Corvette Racing Maintains Lead at Midpoint of 24 Hours of Le Mans
No. 74 Corvette Holds 75-Second Advantage in GTE at 12 Hours
LE MANS, France, June 12, 2011 – Corvette Racing continued to set the pace in the GTE class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After 12 hours of racing, the No. 74 Compuware Corvette C6.R had a one-minute, 15-second lead over the No. 51 Ferrari 458 Italia. The No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R was running fourth with 149 laps completed at 3 a.m.
A two-hour, 22-minute safety car period to repair the guardrail after a hard impact by the No. 1 Audi interrupted the racing at the 7:40 mark. Oliver Gavin circulated behind the safety car in the class-leading No. 74 Corvette, while Olivier Beretta was at the wheel of the No. 73 Corvette.
"That's the longest stint I've ever done here, 37 or 38 laps, a lot of those under caution," said Gavin. "The main thing is we're still in the lead. When we're racing, the car's getting better and better, we've made some headway. As the circuit's rubbered in, we've been able to capitalize on that. The BMWs have run into some trouble, but the Ferraris and Porsches are right there. We've got to keep on doing what we've been doing."
Gavin succeeded Richard Westbrook in the leading Corvette. "The track is very tricky, there's not a lot of grip out there," said Westbrook. "We're struggling with it, but it seems that everyone is. We're making a few tweaks on the pit stops, and I think the team is on it. It's early days, though, there's really not much point in even looking at the leader board. If we're first, second, or third at the moment it doesn't really matter. The main thing is we're in the mix and we've made no mistakes."
As darkness fell on the circuit, the Corvette Racing engineering team anticipated the changes that cooler temperatures would bring. "Of the various phases of the race, 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. is the biggest struggle to keep the cars working for our guys," said engineering director Doug Louth. "Dropping track temperatures, tire pressure adjustments, various setup tweaks, and six drivers doing their best to adapt behind the wheel make this a fluid portion of the race with many ups and downs. Double- or triple-stinting tires make it all the more complex, as these decisions need to be based on projections for temperatures and conditions four to six hours out.
"As it gets dark, it takes a while for the entire field to adjust to the visibility – there is typically a lot of dirt and gravel spread around for a few hours and more than a few cars will fall out," Louth said. "Around 2-3 a.m. the race starts settling back in, the track cleans up, and the conditions are prime as the sun comes up. Le Mans is held during one of the shortest night of the year, but morning is still a long way away right now."
-source: corvette racing