Corvettes Set Fastest Times in Friday Practice Session The General Motors Chevrolet Corvette Racing team set the fastest times in the GTS class during Friday's one-hour, 45-minute practice session before the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma. Ron ...
Corvettes Set Fastest Times in Friday Practice Session
The General Motors Chevrolet Corvette Racing team set the fastest times in the GTS class during Friday's one-hour, 45-minute practice session before the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma. Ron Fellows, driving the #3 Compuware Corvette C5-R, posted a best time of 1:31:861, or 99.150 mph. The GTS champion's time is notable in light of new rule changes that restrict engine power for this season; his time today comes very close to the circuit's GTS qualifying record of 1:31:582, which Fellows set in 2002. Along with teammate Johnny O'Connell, Fellows will try to capture a third straight class victory at Sonoma in the team's new race cars. "We're happy with the way our new cars ran in practice today," said Doug Fehan, GM's program manager for Corvette Racing. "It shows that our team has not rested on its laurels after our victory in Atlanta. We're running some new tire compounds from Goodyear and I believe our new shifting mechanism, which for the first time allows each driver to keep his foot planted flat on the floor through up-shifts, will serve us well throughout this weekend." The newly designed #3 and #4 Corvettes made their first appearance during June's 24 Hours of Le Mans race, where the team recorded a fourth-straight podium finish. Corvette Racing is undefeated in the American Le Mans Series in 2003 and leads the drivers' and manufacturers' championship in the GTS class.
Corvette Racing Honors Briggs Cunningham
The Corvette Racing team will honor the memory of American sports car racing pioneer Briggs Swift Cunningham during the running of this weekend's Grand Prix of Sonoma. The two factory Corvettes, along with other entrants in the ALMS race, will run decals with the initials "BSC" during the event in memory of Cunningham, who died weeks ago at the age of 96. Cunningham was a proponent of international sports car competition during the infancy of road racing in North America, and was responsible for Corvette's first appearance at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race. In 1960, Cunningham fielded a team of three Corvettes at the Le Sarthe circuit; while two of the team's cars experienced problems throughout the race, the team of John Fitch and Bob Grossman continued to circle the immense course, running as high as seventh during a cold and rainy night. In the waning hours of the race, the engine overheated and lost coolant but regulations prohibited the team from refilling the radiator. Yankee ingenuity triumphed when team manager Alfred Momo ordered the crew to pack the engine with ice from the team's catering tent. Driving at reduced speed, the ice-cooled Chevy small-block powered the Cunningham team to an eighth-place finish overall and first in the big-bore GT class -- the best finish by the American brand until the arrival of the factory-backed Corvette Racing program. Today, Cunningham's legend lives on in the #3 and #4 C5-Rs, the most winning Corvettes in history.
Sonoma drive familiar for Fellows
At the recent NASCAR Winston Cup race in Sonoma, #3 Corvette C5-R driver Ron Fellows led over 20 laps behind the wheel of a Pennzoil Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. After starting third in the event, he had passed eventual winner Robby Gordon and was leading when an ill-timed caution flag put him well back in the field. After making up some positions once racing resumed, he was hit from behind and spun while coming to take another caution flag. With laps winding down, Fellows fought his way back to finish seventh, the best finish for the #1 Pennzoil car all season and overall the best ever team finish for DEI at Infineon Raceway. To date, Fellows already has an impressive record in NASCAR racing: he has three wins and two poles out of five Busch Series starts and two wins and three poles in 14 Craftsmen Truck Series starts. He will race in the #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet later this season during NASCAR's Winston Cup race at Watkins Glen.
Despite the fact that he just raced at Infineon Raceway a month ago, Fellows expects no advantage when the ALMS machines take to the track this weekend. "Track time is track time, but the cars are so different," said Fellows. "Winston Cup car vs. Corvette, there's 1,000 pounds difference in weight, probably 1,000 pounds difference in downforce, plus two inches more Goodyear tire on the Corvette. It's just a very different car to drive."
In addition, NASCAR uses a shorter course at Infineon Raceway, while the American Le Mans Series utilizes the full 2.53-mile circuit.
Collins Victory Streak
With his storming drive through the GTS pack to capture the lead at the recent Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta, #4 Corvette C5-R driver Kelly Collins became one of only two drivers in ALMS history to have won a race in all five seasons that the series has existed. In his previous role as a factory Porsche driver, Collins won the 1999 12 Hours of Sebring in a 911 RSR and made a name for himself in the GT class before joining the Corvette team a year later. He is currently tied for first place in the GTS drivers' championship.
Corvette Leads ALMS Point Standings
Coming off an impressive GTS victory at the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta, which maintained Corvette Racing's undefeated streak in the American Le Mans Series, GM's premier factory racing program heads into this weekend's Grand Prix of Sonoma at the top of the ALMS point standings. The driver and manufacturer standings are as follows:
Chevrolet achieved another motorsports milestone last Sunday when Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo, won the New England 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway, scoring Chevrolet's 400th victory of the modern era (1972-present) in NASCAR Winston Cup competition.
Chevrolet's 400th victory continued the winning tradition that began with Bobby Allison's win at Atlanta International Raceway on March 26, 1972. As the most successful nameplate in professional stock car racing since 1972, Chevrolet has carried more drivers to Winston Cup championships than any other manufacturer and Monte Carlo has won more NASCAR races than any car in history.
Chevrolet drivers are racing in four major motorsports series this weekend: the ALMS Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma, the Indy Racing League Firestone Indy 400, the Pennsylvania 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race in Long Pond, Pa. and the NHRA Carquest Auto Parts Nationals in Seattle. Chevrolet is the only manufacturer currently competing in the ALMS, Indy Racing League, NASCAR Winston Cup and NHRA.