Bowtie Bullet Points: Chevy Notes for Mid-Ohio Corvette C5-Rs fastest in Friday practice LEXINGTON, Ohio - The General Motors Chevrolet Corvette C5-R race cars return to competition this weekend for Round 2 of the American Le Mans Series at the...
Bowtie Bullet Points: Chevy Notes for Mid-Ohio
Corvette C5-Rs fastest in Friday practice
LEXINGTON, Ohio - The General Motors Chevrolet Corvette C5-R race cars return to competition this weekend for Round 2 of the American Le Mans Series at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The defending champions claimed the top two spots in the GTS class in the 90-minute practice session on Friday, with both Corvette C5-Rs posting lap times better than the circuit's previous qualifying record. The Corvette team returns to the track on the heels of a remarkable 1-2 finish in the GTS class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans just two weeks ago.
Dejà Vu for the First Time
The factory Corvettes will attempt to claim a third consecutive GTS victory at Mid-Ohio after claiming wins in 2001 and 2002. As ALMS scheduling conflicts prevented the team from retuning in 2003, team members find themselves in a familiar place, but the Corvette C5-R has been fully developed and modified since its 2002-spec. "We have new tires, a new aero package, significant chassis improvements and we also face changing track conditions due to routine maintenance over the course of the two years," said Doug Louth, engineering manager for the Corvette Racing program. "That all adds up to a setup which is almost like going to a brand new track for the first time. This weekend will test our engineering capabilities." Driver of the #4 Corvette C5-R, Oliver Gavin, confirmed Louth's comments and noted the similarities between Mid-Ohio and another circuit on the ALMS schedule. "The track has narrow parts which remind me of Sonoma's Infineon Raceway," said Gavin. "The elevation changes are also akin in Sonoma, with corner drop offs and apexes at the top of crests."
A Solid Start to 2004
The Corvette Racing program has been fully developed for 2004 and the results have been well documented, with a decisive third consecutive GTS class victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring in March and a remarkable 1-2 finish over Ferrari in the GTS class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the Chevrolets return to North America for the remainder of the season, a new competitor, Lamborghini, arises to challenge the three-time ALMS champions.
O'Connell Ties All-Time Starting Record
With a start at Mid-Ohio, Johnny O'Connell will tie David Brabham and fellow Corvette driver Jan Magnussen for the most ALMS career starts at 46. In addition, Ron Fellows will climb into a fifth-place tie with JJ Lehto and Frank Biela at 41 starts apiece.
Corvettes Fastest In Friday Practice
During the 90-minute practice session on Friday, Oliver Gavin set the fastest time in the GTS class with a time of 1:20.017, a significant improvement over the track record at Mid-Ohio (1:21.401, from 2001 by Saleen driver Terry Borcheller). Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell recorded a best time of 1:21.232, also eclipsing the track record. Gavin set his fast time but then had an unfortunate off-track incident at Turn 1 when he lost traction and spun into the grass. Minor damage was incurred and Gavin brought the car back to the pits. All Corvette drivers commented on the "green" surface of the track, as a minimal amount of race tire buildup kept the track relatively slippery.
"The balance of the car is very good, although the track is very green," said Gavin. "Throughout the session the team made some changes which made it much better. I'm happy with the progress we've made."
Gavin went on to explain the incident at Turn 1 which sent him off course.
"I went off at Turn 1, and I think it was due to new tires which weren't properly up to the correct temperature. Into Turn 1 I went right, left, and then right and slid inside and down the corner. The car was still running so I got out of the grass and back on the track. Unfortunately we broke the rear diffuser in sliding across the grass, so the boys will have to fix that but otherwise the car is in good shape."
Ron Fellows returns to the C5-R after sitting on the sidelines for the majority of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Fellows sustained minor injuries at the French circuit after a tire blowout before the Indianapolis corner sent him off track at approximately 170 mph. The ALMS co-champion brought the damaged car back the pits and teammates Johnny O'Connell and Max Papis took over driving responsibilities while Fellows received treatment from doctors.
"I feel 100% for this weekend and it's good to be back in the car," said Fellows. "It's also great to be back here at Mid-Ohio, which has been a great fixture in road racing. The track seems smoother than I remember, especially in the center of the corner. They did a great job on the changes they've made to the track."
Fellows' teammate Johnny O'Connell remarked on the success of the new Corvette chassis in its return to Mid-Ohio.
"These cars are pretty close to perfect right out of the box," said O'Connell. "We need to find a little bit more rear grip, but otherwise I believe we have a setup right now which is very compliant to our driving style."
The Corvette Racing team will qualify on Saturday at 2:25 p.m.