Lime Rock: Corsa Motorsports race report

HISTORIC FINISH FOR CORSA MOTORSPORTS LE MANS P1 ENTRY Lakeville, Connecticut (July 18, 2009). In a turn of fortune from the trials and tribulations that plagued the debut of the Corsa Motorsports LMP1 hybrid electric racecar, the world's first...

HISTORIC FINISH FOR CORSA MOTORSPORTS LE MANS P1 ENTRY

Lakeville, Connecticut (July 18, 2009). In a turn of fortune from the trials and tribulations that plagued the debut of the Corsa Motorsports LMP1 hybrid electric racecar, the world's first alternative-fueled such propulsion system, the team ended up with a historic podium finish in the first ever outing for the GZ-09-SH car.

As was typical for the team all weekend, the day started with the car late getting out of the pits for the mandatory warm-up lap exiting the pits a mere three seconds before the pits were closed which would have resulted in the team forfeiting its sixth place starting position and having to start from pit lane. Cool heads prevailed and Johnny Mowlem took up his starting position on the grid.

The green flag dropped at 2:05pm on the debut of the world's first alternative-fueled hybrid/electric propulsion system with Johnny maintaining a firm third position in class and a sixth position overall through his first stint. Just prior to the car's first pit stop on lap 61, the front damper cover came loose on the car and sailed away leaving the aerodynamics less than acceptable but the team decided to forego the installation of a replacement part on the first pit stop to maintain track position on the short 1.53 mile, 10- turn Lime Rock Park track.

On the first pit stop for the crew for the hybrid car, Stefan Johnassen took over driving having had less than ten laps in the car during the team's abbreviated test sessions prior to the race. With the length of the track so short, it took three laps for Stefan to get the Dunlop tires up to temperature and pressure before being able to press the car for more performance. Ahead of Stefan, in addition to the factory two factory LPM1 Acuras, were the factory LMP2 Acura of Fernandez Racing and the two Mazda-backed factory Dyson Lolas. Methodically, Stefan began to reel in the factory teams in front of it, first passing the Fernandez Racing Acura for fifth place overall and then the two Mazda factory cars for fourth and third place overall only trailing the factory LMP1 Acuras. An extended yellow came out as Stefan overtook the position for third overall enabling the team to extend its fuel widow and avoid what was working out to be a need for a splash-and-go pit stop with four laps remaining. Pitting on lap 124, the team was as methodical as Stefan had been in moving the car up the time sheets by fueling and changing tires and getting the car out of the pits and losing only one position to the Intersport Lola. Stefan dodged for position over the next thirty minutes with Jon Field before taking back the third overall position and in doing so consistently lapping at four seconds per lap over the Lola and firmly securing not only third place in class and a podium finish but third place overall in the race won by Gil deFerran and Simon Pageneaud ahead of the 24 Hours of Le mans winning driver David Brabham and his teammate Scott Sharp in the Patron Highcroft Acura.

The weekend was the culmination of months of hard work and effort on the part of the Corsa/Ginetta/Zytek partnership to produce the groundbreaking technology that powered the car. The "ultra hybrid", still in its infancy, struggled through the race to produce sufficient power from its battery to offset the 85 kilograms of additional weight the system adds diminishing the car's overall performance only highlighting the need for the team to find and develop improved battery technologies that can deliver the necessary power.

"It was a giant first step" said Corsa Team principal Steve Pruitt "and to be on the podium in our maiden race was even more reassuring that we are headed down the right path that represents the future of the electrification of advanced vehicle technologies. Now that we have given birth to the system competitively, we must now focus on how we track down the big budget factory teams in front of us using the technology that will enable us to do so".

The next race for the team is the Acura Sports Car Challenge at the Mid-Ohio racetrack in Lexington, Ohio. In the intervening time, the hybrid components will be shipped back to the UK for inspection before being returned to the Corsa race shop for final prep.

-credit: cm

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Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Scott Sharp , Gil de Ferran , Jon Field , Johnny Mowlem , Simon Pagenaud , Steve Pruitt