Bowtie Bullet Points: Chevy Notes for Infineon Raceway
50th Corvette C5-R race celebrated with Earnhardt, Jr. and Said in third car
SONOMA, Calif. - The General Motors Chevrolet Corvette C5-R will celebrate its 50th race this weekend at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. Since 1999, the legendary sports racing car has won 29 races in 49 events, including an overall victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona, three GTS victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and three ALMS GTS championships. Four races into the 2004 season, Corvette is undefeated after wins at Sebring, Le Mans, Mid-Ohio and Lime Rock.
Earnhardt, Jr. and Said racing #8 Corvette C5-R For the first time in the history of the Corvette Racing program, the team has entered a third car for this weekend's race, with Chevrolet NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and road racing specialist Boris Said behind the wheel of the #8 Corvette C5-R. The event will reunite Dale Earnhardt, Jr. with the Corvette Racing team, a bond that began at the 2001 running of the 24 Hours of Daytona, where Earnhardt, Jr. and his father, the late Dale Earnhardt, finished fourth overall in their first ever sports car race. Boris Said is a renowned sports car racer and has found considerable success as an expert on NASCAR's road circuits; Said won the pole position for GM at the NASCAR Winston Cup event at Sonoma in 2003.
Engineering Challenges of Racing Three Corvettes
Entering three Corvettes for a race translates into a third more of everything-from haulers to personnel to tires and wheels. From a setup perspective, it creates both a challenge and an opportunity for the team's engineers. "With on-track data from Mid-Ohio and Lime Rock as well as comprehensive simulation results, tuning the cars for this race should be a fun process," said Doug Louth, engineering manager for the Corvette Racing program. "This is especially convenient with the addition of the third car for Dale Jr. and Boris. Our baseline vehicle configuration should be very close, allowing us to focus on getting the new guys maximum track time in the first practice. Later in the session, we plan to implement lessons-learned from the #3 and #4 cars, then do more specific tuning for the #8 Corvette for Saturday."
50th Corvette C5-R Race
This weekend's event at Sonoma marks the factory Chevrolet team's 50th race. The program launched in 1999 at the 24 Hours of Daytona, where Ron Fellows, Chris Kneifel and John Paul, Jr. took a remarkable third place finish in their class in the #2 Corvette C5-R after completing 600 laps. While Fellows has taken each and every start for the Corvette C5-R since its inception, another Corvette driver remembers the debut of the Chevrolets at Daytona back in 1999, albeit from a different perpective. Olivier Beretta was then running for the factory-supported Dodge Viper program and remembers seeing the Corvettes on the track for the first time at Daytona. "When I saw the car roll onto the track, I was very happy to see another big muscle car coming into the championship," said Beretta. "I liked the noise of the car the first time I heard it on the track, because it was something very unusual. Those were great times when the factory Vipers and Corvettes raced together, and it was very close and very fun."
New Qualifying Format
The American Le Mans Series is introducing a new form of "single-car" qualifying for this weekend's event. The new qualifying format, which is in a one-race trial at Sonoma, is designed to increase the drama of competition by giving drivers more of an opportunity to post their best lap times on a track clear of traffic. Unlike single-car qualifying formats used in many other forms of racing, the format for the ALMS will have multiple cars on the track at the same time, dispatched individually at specific intervals timed to maximize the opportunity for each car to have clear track. The cars will be lined up for qualifying in reverse order of the fastest lap achieved by each car in the practice session immediately prior to qualifying. The fastest cars will therefore by placed at the end of the line, building drama during the qualifying session while drivers compete for the overall pole as well as individual class poles. Each car will get a total of four laps on the track during the qualifying session, including its out lap, two flying laps and an in-lap. Previously, qualifying for the ALMS races had been conducted in two 20-minute sessions, one for the production-based GTS and GT cars and the other for the two Prototype classes. Cars could run as many laps as possible during the 20 minutes with the fastest counting as its qualifying time.
Corvette Fans to Converge on Infineon
IMSA, the sanctioning body for the American Le Mans Series, has joined with the Western States Corvette Council (WSCC) and the National Corvette Museum to produce Corvette Caravans that will bring hundreds of the exotic American sports cars to the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma. The WSCC is made up of 33 Corvette clubs with a membership of more than 2000 Corvette owners and enthusiasts. Because of the strong presence of Corvette in the ALMS, and the strong ALMS fan base among Corvette owners, a partnership for Corvette Caravans to the ALMS event was a natural. "This is a great opportunity for Corvette owners and enthusiasts to get together to not only enjoy a weekend of racing and a Corvette Corral at the track, but also to demonstrate their love of Corvettes in caravans to the track," said the event's organizer, Buzz Marston. "We appreciate what Infineon Raceway, Corvette Racing, IMSA and the ALMS have done to encourage and welcome us and we look forward to a spectacular event."
Corvettes Fastest In Friday and Saturday Practice
The three factory Corvettes set the fastest times in the GTS class during practice sessions on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. All three Corvettes eclipsed the previous qualifying record of 1:30.609, which was set by Corvette driver Oliver Gavin in 2003.
The Corvette Racing team will qualify on Saturday at 2:15 p.m.