SALT LAKE CITY, May 17, 2008 & ...
SALT LAKE CITY, May 17, 2008 – With Utah's snow-capped mountains as a backdrop, Olivier Beretta turned in a peak performance in qualifying for Sunday's American Le Mans Series Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix. The five-time series champion from Monaco drove his No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R to a fast time of 1:43.869 (105.641 mph) to edge Johnny O'Connell in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R by .175-second.
Beretta and O'Connell waged a seesaw battle for the GT1 pole as Beretta was quicker on the first flying lap and O'Connell took the point on the second circuit. On the decisive third lap, O'Connell was first across the finish line, but an instant later Beretta's name flashed in the top spot on the scoring screen.
"Mike West, my crew chief, told me on my second lap that I was behind Johnny, so I said to myself, 'OK, this is the last lap, I must do the maximum that I can,'" said Beretta. "My Corvette C6.R was perfect, so the quick lap time came."
A new course configuration that shortened the Miller Motorsports Park circuit to 3.048 miles saw lap times in the GT1 division drop by nearly a minute from last year's pole-winning run.
"It's good to be quick for three qualifying laps, but the car must be quick and comfortable for the whole race," Beretta noted. "This is the last preparation for the big race in Le Mans, so we have been testing and everything is working well. There is always strong competition between the No. 3 and No. 4 Corvette on the track, but we are always working together to find out what can help us for Le Mans. That is the one race we really want to win."
The No. 3 Corvette of O'Connell and Jan Magnussen had set the pace in practice, but the qualifying session was held during the hottest conditions so far, with 88-degree air temperature and 118-degree track temperature. The forecast calls for 90-degree heat in tomorrow's two-hour, 45-minute race.
"I'm disappointed with the way qualifying worked out because I think we have a very fast Corvette race car," said O'Connell. "Qualifying is so important, but this race is really about preparing for Le Mans. We're learning a lot about the Michelin tires and how our car responds.
"Even though the weather is hot, the heat inside the cockpit isn't too bad because the GM air conditioning system is working great. Both Corvettes are working each other really hard, and it will be a good race on Sunday."
The twin Corvette race cars are scheduled to be flown across the Atlantic just days after the Salt Lake City race as they begin their journey to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
"The cars have came through unscathed so far, and that's our main objective this weekend," reported Steve Wesoloski, GM Racing Road Racing Group manager. "We've achieved good top speeds with the cellulosic E85R ethanol at this track so the new fuel is working really well for us. We're also working on muffler development in view of the sound restrictions at Le Mans, and it looks like we'll have good horsepower when we go to France."
-credit: gm racing