AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES RON FELLOWS/DARREN TURNER CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT MONDAY SEPTEMBER 26, 2005 Corvette Racing and Aston Martin Racing will resume their GT1 rivalry at Petit Le Mans this weekend at Road Atlanta. Braselton, Ga. - The ...
AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES
RON FELLOWS/DARREN TURNER CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT
MONDAY SEPTEMBER 26, 2005
Corvette Racing and Aston Martin Racing will resume their GT1 rivalry at Petit Le Mans this weekend at Road Atlanta.
Braselton, Ga. - The following is a transcript from a conference call involving Ron Fellows of Corvette Racing and Aston Martin Racing's Darren Turner. The two teams will meet for the third time this year at Petit Le Mans this weekend, Round 9 of the American Le Mans Series. The pair of two-car teams have split two meetings earlier this year as Aston Martin won at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, and Corvette Racing exacted revenge at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Q: Given the way the two previous races shaped up, do you look as this a tortoise-and-hare kind of battle, or does Corvette intend to run with Aston Martin right from the start?
Ron Fellows: At Le Mans, the Corvettes were the tortoise for a while. You could probably call it a grudge match. We hope some of the things we learned in the spring race will help with our car setup. It was obvious at Le Mans that Aston Martin was faster. We couldn't match their speed and had to stay out of trouble, which we did and won the race. At Sebring, the cars were pretty closely matched. There are enough similarities between Sebring and Road Atlanta that I would assume the pace will be pretty close. There are two races going on: a battle and a war. We've got a drivers championship to keep in the back of our minds, as well as do our best to keep the Corvettes ahead of the Aston Martins. Based on how fast the Saleen and Maserati were at Mosport, we can't count them out.
Darren Turner: At Le Mans, we had a bit of advantage in lap times, and the Corvettes had an advantage at the high downforce track like Sebring. Our testing this past weekend has us in the ballpark. The Saleen and Maserati are making progress. It will be a dogfight.
Q: How much better is the Aston Martin from Sebring?
Darren Turner: Sebring was really early with the development, and Le Mans was a little better. This three-day test we've had here is the biggest test program we've had since Le Mans. A few things on the car have changed, the biggest being what the drivers can get out of the car. We've made it a better package.
Q: Corvette Racing and Prodrive have had some titanic battles in the past. How does this latest with Prodrive's Aston Martins compare?
Darren Turner: With the Ferrari at Sebring in 2003 and Miami, the rivalry is a good one with strong competition. It brings out the best in both teams. If the competition is strong, the race is much more fun and more enjoyable. It's what racing is all about. Now that we're with Aston Martin, the rivalry is the same.
Ron Fellows: There's a healthy respect for Prodrive from Corvette Racing and Pratt & Miller. Everyone likes to be in a good competitive fight every single race. The ones we've had have been great races. So far, there have been no incidents. The rivalry is intense, as opposed to tense. That's what we want, the more the merrier. The way to test you is against the best. I certainly have a great deal of respect for those guys and what they bring to the track.
Corvette Racing not only will have to contend with Aston Martin's DBR9s, but also the battle for the class drivers championship.
Q: Darren, can you speak at all to where we may see the Aston Martin in America again?
Darren Turner: I don't know, but the factory is very keen to having two cars out here again next year for 2006. But I personally can't comment on the future.
Q: With Corvette's 'self-imposed ban' on testing, how does that shape up the effort for Petit Le Mans?
Ron Fellows: In light of this weekend, we've done a little bit of work. In doing all the races, we feel like we have enough information, and there's enough work in the shop to keep the guys busy. Throwing a test in wasn't planned and it really wasn't in the cards. We've never done any testing prior to this race since we started the program. Particularly this year with the spring race, we feel pretty comfortable and have a good place to start.
Q: Darren, this past weekend was your first time at Road Atlanta. Your thoughts on the layout?
Darren Turner: It's fantastic. I had a few laps on the scooter Thursday. It's just crazy. It's a fantastic place. Yesterday we did tire testing, and it was the first time I had to put in a lot of laps. I could have stayed out all day long. It's a great roller coaster ride. It makes you work. Compared to most European circuits, this is still rural and you have to give it a lot of respect. This is a traditional circuit.
Darren Turner and Johnny Kane took their first laps in the No. 57 Aston Martin DBR9 at Road Atlanta over the weekend.
Q: The three longest races this season have been on different types of circuits (Sebring vs. Le Mans vs. Road Atlanta). How do they compare?
Ron Fellows: To a certain degree and in some spots, the surface at Road Atlanta is more similar to Le Mans. There are other sections that are a little more abrasive and don't have as much grip. It's closer to Sebring in terms of brake wear and temperature issues. One of the concerns we have is that Aston Martin had very fast straight-line speed at Le Mans, which will favor them at Road Atlanta getting into the backstretch. Tire wear is a little more severe here, and it's in between in terms of the aero package. It's a little more of a compromise between Sebring and Le Mans.
Darren Turner: For us, it's more akin to Sebring because Le Mans is so much longer. We're worried about getting grip here. Maybe later this week, we'll change our minds and go in a different direction. Maybe we'll need to find a bit more straight-line speed to get around traffic. We won't generally know that until later in the week. The race seems more of a sprint race here with the traffic. That's how we'll work on the car later this week.
Q: Ron, the drivers championship is on the line. How does that affect psychology of the team?
Ron Fellows: It's certainly a healthy rivalry. There's no hiding that. There's always been sharing of information, so there's still a team approaching in terms of engineering. Once we've gone through the first session, everyone sits down and sees which direction the way to go. You still have to maximize the two-car effort.
Question (follow up): Are you more concerned with being ahead of just the No. 4 car and not so much of the Aston Martins?
Ron Fellows: Not if you talk to Corvette. This has become one of the big three races. Corvette wants to win the race. That's why the Aston Martins are here, too. It's a bit of a grudge match. We have just focus on an individual basis and get as comfortable as possible. Maybe that's enough to beat the two green cars and the other yellow car.
Q: Your thoughts on the improvements of the Saleen and what Maserati will bring?
Darren Turner: The Saleen was here testing, too, and they were quicker than Sebring. So I definitely don't see it being just a two-way battle. And we don't know how the Maserati will be. We certainly know how strong it's been in Europe. The race is open to everyone.
Ron Fellows: Certainly the Saleen was a surprise at Mosport. It was probably 0.3 seconds a lap quicker in qualifying and the race. I don't know how they managed to lose the race. I think their strategy in how the chose to do their last pit stop was the outcome. It was the best race of the year, with the first three cars covered by three seconds without a caution. The more cars that get in the mix in the battle for the front, it should be interesting to see how each Corvette handles the battle for the race and keep in the back of our minds the drivers championship.
Q: Will the more bulbous front end on the Aston Martins that was intended for Le Mans be irrelevant here?
Darren Turner: I don't think the team was planning on using it here. The car is pretty similar to how we ran the car at Sebring. Even some of the stuff we've used in the rear we've taken off. The Le Mans configuration might have worked here. I guess the guys decided before we got out there that it wasn't the way to go.
Q: Darren, how is Jonny Kane settling into the car?
Darren Turner: He's doing well. For me and Pedro (Lamy), it's hard enough to learn the circuit. For Jonny, it was tough because he's learning the car and the circuit, and he didn't get a chance to be fitted for a seat before Friday. So far, he hasn't been able to do a full stint, but they'll change that. On lap times, he's perfect.
Petit Le Mans is the ninth round of the American Le Mans Series. The annual 1,000-mile/10-hour race is scheduled for 11:20 a.m. EDT Saturday at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. SPEED Channel will provide live television coverage. Qualifying is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. EDT Friday. American Le Mans Series Radio, and IMSA Living and Timing Scoring will be available at www.americanlemans.com.