Corvette Racing Kicks Off Second Half of ALMS Season in Portland PORTLAND, Ore. - With five races down and five races to go, this weekend's American Le Mans Portland Grand Prix marks the start of the second half of the 10-race ALMS season for ...
Corvette Racing Kicks Off Second Half of ALMS Season in Portland
PORTLAND, Ore. - With five races down and five races to go, this weekend's American Le Mans Portland Grand Prix marks the start of the second half of the 10-race ALMS season for Corvette Racing. Recent rule revisions will affect GM's factory team in upcoming events as the playing field tilts at Portland International Raceway.
In horse racing, it's commonplace to handicap entries based on their track records. Auto racing has its own forms of handicapping. After a string of 1-2 finishes by Corvette Racing's new Compuware C6.R race cars, competitors in the GT1 class were granted performance enhancements ranging from larger intake restrictors to wider rear wings. Although the new regulations took effect at the preceding round at Infineon Raceway, their impact will become apparent on PIR's long straights and sweeping curves.
"The competition adjustments should provide a significant advantage to our competitors at Portland because of the high-speed nature of the race track," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "The effects of additional power were masked somewhat at Infineon Raceway because that track puts a premium on handling. Our rivals have now had time to work on their engine calibrations, and I expect they will have 50 to 60 more horsepower. That will present a new challenge for Corvette Racing, while at the same time producing exciting and entertaining racing for ALMS fans at future events."
In addition, the ACO has mandated that the Corvettes carry an additional 25 kilograms, effective August 10. The extra weight will be on board for the seventh round of the ALMS series at Road America.
"As a racer, you always want more competition, I think we're going to see that in the GT1 class in the second half of the season," said driver Ron Fellows. "The next three races are at tracks where power is critical - Portland, Road America, and Mosport. We'll have to do everything we can to maximize the handling and braking of the C6.R to be competitive."
"I've always enjoyed racing at Portland International Raceway since my days in the Trans Am series," Fellows reported. "I even ran a NASCAR Craftsman Truck event at PIR in 1999, racing against Greg Biffle when he was a local hero before he went to the Nextel Cup.
"It's a fast, flat power track with a long straightaway," he noted. "Certainly the first series of corners are all about handling, but after that it's predominantly about horsepower. The surface is slick and grip is at a premium, especially when the track is hot. We've fared very well with the Michelin tires in hot conditions, but there is always a fine line between going fast and going off the road. The heat may not be as big a factor this year with the race starting at 5 o'clock."
Midterm Report Card
Corvette Racing has earned high marks since the introduction of the new C6.R. The twin yellow Corvettes have finished first and second in every race since the second round of the ALMS series at Road Atlanta.
"In 2004, we raced to an undefeated season while quietly developing a brand-new car for 2005," Fehan remarked. "The competitiveness of the new C6.R speaks to the quality of the Corvette Racing engineering staff and race team. The C6.R was fast and reliable right out of the box."
At the midpoint of the championship chase, Corvette Racing's Fellows and Johnny O'Connell lead the GT1 drivers' standings with 98 points, with teammates Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta in second at 87 points. Chevrolet leads the manufacturers championship with 102 points, a 37-point margin over its closest rival.
"I give Corvette Racing an 'A' for the first half of the season," said Fellows, "We've had some great races, and although we've been chiefly battling our teammates, that could change in the second half. There has been a good balance between the two Corvettes; one race goes in favor of the No. 3 Corvette, and the next race in favor of the No. 4 car.
"Le Mans was certainly the highlight of the year," he declared. "A 1-2 finish after a classic battle with Aston Martin was a testament to the strength of the team and the Corvette C6.R."
Gavin agreed: "Le Mans was such an excellent race," said the three-time Le Mans winner. "It was the culmination of hard work by everyone on the team. After such a mighty battle with Aston Martin, it was so sweet to win it.
"The first half of the ALMS season has been up and down for Olivier and me," Gavin conceded. "We're going confidently into the second half of the season because there are several circuits that suit our style of driving. With the training and experience Olivier and I had in formula cars in Europe, we tend to be aggressive in our approach to the car setup."
Oliver's Excellent Adventure
Gavin elected to spend the days between the Sonoma and Portland rounds of the ALMS in California rather than make another transatlantic commute to his home in England. Gavin and countryman James Weaver, driver of Dyson Racing's LMP1 prototype, made the rounds of Northern California's attractions.
"For several days we stayed in Napa where I continued my training for my next marathon in September," he reported. "James decided he wanted to see Lake Tahoe, so we drove there and back in a day - that's a 500-mile drive for lunch. We took in a Mark Knopfler concert in Berkeley, and toured the Alcatraz prison in San Francisco Bay. I was tempted to lock James in a cell and leave him there, but the authorities wouldn't allow it."
The Portland Grand Prix, the sixth round of the 2005 American Le Mans Series, is set for July 28-30 at Portland International Raceway. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel from 8 to 11 p.m. EDT on July 30, the first time an ALMS race has been televised in prime time.