Road Atlanta: Corvette Racing race report

Corvette Racing concluded its first full season in the ultra-competitive GT2 category with a victory tonight in the 13th running of Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Going into the final lap, the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R driven by Oliver Gavin...

Corvette Racing concluded its first full season in the ultra-competitive GT2 category with a victory tonight in the 13th running of Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Going into the final lap, the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R driven by Oliver Gavin was trailing Toni Vilander in the class-leading No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari by 10 seconds. With a low-fuel alarm flashing on his own instrument panel, Gavin watched incredulously as the Ferrari slowed on the back straight as it ran out of E85 fuel. Gavin then raced across the finish line 5.763 seconds ahead of the runner-up No. 01 Ferrari of Dominick Farnbacher, which also passed Vilander's hapless Ferrari.

Gavin had stopped for a splash of fuel on lap 347, and the Ferrari pitted four laps later. The red car stumbled as it left the pits, but retained its slim lead. After the turn of fortune seven laps later, the checkered flag signaled Corvette Racing's first win in 2010.

"After our last fuel stop, I hoped I'd have enough to get to the end," Gavin said. "Then the fuel alarm came on with a lap and a half to go, and Chuck Houghton, my engineer, was telling me to save fuel, save fuel. As I came onto the back straight on the last lap, I could see a Ferrari weaving, and as I went by, I thought, 'That's the leader!' I came across the line and Chuck said, 'Yeah, we won!'

"It's an amazing result!" Gavin exclaimed. "Everyone on the team and back at the shop kept on believing in us, the drivers, the crew, the engineers. I'm so happy for everyone involved."

There was nothing "petit" about the clash in the GT2 class at Petit Le Mans. In fact, it was a battle royal for 9 hours and 10 minutes between Corvette, Ferrari, BMW, and Porsche, fought over the hills and valleys of the 2.54-mile circuit in the Georgia countryside. The winning No. 4 Corvette driven by Gavin, Jan Magnussen, and Emmanuel Collard completed 355 laps (902 miles) in the season finale of the 2010 American Le Mans Series. The No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R driven by Johnny O'Connell, Olivier Beretta, and Antonio Garcia finished sixth with 354 laps. With seven previous victories in the GTS/GT1 division, Corvette Racing has now won eight times in the American endurance racing classic that's based on the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The victory earned an automatic invitation to Le Mans in 2011 for the Chevrolet team.

"I've never won a race like that," Magnussen said. "It's about time that luck went our way. It's been a tough year for the whole Corvette team, and I think it's very fitting that the stars aligned and everything happened our way today. We worked mega-hard all race, Olly and Emmanuel did a fantastic job, and so did the whole crew. I still can't believe it."

Magnussen started sixth on the GT2 grid, and moved to fifth on the first lap. He was second by the 24th lap, and held that position until the second round of pit stops at 1:29 into the race. Gavin took the No. 4 to the front on the 78th lap, and held P1 through his double stint. Collard replaced Gavin at 3:51, and Magnussen was back in at 5:23 with the Corvette in fifth position. The see-saw battle continued for hours as the frontrunners cycled through their pit stops and driver changes. The No. 3 Corvette also led in the seventh hour until surrendering the point during its ninth pit stop.

"The racing was as close as it could be," said team manager Gary Pratt. "It felt like that all race long, gaining or losing a tenth of a second at a time. We'd stop, somebody else would be on a different strategy, and we'd go from first to fifth. Through it all, nobody on the team ever gave up."

Magnussen handed off the No. 4 Corvette to Gavin while running second at the eight-hour mark with 303 laps completed. The Englishman cut the Ferrari's lead to 5 seconds, but then eased off to conserve his tires. Gavin pitted for fuel at nine hours, and the Ferrari then made its fateful stop five minutes later.

"It was an awesome night for Corvette Racing and a great way to finish the season," said O'Connell. "It doesn't get any more exciting than that. When one Corvette wins, the whole team wins. You always want it to be your car, but I'm really stoked for the entire team. You want to have good feelings when you go into the off-season, and this will definitely do that."

Corvette Racing returned to the ALMS winner's circle for the first time since its inaugural GT2 win at Mosport International Raceway in August 2009.

"Louis Chevrolet's motto was 'Never give up!' and I think those words are very fitting tonight," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "This race came right down to the last lap, but we never gave up, and we stuck to our plan. We're back!"

-source: gm

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