Fellows, O'Connell To Seek Record Fourth Straight American Le Mans Win at Sonoma SONOMA, Calif. (July 6, 2004) -- The American Le Mans Series only visits Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., once each year, but that one visit has become...
Fellows, O'Connell To Seek Record Fourth Straight American Le Mans Win at Sonoma
SONOMA, Calif. (July 6, 2004) -- The American Le Mans Series only visits Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., once each year, but that one visit has become something that drivers Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell always look forward to.
While both enjoy the scenic California wine country, as well as the attractions of nearby San Francisco, the drivers for Corvette Racing also like to visit Infineon Raceway because there's a very good chance that the visit is going to lead to a victory.
Fellows and O'Connell can tie an American Le Mans Series record for the most consecutive wins at a single venue if they are able to win the GTS class for the fourth straight year when the raceway holds the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma July 16-18. The only drivers in ALMS history to win four straight at the same venue are Lucas Luhr, who won the GT class in the 12 Hours of Sebring from 2000 through 2003, and Sascha Maassen, who tied the record earlier this year when he won for the fourth straight time at Sebring.
"We've been pretty fortunate," said Fellows, a popular Canadian who has been co-driving with O'Connell on the factory Chevrolet Corvette C5-R team since 2001, the year their winning streak at Infineon started. "Last year was a tremendous race. We've just got to do what we've been doing and try not to change anything, and approach the events the same."
That approach has worked well for Fellows and O'Connell early in the 2004 American Le Mans Series season. They started the year with their third straight GTS class win in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, then won again in the season's second event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
"We're certainly going to have our hands full (at Infineon) with our teammates," said Fellows, who narrowly beat fellow Corvette driver Oliver Gavin for the Sonoma win last year. Gavin, who is now co-driving with two-time ALMS GTS champion Olivier Beretta, will be seeking his first win at Sonoma and recently won for Corvette in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Beretta and Jan Magnussen.
The Corvette team normally fields two cars in ALMS races, but for the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma there will be three, with the third entry co-driven by NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and road racing veteran Boris Said. Earnhardt will be racing in the American Le Mans Series for the first time.
Fellows has more experience at Infineon Raceway than most ALMS drivers because he has also raced many times at the track in NASCAR events as a "road racing hired gun." Unfortunately, he had to miss the recent NASCAR Nextel Cup event after a date change for the Sonoma race created a conflict with the ALMS schedule. He welcomes any chance to race on one of his favorite circuits.
"It's place where there's lots of action, and you're awfully busy," he said. "The Carousel, which you don't run with NASCAR, is certainly a great part of the track. It's a lot of fun climbing the hill at high speed, and you get on the brakes at that long downhill left-hand turn, and then there are the "S" turns. That part of the track is fun in a Nextel Cup car; in these cars (Corvettes) it's spectacular. That run through the esses down through (turns) nine and 10, in one of these cars, is a real thrill ride."
Though the ALMS Corvette is radically different from a NASCAR stock car, Fellows said that competing in the Cup and Truck events at Infineon Raceway over the years has helped him learn more about the track.
"It sure doesn't hurt," he said. "It's more, I think, about dealing with traffic. In doing the NASCAR races, you are just so busy with the cars in front, behind, you're really on top of your game in terms of working on your race craft. I think that helps in dealing with traffic in a multi-class format with the ALMS."
The Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma will get the green flag at 11:00 a.m. (PDT) on Sunday, July 18, and will be televised live in North America by CBS Sports and in Europe on MotorsTV. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at www.americanlemans.com.
Practice and qualifying for the event will be held on Saturday, July 17, along with a Fan Forum and an autograph session featuring all ALMS drivers. Ticket information is available online at www.americanlemans.com or by calling (800) 870-RACE.