Beretta Captures Final ALMS GT1 Pole in Long Beach American Le Mans Series Salutes Corvette Racing's Decade of Dominance in GT1 LONG BEACH, Calif., April 17, 2009 -- Corvette Racing driver Olivier Beretta affirmed his standing as the most...
Beretta Captures Final ALMS GT1 Pole in Long Beach
American Le Mans Series Salutes Corvette Racing's Decade of Dominance in GT1
LONG BEACH, Calif., April 17, 2009 -- Corvette Racing driver Olivier Beretta affirmed his standing as the most prolific pole winner in American Le Mans Series history by taking the final GT1 pole. Beretta extended his ALMS record with his 23rd career pole in qualifying for Saturday's 100-minute Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach.
Beretta was the quickest qualifier with the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R, turning a lap in 1:17.952 (90.887 mph) on the 1.966-mile temporary circuit through the streets of Long Beach. He edged Johnny O'Connell in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R by .192 seconds after O'Connell had set the pace in the first two timed laps. The two Corvette drivers recorded their fastest times before qualifying was briefly interrupted by a red flag. Both subsequently completed two additional laps when qualifying resumed, but did not improve their times.
"I ran my best time and thought that my next lap would be even better, and then we had the red flag," Beretta said. "After I restarted, the times were not so quick because the tires had cooled down and on a street course you have to regain the momentum.
"Now the most important thing is to bring the two cars home safely in the race, and that is our first priority," Beretta continued. "We need to win the race, that is the second goal. It will be the last ALMS race in GT1, and I hope we win.
"I'm happy for the crew and everyone at Corvette Racing," he said. "They have worked hard for 10 years to bring us to where we are today. Our mechanics, engineers, and drivers are a very strong package."
O'Connell's best lap was timed at 1:18.144 (90.663 mph). "We changed our setup pretty drastically from this morning so I wasn't really certain what we'd get in qualifying," O'Connell explained. "We improved in some areas but not as much as we needed. I'm not disappointed -- Olivier has proven himself to be one of the best qualifiers in sports car racing. You're never happy when you don't get the pole, but qualifying has never been my forte. We've improved our car and that's the most important thing.
"This is a very significant event for us," he said, "saying goodbye to these cars and letting the fans in California see them race for the last time in the States."
At the conclusion of qualifying, American Le Mans Series officials paid tribute to Corvette Racing's accomplishments in the GT1 division.
"This is a celebration of a decade of dominance," said ALMS President/CEO Scott Atherton. "This is literally the end of an era as Corvette Racing, one of the true pillars of the American Le Mans Series, is about to close a chapter of their racing history. The best news is that this simply opens the next chapter with a much more history still to be written.
"There are a lot of people who recognize what Corvette Racing has accomplished," Atherton said. "The last couple of years have been difficult for all of us without the level of competition this program has known in the past -- but no one has forgotten the Viper era, the Aston Martin era, Ferrari era, and the Saleen era. I've been in many meetings with executives of car companies as I tried to attract GT1 competition into the series, and I wish I had a dollar for every time it was explained to me that there is such a dominant organization in GT1 that it's just not feasible to compete. While it was hard to take at the time, it's an incredible compliment that never gets written about in the papers or comes across on TV, but I can tell you that it's absolute fact.
"To everyone at Corvette Racing, a heartfelt thanks for a decade of involvement," Atherton concluded. "I can't tell you how much we're looking forward to the debut of the Corvette in GT2 at Mid-Ohio in a very competitive environment."
The Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach is scheduled to start at 4:15 p.m. PT on Saturday, April 18. The one-hour, 40-minute race will be televised by ABC on April 19 at 12:30 p.m. ET.