CORVETTE'S FELLOWS: DON'T COUNT US OUT Le Mans, France - The calm before the storm settled in at the Sarthe region of France on Friday, a day before the start of the 73rd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. With American Le Mans Series teams ...
CORVETTE'S FELLOWS: DON'T COUNT US OUT
Le Mans, France - The calm before the storm settled in at the Sarthe region of France on Friday, a day before the start of the 73rd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. With American Le Mans Series teams solidly entrenched in their classes following qualifying Thursday, several teams spent Friday working on race setups before the world's greatest sports car race starts Saturday.
One of the more intriguing storylines is the revival of the battle between Corvette Racing and Aston Martin Racing. The two teams are going head-to-head for the first time since Aston Martin won at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The two-car effort qualified 1-2 at Le Mans, while the Corvettes will start third and fifth.
But there continues to be little panicking in the Corvette camp as the team continues its methodical prerace plan. He said the No. 63 C6-R he'll drive with Johnny O'Connell and Max Papis is faster than the 3:55.914 it posted in qualifying.
"(The Aston Martins) are showing tremendous straight-line speed and acceleration out of the corners," Fellow said. "They've obviously done something since Sebring, when they were still very good, until now . or else they were keeping their 'A' game under the hood. We're just going to have to outlast them."
And how best to accomplish that, Ron? "The strength of Corvette Racing has been its durability and teamwork, particularly on longer run races," he answered. "We are in a fight for sure. Ironically, our biggest advantage may be when we are stopped since our pit stops are so strong. Our guys take a lot of pride and have worked very hard to perfect speedy, efficient pit stops. It's kinda funny to think that we may actually gain ground while we're not racing, being able to make up time lost on the track for time gained in the pits."
A HEAVY BURDEN: Mike Peters, crew chief for Champion Racing, reminded everyone that the added 50 kilograms of weight the team's two Audi R8s are carrying at Le Mans aren't just reducing speed. "Over 24 hours, that means more stress and strain," he said. "More stress on the tires and brakes, more sensitive to setup, accelerating, the clutches and gearboxes."
Peters also said the No. 2 entry of Allan McNish, Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro very well could have been switched with the No. 3 entry of JJ Lehto, Marco Werner and Tom Kristensen.
"The only difference between the two cars was one got a clear track and the other did not," Peters said. "That's the luck of Le Mans. They are both very similar. Taking a third was a pleasant surprise; eighth was expected."
WELCOME TO LE MANS: This is the first race at Le Mans for both Miracle Motorsports and Flying Lizard Motorsports. Needless to say, both squads have been awestruck by the entire Le Mans experience.
"You cannot appreciate the scope of this until you are here. I've waited a long time to get here, and it's been quite an emotional experience for me," said John Macaluso, owner of Miracle Motorsports and one of the drivers of the No. 34 Courage. "A lot of times, in a first-time effort of this magnitude, you get a lot of 'hurry, scurry', but our guys have just been out doing our stuff. We've had a lot to learn since this was our first time here, but I think we have learned a lot. "
Johannes van Overbeek, one of the drivers in the No. 80 Flying Lizard Porsche, couldn't have agreed more. "My impressions far have exceed any previous thoughts I may have had about this place," he said. "Everything about this place is bigger than any prior experience I've ever had in racing. One can't help but be struck by the sheer enormity of this event. I've walked from the team hotel to the track every day I've been here, and it's been amazing to see this huge city spout with huge legions of fans."
It's a common feeling most first-timers have, according ALMS President and CEO Scott Atherton, at Le Mans this week himself.
"Until you've been here, you can't imagine the enormity of this event," he said. "There is no other motorsports race in the world like this. The excitement, the drama, the fans, the spectacle is unparalleled."
LEO'S CHECKLIST: Leo Hindery, one of the drivers of the GT2 pole-sitting No. 71 Alex Job Racing Porsche, knows a couple of things about racing at Le Mans, having been there every year since 2002. And he's boiled down the formula for success in the 24-hour race.
"There are four things you have to have to do well here," he said. "You must do your research, have great equipment, have good drivers and have luck. You try to control the first three and then sometimes have to depend on the fourth one."
So far, so good. The AJR Porsche has been nearly flawless at Le Mans as Mike Rockenfeller took the class pole with a 4:05.326. "Mike actually only ran one timed lap (on which he qualified for the pole) since he simply kept coming in saying it wasn't quite right yet, allowing our guys to work on making it right," Hindery said. "They pulled that car apart trying to find something they had missed and it paid off. There are a thousand steps and you just have to keep going over things again and again."
The real test starts Saturday, of course, with the start of the 24 Hours. Win or lose, Hindery said he has enjoyed this year's edition, which already has been a memorable one.
"Our pole is a real testament to partnership and friendship. I can't emphasize that enough. It's a compliment to the whole AJR-BAM! team, along with Yokohama and Porsche," he said. "Every group has pulled together to make this happen. That's how you get and keep the privateer engaged, and having two privateers 1-2 in this class (Flying Lizards second) is a real tribute to what partnership and friendship lend to the equation."
AROUND THE PADDOCK: The No. 90 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche spent much of the day Friday in a body shop 35 kilometers from the track in an effort to repair damage sustained during qualifying Thursday night. As Jorg Bergmeister began his first fast lap, "something happened" just as he went under the Dunlop Bridge, and he made contact with the rail. All indications up to that time were that the Petersen/White Lightning team would be as fast - or faster - than it was in practice a week ago when it posted the GT2 class' fastest lap.Aston Martin indicated at a press conference that there could be three to six Aston Martin teams running in the American Le Mans Series next season. It has received inquires from several viable privateer groups.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans gets the green flag at 10 a.m. EDT Saturday. SPEED Channel will provide the live broadcast, starting at 9:30 a.m..
The next race for the American Le Mans Series is the New England Grand Prix, set for 3 p.m. July 4 at Lime Rock Park. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED (3 to 6 p.m. EDT) and on MotorsTV in Europe, reaching 40 million viewers in 21 countries as well as at www.americanlemans.com.