BRASELTON, Ga. (September 30 - Final) - Coming off a win in its most recent American Le Mans Series race, the Grand Prix of Texas, Team Corvette made it two in a row today with a stirring win in the series' premier race, the Petit Le Mans at...
BRASELTON, Ga. (September 30 - Final) - Coming off a win in its most recent American Le Mans Series race, the Grand Prix of Texas, Team Corvette made it two in a row today with a stirring win in the series' premier race, the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
After racing nearly 1,000 miles and a little over 9 hours, it took a daring pass of the #92 Dodge Viper by Andy Pilgrim in the #4 Corvette C5-R to claim the victory. The class win earns Corvette an exemption from pre-qualifying for next year's 24 Hours of Le Mans and an invitation to the 69th running of this historic sports-car race. The #3 Corvette C5-R with drivers Ron Fellows, Chris Kneifel and Justin Bell battled back from losing a lap early in the race from an ill-timed caution flag to also claim a podium finish. It was an all-Corvette front row to start the 10-hour/1,000-mile race as both the pole-sitting #3 C5-R and the #4 C5-R both broke the existing track record in qualifying.
ANDY PILGRIM (#4 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Corvette C5-R) - "It was a great race. You've got to thank this Corvette because I thrashed it unmercifully during that last double stint. We knew we had to make up time on the #3 Corvette and the 92 car, and we lucked out a little bit with that yellow at the end, but the car stayed under me and the Goodyear tires stayed under me.
"And the pass. It was a question of I knew I could get to him, but could I pass him and make it stick. With two laps to go it was like now or never. I came out of (Turn) 12 with a good run on Tommy (Archer) down to Turn 1 and he moved to the middle to block. I moved back to the left to try and fake him out, like I wouldn't be dumb enough to do that in Turn 1, and as soon as we hit the brake zone I dived the car back to the right and went underneath.
"I think I might've surprised him - I don't think he expected me to go by him there. He said it took the air off the front of his car and he lost all the front downforce and went off the track. When I got to the top of the hill I couldn't see lights and I thought so I ran like an idiot all through the esses thinking, 'My gosh, he's so close to me I can't even see him.' I didn't realize he had run off the track - I thought he was right on my rear. I had to laugh to myself when I realized he wasn't there.
We didn't really come together at all. And I have to respect the Team Oreca guys for racing me clean with a teammate out front. I had to pass the 93 car and he made it a little difficult, but not too bad, and the 91car didn't give me any trouble at all. You want to beat one of the best teams out there, and now I think we're right there with them. It's incredibly competitive out there. I mean, after 10 hours of hard racing you're right there battling for the lead with two laps to go. It wouldn't feel so good if they weren't so good. What a great feeling."
KELLY COLLINS (#4 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Corvette C5-R) - "I'd like to say to our team and my other two drivers, Andy and Franck, we came out of the box slugging. We had our heads down, we were focused and we didn't let up. We went through a lot of adversity. We had a wheel nut get cross-threaded, we had a question with Timing & Scoring similar to what David Brabham was just talking about, but the three of us just kept our heads down and our team never let us feel like we had lost the race, and we just kept going. Andy did a fantastic job there at the end, and that was racing. It doesn't get any better than that - that's good theatre."
FRANCK FREON (#4 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Corvette C5-R) - "I think this is great for GM, it's great for Chevrolet, it's great for Corvette. I think it's even sweeter because we had such an experienced competitor in The Viper team. They've won races, they've won championships, so to win is great, but to win against three factory Vipers, I think that's extremely good for GM and Chevrolet.
"This car (the #4 Corvette C5-R) is a new car and hit the track for the first time on Wednesday. So the Pratt & Miller guys are really fantastic to put that car together. And being French, we didn't win Le Mans, but we finished third and fourth and got a podium finish which was great for the Corvette team for the first time. So to win Petit Le Mans is even sweeter for me since it's a big connection to France."
CHRIS KNEIFEL (#3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Corvette C5-R) - "Despite some of the problems the 3 car had, I'd like to take a step back and take a look at the big picture. This was a fantastic day for Corvette Racing, Corvette supporters, everyone involved. That's what's important, that the team is successful and we have the opportunity to win races, and when it happens in a dramatic fashion like with Andy and the 92 car, that's even better. For Goodyear, Corvette, and all the Corvette fans that came here, this is great and it's only going to get better."
RON FELLOWS (#3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Corvette C5-R) - "We just seemed to be chasing the balance of the car a little bit all day. We were fast for awhile, but couldn't seem to stay consistently quick. But we made some tire pressure adjustments and reached a point where we were more consistent, but about an hour from the end it looks like a broken header might've burned through a plug wire, so we were only on seven cylinders. Thank goodness for that last caution - that really helped Andy. I guess that shows our win at Texas was no fluke."
HERB FISHEL, executive director of GM Racing: "I'm not sure about the history, but I would have to say this is probably the biggest thing that's happened for Corvette in a number of years. I think because of the significance of this event, the Corvette Club members and the whole Corvette group will gain momentum and interest and excitement. This is big. Don't tell Texas, but in this case Atlanta might be bigger."
GARY PRATT, Corvette team manager: "I think the new car is what we needed - it showed its potential at Mosport (Ont.), it came through at Texas, and now it's come through again. All the guys have been working hard and just seem to have really gelled in the last few races. And we came here prepared, and it comes down to all the hard work that everyone does at the shop. We really wanted to win this so nobody felt that Texas was a fluke, all the drivers did a great job, and everything just came together."
DOUG FEHAN, Corvette program manager: "It's hard to really pick one win over another because the first one's always great, but I have to tell you this was a real race. There's no quit in these guys. We never gave up hope, we knew if we kept digging we could bring that thing home, and as it worked out, we did. It was a good, good job by everyone involved.
"You know, Andy learned a little something Mosport (Ont.), and he's a pretty bright guy. I think Archer had his car to where he thought Andy couldn't get by, and Andy just dived down a whole car below him and showed him what Corvette handling was all about! America's true sports car I think showed what it can do."