Laguna Seca: Corvette Racing race report

Corvette Racing Second in Wild Finish to ALMS Season Finale Corvette Racing Scores Fifth Podium Finish in Five Races with GT2 Corvette C6.R MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 10, 2009 -- Corvette Racing teammates Jan Magnussen and Johnny O'Connell...

Corvette Racing Second in Wild Finish to ALMS Season Finale

Corvette Racing Scores Fifth Podium Finish in Five Races with GT2 Corvette C6.R

MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 10, 2009 -- Corvette Racing teammates Jan Magnussen and Johnny O'Connell finished as runners-up in the season-ending Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The race ended as Magnussen spun across the track and hit the wall on the pit straight in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R. The Danish driver was examined and released from the trackside medical center after his encounter with the concrete barrier as the Corvette's safety systems and energy-absorbing structure performed as designed in the impact.

The wild finish capped an intense battle between the No. 3 Corvette and the No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche driven by Patrick Long and Joerg Bergmeister. Magnussen had relentlessly cut down the lead of the class-leading Porsche from 14 seconds to mere inches in the final 50 minutes of the four-hour race. Magnussen took the lead with a pass on the front straight with two minutes to go, but ceded the point back to Bergmeister after officials ruled that he made the pass on the pit exit. With the checkered flag already displayed for the overall winner, the Corvette and Porsche had contact in the final corner and raced side-by-side to the finish line.

"It was really good, hard racing," said Magnussen. "I didn't think I even had a chance after I had to give the position back. Going into the last corner I was too far away to make a proper attack, but Joerg parked the car. I didn't see that, so I slid up and hit him a little -- he went sideways and I managed to get on the inside. It was a drag race up the hill, and I managed to get ahead of him. Then he turned me into the wall, and he kept turning in. Then I spun around the nose of his car."

The No. 45 Porsche was credited with a 1.037-second victory over the No. 3 Corvette C6.R as Corvette Racing scored its fifth podium finish in five races since moving to the GT2 category. The No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R of Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta finished 10th, 12 laps down to the leader after hard contact in a restart at the one-hour mark. The crew replaced the Corvette's damaged front bodywork and a lower control arm.

After qualifying first and third, the twin Corvettes were running one-two until the first round of pit stops during the race's second caution period.

"Jan and I were working the traffic really well and managed to open up a gap over the third-place Ferrari," said Gavin. "When we got to the first pit stop, the guys did a fantastic job and we got out in front of the sister car. Then on the restart, I came down the inside of the first turn and was trying to see if I could get ahead of the BMW. I went too far to the inside and got on the dirt. The BMW was squeezing me and I got on the brakes too late. I didn't want to hit the prototype ahead of me, so I then went even farther left onto the sand, and at that point I was just a passenger. I started to spin and started hitting people.

"It's embarrassing for me -- I don't think I make many mistakes, but I made a big one today," Gavin said. "I'm sorry for the crew -- I think we had a car that was fast enough to win today. They've done a fantastic job all year, and this is not the way you want to repay them."

O'Connell took over from Magnussen at 1:50, and had to contend with a trio of Porsches throughout his stint. He took second position from the No. 18 Porsche at 2:22, and then gradually cut the No. 45 Porsche's lead to six seconds before the third round of pit stops. After a short delay to reattach the side safety net during the driver change, Magnussen took off in pursuit of the class-leading Porsche.

"I had to wait for the No. 18 Porsche to make a mistake, and when he did, we went by him and started eating away the No. 45's lead," said O'Connell. "The No. 3 Corvette was running great, and we look at this as a test for next year. We've learned a lot about the GT2 car, and we'll come back next year even stronger."

The No. 4 Corvette's misfortunes continued as it had to serve two penalties and then suffered a punctured tire with Olivier Beretta at the wheel after contact with a prototype.

Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan reflected on the finish of the race and the conclusion of the team's five-race development program with the GT2 version of the Corvette C6.R: "Those last six laps were as exciting as I've seen in motor racing in a long time -- two great teams, two great cars, two great drivers," Fehan said. "It's unfortunate it ended the way it did. I think we're going to review the videotapes and see what we can do to ascertain what went wrong there. I'm sure we'll be working with the sanctioning body to address it and put into place safeguards to make sure incidents like this won't happen again.

"Corvette Racing's transition to the GT2 class has been wildly successful," Fehan said. "We had told our management and our fans that our objective was to be able to qualify on the pole and to win a race before the season ended, and we met those expectations. In fact, we came within one incident today of a second victory for Corvette. Now we'll go back to the shop, get this car repaired, start our fall test program, and get ready to race at Sebring."

Corvette Racing's next event is the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in Sebring, Fla., on March 20, 2010.

-credit: gm racing

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