Sonoma, Ca. -- The General Motors Chevrolet Corvette Racing team won the GTS class at the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sunday afternoon. Ron Fellows, driving the ...
Sonoma, Ca. -- The General Motors Chevrolet Corvette Racing team won the GTS class at the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sunday afternoon. Ron Fellows, driving the #3 Compuware Corvette C5-R, claimed a glorious victory after starting the race from the fourth position in class and 28th overall. Fellows edged out Oliver Gavin in the sister #4 Compuware Corvette C5-R to claim his second win of the season and third straight victory at Infineon Raceway with teammate Johnny O'Connell. The victory maintains the team's undefeated streak in the GTS class of the American Le Mans Series for 2003.
"Today is a wonderful day for Corvette and it shows how our team can perform on the world's stage," said Doug Fehan, GM's program manager for Corvette Racing. "It was a real dogfight between both of our cars and today the scales tipped in favor of Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell. Overall our team qualified well, practiced well and came prepared to run fast this afternoon. Our new cars, which didn't get the opportunity to really prove themselves at Le Mans, have really come into their own and we're looking forward to this next weekend's race at Trois-Rivieres."
While both Chevrolets ran strong in practice sessions throughout the course of the weekend, the #4 Corvette captured pole position and started the race with a comfortable victory over two Ferraris and fellow #3 Corvette. After both Ferraris dropped position following a series of accidents and penalties, the two Corvettes ran at the front of the GTS class for the remaining two hours of the race. After a pit stop under caution near the two-hour mark of the race, Oliver Gavin was able to get his #4 Corvette out in front of Ron Fellows. But as the race restarted, Gavin had difficulty in heavy traffic and Fellows was able to capture the lead and hold on for the victory in the #3 Corvette C5-R.
"That was without a doubt a game of high-speed chess and it really could have gone either way between both Corvettes," said Ron Fellows, driver of the #3 Corvette C5-R. "Our team ran strong and Goodyear gave us a good tire package that we ran very hard all afternoon. There was a bit of excitement on the end of the last lap of the race as I had to turn on my reserve fuel tank; it certainly got my heart racing and luckily I was able to hold on and beat Oliver Gavin to the finish. Overall this is a great day for everyone at Corvette."
The drivers from the #4 Corvette, which captured pole position and led the majority of the race until heavy traffic late in the race, were philosophical after capturing second place in the GTS class.
"It was a great race and we traded back and forth all day," said Oliver Gavin, driver of the #4 Corvette C5-R. "The restart at the end of the race was quite busy and I found dirt on the track everywhere. Ron Fellows nearly got by me in a couple of places and after a bottleneck in traffic he found the better route. Shortly thereafter I was trying to get around a smaller GT car and I don't think the driver saw me -- I slammed into the wall but I think it's a testament to how strong these Corvettes are built. I expected huge damage but the car ran perfectly fine after that. I almost caught up to the other Corvette but it would have been a bit risky to pass and everyone knows that Fellows is a world-class driver and near impossible to pass. I'm glad that Kelly Collins and I can put our car on the podium and we'll fight hard this weekend in Canada."
The Corvette Racing team will take to the track again in one week's time, for round four of the American Le Mans Series at Le Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres in Canada.
On the other side of the Atlantic, in Belgium, a Corvette C5-R made its debut in the FIA GT World Championship during the Spa 24 Hours race. First run in 1924, the annual daylong race is arguably the most important event of the FIA GT World Championship and the second-oldest endurance classic in the world after the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Belgian team's Corvette, the only privately run C5-R in competition, qualified fourteenth overall and first in class for a race held in treacherous weather conditions. One hour into the event, heavy rain turned racing on the Ardennes track into a slippery affair and claimed six cars in as many horrendous accidents. The pace car was deployed a record eight times, but the drivers from the SRT team -- Selleslagh, Vannerum, Bouvy and Corbissier -- made the best of their knowledge of the track to briefly lead the race overall.
The privateer Corvette team finished 18th overall and fifth in class in a race where less than half of the 54-car field made it to the finish. The SRT team will now concentrate on the remainder of the Belgian GT Championship, and has plans to enter the Le Mans 1000-kilometer race at the end of the year.