Laguna Seca: Corvette Racing race report

Gavin and Beretta Take GT1 Victory in ALMS Season Finale MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 18, 2008 & ...

Gavin and Beretta Take GT1 Victory in ALMS Season Finale

MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 18, 2008 – Corvette Racing ended its final full season in the GT1 class of the American Le Mans Series with Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta claiming victory in the season-ending Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Gavin and Beretta lost the war for the GT1 drivers championship to their Corvette Racing teammates Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen by 23 points, but they scored a victory in the final battle of the season. Gavin and Beretta completed 139 laps in the winning No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R, finishing 12 seconds ahead of the runner-up No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R of O'Connell and Magnussen.

The "race into darkness" became a long day's journey into night as the four-hour race was interrupted by a dozen caution periods, with five full-course yellow flags in the first hour alone. The restart after the 11th yellow flag proved decisive in the GT1 class as Beretta passed O'Connell on the front straight to take the lead with 45 minutes remaining.

With his victory tonight, Beretta became the first driver in ALMS history to reach 40 career wins, including five victories at Laguna Seca. Gavin tallied his 31st victory in the series.

"With all the victories I have, I was lucky to drive for a good team and to have very good teammates," Beretta said. "I was not alone.

"I didn't want to lose today," he declared. "I knew this was the last chance. I was thinking about the restart on cold tires and driving like I was in the wet. I put the power down and everything went okay. I could have spun because I put the power down very early, but the car stayed on the track and I managed to overtake Johnny."

Track temperatures on race day were 30 degrees cooler than during practice and qualifying. The cold track and frequent caution periods made tire management critical.

"It was an interesting race," O'Connell said. "We got caught out in traffic and Olivier was able to get by, and then the car was looser than we needed it to be.

"Congratulations to the No. 4 Corvette team," O'Connell continued. "I'm sure this makes it a little easier for them to go into the off-season. Our eye was on the big prize, which was winning the championship. Jan and I pulled that off, so it was a great year."

Magnussen started on the GT1 pole in the No. 3 Corvette C6.R, and Gavin took the first stint in the No. 4 Corvette. The first round of pit stops for fuel and tires came at 1:33, and both drivers stayed in their respective race cars. The No. 4 Corvette made its second and final pit stop at 2:37 with Beretta replacing Gavin, and the No. 3 Corvette pitted one lap later with O'Connell replacing Magnussen. With the pit stop exchange completed, the two Corvettes were inches apart on the track.

"I didn't get very many laps under the green in a two-and-a-half hour stint," Magnussen said. "It was difficult out there because guys were falling off the track, and getting going again after the tires have cooled off is really tough. In the first few laps after a yellow, it's very easy to get another caution.

"My first stint on the Michelin tires we used in qualifying yesterday was probably my best stint," the Dane reported. "The car was working really well. When the temperature cooled down, we made a change in the tire choice. My lap times dropped a little, and with it getting cooler and cooler it was difficult to clean the pickup off the tires."

"It was an absolutely bizarre race," Gavin said. "We'd just get the tires hot and then something crazy would happen, with drivers flying off the road.

"The season has been frustrating with lots of misfortune and things going wrong," said the Briton. "It's really not been our year, but you have to put those things behind you. I'm really looking forward to developing and racing the new GT2 Corvette next year against stiff competition from Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, and all the rest."

The ALMS season finale marked the end of Corvette Racing's 10th year in competition. The team will begin its transition to the GT2 category following the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans.

"Today's event was not just a good race, but a great race," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "When you see the lead changes, the pit stops, it was the quintessential representation of what we've worked on for a decade. The Corvettes were thousandths of a second apart on the race track and thousandths of a second apart in the pit lane. There's a reason why this team is regarded as one of the best sports car teams in the world, and we demonstrated that today."

-credit: gm

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