Corvette Racing Aims for GT1 Victory Record at Lime Rock Le Mans-Winning Corvette Team Renews Rivalry with Aston Martin on American Soil LAKEVILLE, Conn. - Just days ago, Corvette Racing's twin Corvette C6.R race cars were thundering through...
Corvette Racing Aims for GT1 Victory Record at Lime Rock
Le Mans-Winning Corvette Team Renews Rivalry with Aston Martin on American Soil
LAKEVILLE, Conn. - Just days ago, Corvette Racing's twin Corvette C6.R race cars were thundering through the French countryside on the immense 8.5-mile Le Mans circuit. On July 1, they'll be racing on Lime Rock Park's roller coaster 1.54-mile track nestled in Connecticut's Litchfield Hills. The transition from the longest track on the schedule to the shortest requires not only a change of equipment but also a change of attitude.
"Going from Le Mans to Lime Rock is like going from a superspeedway to a bullring," said Ron Fellows, who will share the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R with Johnny O'Connell. "It's a cool track, and I have always enjoyed racing at Lime Rock."
The New England Grand Prix, the fourth round of the 10-race American Le Mans Series, will see the Corvette vs. Aston Martin rivalry rejoined near the battlegrounds of the American Revolution. As the vanguard of Chevrolet's own American Revolution, Corvette Racing is aiming to set an ALMS record for consecutive GT1 victories by a marque by scoring its 13th straight win on Saturday afternoon.
"I'm expecting a really close race between the Aston Martins and the two Corvettes," said Fellows. "On a little speedway like Lime Rock, it will be an exciting day for everyone sitting on the hills around the track. Traffic is always a factor on a short track, and it can be the difference in making ground or losing it."
Johnny O'Connell agreed: "Lime Rock is Malibu Grand Prix without having to stop and give them a ticket," he laughed. "It's in a beautiful part of the country, the fans are great, but it's a busy, bumpy circuit. We should be strong there against the Astons because our Corvettes work well on that track and we have the advantage of having raced there previously."
Both of the Corvette C6.Rs that raced at La Sarthe will be back in action at Lime Rock. The No. 64 Corvette that scored Chevrolet's third straight GT1 title and fifth win in six years will return wearing the No. 4 in Lime Rock. The star-crossed No. 63 that finished seventh in Le Mans goes to Connecticut wearing its familiar No. 3 designation.
But it takes more than a change of decals to prepare the Corvettes for the Lime Rock round. Both cars must be completely refreshed and rebuilt after racing twice around the clock in the world's greatest - and most grueling - sports car race.
"The race cars arrived home from France late last week, and they have to ready to leave for Lime Rock by the end of the day Tuesday, so the turnaround time is short," explained Steve Wesoloski, GM Racing road racing group manager. "Fortunately we have a good inventory of parts on hand, so the crew can replace the suspension, drivetrain and bodywork components to prepare the cars for the next race. Some parts that are used at Le Mans such as a second battery and high-beam headlights aren't necessary in a sprint race, so they are removed."
The "two Ollies" - Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta - will try to extend their record-setting streak of consecutive ALMS victories to nine straight in their No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. To accomplish that, they'll not only have to beat the powerful Aston Martin team but also their Corvette Racing teammates. Ironically, Beretta played a key role in setting the record of 12 consecutive GT1 wins by a marque when he drove a Dodge Viper in 1999-2000.
"Ron and I are both looking to get the monkey off our back," said O'Connell. "You have to tip your hat to everyone on the No. 4 Corvette crew and the amazing job they've been doing. You go back a couple years and every break went our way, and now for the last eight or nine races it's been the other way. That's when you find out what you're made of by refusing to give up."
"We have been unlucky, no question," Fellows noted. "In Houston and Mid-Ohio, we had a car that was fast enough and in position to win those races. Unfortunately Johnny was slowed by traffic going into the pits in Houston, and at Mid-Ohio I stalled the car on a yellow-flag pit stop. Are we guilty of trying too hard? Maybe.
"In 2001 and 2002, there were some races where it didn't look like we were going to win and we did," Fellows observed. "We went through a time when it didn't seem like we could do anything wrong, so we've been on the other side of it. We've had really great cars all year, Johnny and I feel comfortable and able to attack, but it just hasn't come together. We really want to get a win for our guys. Who knows? Lime Rock might be the place."
While the two squads are intensely competitive, Corvette Racing is the tie that binds. The teamwork that was exhibited at Le Mans when the No. 63 Corvette encountered a series of mechanical mishaps exemplified the spirit of Corvette Racing as members of both crews pitched in to repair a badly damaged transaxle and get the car back on track. That superhuman effort extended Corvette Racing's perfect finishing record in the 24 Hours of Le Mans to seven straight years.
"Teamwork underlies everything we do at Corvette Racing, from going to dinner to the free time we spend together," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "The important thing at the end of the day is that we're waving the Corvette banner and that a Corvette is in the winner's circle. Individual goals and objectives are placed second to that of Corvette. The teamwork exhibited at Le Mans really expressed that, and showed exactly what can be done when you approach things that way."
Just the Facts
* 2006 marks Corvette's 50th anniversary in international road racing. John Fitch and Walt Hansgen drove a Corvette to a Class B victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1956, the first step onto the world stage that established Chevy's sports car as a contender in top-level competition.
* Corvette Racing has scored a record-tying 12 straight victories in ALMS competition, a winning streak that began at Road Atlanta in April 2005. A 13th victory at Lime Rock will establish the ALMS record for the most consecutive wins in the GT1 division by one marque.
* Olivier Beretta, driver of the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R that he shares with Oliver Gavin, holds the record for the most ALMS career victories (27), the record for all-time ALMS poles (17) and the record for fast laps (17).
* Corvette Racing holds the ALMS records for most wins by a team (43) and the most 1-2 finishes (28).
The two-hour, 45-minute New England Grand Prix, the fourth round of the 10-race 2006 American Le Mans Series, is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. EDT on Saturday, July 1. The race will be televised tape-delayed on CBS Sports on Sunday, July 2, starting at 4 p.m. EDT.