Gavin Sets the Pace in GTE Pro in No. 74 Corvette C6.R; Taylor Walks Away from Encounter with Tire Wall in No. 73 Corvette C6.R
LE MANS, France, June 3, 2012 – Corvette Racing ended the Le Mans Test Day first and fourth in the GTE Pro category. Oliver Gavin ran the quickest lap in the two four-hour sessions at 3:58.971 in the No. 74 Compuware Corvette C6.R, more than half a second quicker than the car's qualifying pace last year. The No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R covered the 8.5-mile circuit in 4:00.062, the fourth fastest time in the production-based class, before being sidelined by an encounter with a tire wall.
"We made some changes to the suspension and gearbox, and the track was coming in," said Gavin after his fast lap. "The balance of the car was good. We didn't get a run on new tires because of rain and yellow flags, but the tires were reasonably fresh and I wanted to see what we could do. I think the chassis is very close and the engine department is making big steps forward. I'm with the best team in the pit lane and the crew has done a stellar job of preparing the cars."
At the top of the team's to-do list was qualifying rookie Jordan Taylor to drive the No. 73 Corvette at Le Mans. After co-driving the GT class-winning Camaro GT.R in the Chevrolet Grand-Am Detroit 200 on Saturday, the 21-year-old racer took an overnight flight to Paris and then hopped on a helicopter to Le Mans. He arrived at the circuit just before the start of the afternoon session at 2 p.m., and promptly completed his required 10 laps.
Taylor's Le Mans debut then ended abruptly in the tire wall at the entrance to the Porsche Curves. Taylor was uninjured, but the No. 73 Corvette had right-side body damage and did not return for the remainder of the afternoon session.
"Racing takes you from the highest highs to the lowest lows," Taylor said. "I was living the dream, driving at Le Mans, and the dream just ends when you lose it like that. I know the crew can put the car back together, but it shouldn't have happened.
"I was only supposed to get my 10 laps in and I guess I got a bit greedy trying to learn the track and get up to speed quicker," he explained. "My times were coming down every lap, but I went for it in the Porsche Curves and it caught me out. The hit felt bigger than it was, so I'm glad about that, but I feel terrible for everyone."
Before the accident, Taylor's co-drivers Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia put the No. 73 Corvette close to the 4-minute mark on a day that saw a mix of rain, sun, clouds and blue sky.
"All's good," Garcia said. "We have been trying different things today, getting the 2012-spec car dialed in to this track. At Le Mans, every lap always counts, even if it rains for a while. You never know what the weather and track conditions will be in qualifying and the race, so you try to get as much information today to work with next week when it matters. Compared to last year, the new car is a major improvement.”
Magnussen agreed: "Overall we’re in much better shape than last year at the same time thanks to the development the team did over winter," he said. "The balance is very good and the car is user-friendly which is important in a long race. The starting point is the best I've had in a long time, and I'm really happy."
Richard Westbrook, third driver in the No. 74 Corvette, was unable to attend the Test Day, but Gavin and Tommy Milner are confident that the car will suit all of its drivers. "It's always good when your car number is on the top of the timing screen," Milner said. "Compared to last year, the driveability of the car is better and the speed is there. This team is working very well together – the engineers, the crew, and the drivers are all in tune and have the same mindset. When race week arrives, we can focus on getting into a rhythm, getting Richard comfortable in the car, and go on from there."
Team manager Gary Pratt, a veteran of 12 Le Mans campaigns with Corvette Racing, knows what to expect at this race. "This place will jump up and bite you in a hurry," Pratt said. "That's the first mistake I've seen Jordan make. Tire walls look like they do a lot of damage, but it's mostly exterior panels so it's not a big deal. We'll have the No. 73 Corvette fixed and be ready to go again.
"All of the drivers are really comfortable with the cars," Pratt noted. "They feel they can be aggressive and attack the course. That's a great way to have a car to start the race. We may sacrifice a little on the straightaway to have the cars good in the corners, and I think that's better for the race."
Corvette Racing's next event is the 24 Hours of Le Mans in Le Mans, France, on June 16-17. The 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours will begin with technical scrutineering on Sunday and Monday, June 10-11, followed by practice and qualifying on Wednesday, June 13, and Thursday, June 14. The race will start Saturday at 3 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET). SPEED and SPEED.com will provide continuous coverage starting at 8:30 a.m. ET on June 16; see local listings for program times.