of drivers for the 24 Hours of Le Mans has a record any team in the paddock would envy. The six pilots have combined for 144 class wins in the American Le Mans Series and 17 at Le Mans with Corvette Racing winning five times since 2001. Despite all the success, the memories, history and significance of Le Mans still resonate throughout the team.
"My first experience at the track in 1995 was wonderful, but the race was not. Le Mans is such a famous event, but I had only watched it on television and had no idea what it was really about. I was happy to be here, but the race did not go well for us. Our Courage did not pass the technical inspection and was not allowed to start the race because it was too light, so it was a big disappointment. But after that, every year at Le Mans has been a wonderful experience."
"I first went to Le Mans in 1999 with Herb Fishel (GM Racing director), Joe Negri (GM Racing Road Racing Group manager) and John Rice (engine development manager). After our first Daytona-Sebring experience with the Corvette, we planned on racing in Le Mans in 2000, so Herb and Joe asked me to go to Le Mans to get a feel for what it was like.
"On the morning of the race, the race director gave me a ride around the circuit in a Corvette. It was very cool to have some level of understanding when I came back the following year to race. Le Mans is very different - the way the paddock works, the scrutineering process; it's all quite different than what we have in North America.
"I remember my first four laps in 2000 - it was like, 'Wow, here we are!' The run from Mulsanne down to Indianapolis was amazing. To do it in a street car is one thing, but when you're going 190 mph it's like driving in a tunnel."
"My first Le Mans was in 1994 with the Nissan team, when we won the GT1 class. The most impressive thing was driving down Mulsanne before the race in a rental car. Just seeing the length of it, seeing how similar everything was to the movie Le Mans. When you go to Le Mans for the first time and see the Dunlop Bridge and all of the historic landmarks, it drives home the significance of this race. It felt even more special to me than going to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"Le Mans is a magical place, and every year here you learn something. Your first laps here are special, and you never forget them. Winning in my first year at Le Mans was a great experience, and to have won it a couple of more times since then is really good."
"My first Le Mans was in 1999 when I shared a Panoz with Johnny O'Connell and Max Angelelli. Just driving at a track that has so much history was a great experience. It was my first endurance race, so I had no idea how long 24 hours really was. Halfway into the race we were about 40 laps down after several long pit stops with big problems. By six o'clock in the morning I was so tired - I hadn't slept at all because it was all new and I wanted to experience it all. That's when I realized there was still 10 hours to go!
"When I went home, I told everyone that was the last time I'd ever do Le Mans. But things change, and now Le Mans is my absolute favorite race of the year. Le Mans is the greatest race, but it helps when you're with one of the best teams."
The 76th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans runs from 9 a.m. ET (3 p.m. local time) from the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France. Forty-two drivers will represent the American Le Mans Series, whose teams have captured seven overall victories and 22 class championships since 1999. SPEED will televise the event live, and Radio Le Mans will have flag-to-flag coverage of the race as well as the June 1 test day, and practice and qualifying on June 11 and 12.
The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix. The race is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 12 at Lime Rock Park. SPEED will televise the race from noon to 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 13. XM Satellite Radio will air the event live on XM Sports Nation Channel 144. Additional live coverage from American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring also will be available at americanlemans.com.