Lime Rock: Corsa Motorsports qualifying report

AN HISTORIC FINISH TO A CHALLENGING DAY Lakeville, CT (July 17, 2009). In what was a challenging day to say the least, Corsa Motorsports fought off difficulties and problems at virtually every turn to qualify its No. 48 GZ-09-SH Hybrid powered...


Lakeville, CT (July 17, 2009). In what was a challenging day to say the least, Corsa Motorsports fought off difficulties and problems at virtually every turn to qualify its No. 48 GZ-09-SH Hybrid powered racecar third in top tier LMP1 class of the American Le Mans Series at the Northeast Grand Prix at the historic Lime Rock Park race track in Lakeville, Connecticut. The team qualified behind the two factory Acura teams paced by de Ferran Motorsports Simon Pageneaud on the pole followed closely by David Brabham with Patron Highcroft.

With Johnny Mowlem qualifying the car, Mowlem recorded a 49.948 second lap time on his tenth of twelve qualifying laps on the 10 turn, 1.53 mile Lime Rock Park circuit and making the world debut of the Corsa machine as the first alternatively-fueled LMP1 electric hybrid racecar a success. But the event did not start that way.

Having only received the car back from the UK the day before its exhibition at the Department of Energy headquarters in Washington DC on Monday, the team had no opportunity to race prep the car which is so critical to a prototype car's performance. To begin the day, en route to the morning practice session, the team damaged one of the critical front wing diveplanes entering the pit for the car's maiden laps and then recorded only one timed lap in the one hour session due to failure of a battery relay switch which required a major reconfiguration of the electrical safety mechanism system inside the cockpit. The team worked feverishly to correct the problem and was still in the paddock when the green flag dropped for the last practice session before qualifying having also lost all radio communications through the battery debacle. The team decided to forego cockpit communications in favor of getting badly needed track time to establish some baseline setup for Saturday's race.

With fully one third of the final practice session gone when the car finally made it to its pit box, Johnny ran two 10 lap sessions to create baseline data for the team's engineers before handing over to Stefan Johansson who was struck in the head by Johnny's HANS device leaving Stefan's forehead bloodied beneath his helmet but he soldiered on continuing to provide data to tune the car's suspension before handing back over to Johnny as the checkered flag for the final practice session fell.

As qualifying began, a weather system was approaching that made early laps critical in terms of reaching operating tire temperatures and Johnny was able to break the 50-second lap barrier as raindrops began to fall solidifying the team's third place qualifying position.

"It was all set to be a historic weekend with the debut of the car" said Corsa Team Principal Steve Pruitt "but it seemed that everything that could go wrong went wrong. With no prep time, we knew we were looking at long hours to make up for lost time and typical of the weekend so far, as darkness fell last night after a torrential thunderstorm, our transporter's generator failed leaving us with no lights and trying to do a race setup in the dark with flashlights. We rewired the work lights to a backup generator but did not get through until well after midnight. The stars had apparently decided to align against us and there was seemingly nothing we could do but wait for another shoe to drop but in the end we persevered and ended up with a respectable class grid position for our first race and, at the end of the day, the hybrid system work, though in a mild state, which leaves the pathways for development more exponential that what we had first envisioned."

Corsa is the first team to embrace at a world class level advanced electric vehicle technologies as they have been currently developed reflecting the vision of the U.S. Department of Energy and the current administration in the development and application of advanced battery technologies. The Corsa GZ-09-SH is the world's first alternatively- fueled, electric hybrid LMP racecar and will be the first to ever compete at the highest level of sports car competition when the green flag drops at the tight Lime Rock circuit at 2:05pm on Saturday, July 18. The car's ability to run on its alternative-fueled engine, or as a pure EV with its kinetic energy recovery system powering its electric motor or as a hybrid through the combination of both makes the car one of the most sophisticated cars on the planet against the current backdrop of the electrification of transportation and advanced vehicle technologies which manufacturers trying to bring to market.

-credit: cm

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Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Stefan Johansson , Johnny Mowlem , Simon Pagenaud , Steve Pruitt