Routine Race So Far for Corvette Racing; Safety Cars Play Key Role in First Quarter of Race LE MANS, France, June 13, 2009 & ...
Routine Race So Far for Corvette Racing; Safety Cars Play Key Role in First Quarter of Race
LE MANS, France, June 13, 2009 – A quartet of Corvettes took control of the GT1 class in the first six hours of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R of Jan Magnussen, Johnny O'Connell, and Antonio Garcia has led from the start at 3 p.m., completing 88 laps at the six-hour mark. The No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta, and Marcel Fassler was second in the GT1 class, 2 minutes and 6 seconds behind its sister car. The No. 73 and No. 72 Corvette C6.Rs of Luc Alphand Aventures were third and fourth respectively with 86 laps completed.
The first quarter of the race was routine for the Corvette Racing squad, with scheduled pit stops for fuel, tires, and driver changes. Luck was not with the No. 64 Corvette, however. In two full-course caution periods, the safety cars split the factory team cars, twice giving the No. 63 an advantage in track position. (Race officials deploy two safety cars on the immense 8.4-mile circuit; in both instances, the No. 63 was in the queue behind the first car, and the No. 64 in the line behind the second.)
The Corvette Racing team is double-stinting both its Michelin tires and its drivers in this 24-hour endurance race. GT1 pole winner Magnussen started in the No. 63 Corvette and ran to the 1:40 mark. O'Connell replaced Magnussen, and was in turn replaced by Garcia at 3:25. Gavin started in the No. 64 Corvette, and was replaced by Beretta at 1:37. Fassler then took over from Beretta at 3:22 into the race.
The No. 64 Corvette had just made its first fuel stop when the first safety car period began after 42 minutes of racing. The No. 63 was then able to pit under caution and come out behind the first safety car, resulting in a lead of more than a minute. In the ebb and flow of the race over the next three hours, the No. 64 pulled to within 20 seconds of its class-leading teammate. After the second caution period at the 4:38 mark again separated the two Corvettes, the No. 63 emerged with a lead of 2 minutes and 7 seconds when racing resumed.
CORVETTE RACING QUOTES:
Jan Magnussen, No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R: “It was okay out there, no real problems to report. The tires became a bit of a handful in the second part of the second stint, upsetting the balance of the car, so the team lowered the rear a bit at the pit stop. We’ll just keep making adjustments as we go and we should have a perfect car by nightfall.”
Johnny O’Connell, No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R: “It’s hard work; the 64 Corvette seems to be a bit better than ours. For now we’re sliding at the front and the rear and the engineers are working on this to make our life a bit more comfortable. As for the traffic, the flagging is not as aggressive as it used to be, so sometimes we get caught out by an LMP car, but most of these guys know what they’re doing anyway. There were a few close calls with some GT2 cars, but no real big worries. The main thing now is to make the car more comfortable.”
Antonio Garcia, No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R: “It wasn’t too bad, all things considered. It seems we struggle a bit more with the tires than the 64 Corvette, and since we do two stints on the same set I took it easy in the beginning to see what was left in them in the second part. I therefore didn’t overdrive the tires because I didn’t know what to expect in the second stint. Then the safety car came out and I pitted for fuel only just five laps into my second stint, meaning I now had to do two stints and a half on the same set. So I decided to settle for a comfortable rhythm, learning about the car and the tires. Knowing now how they handle, I can start my next stint at a higher, more aggressive rhythm. Traffic is also very bad. Maybe it’s because I was in with all the other third drivers, but some of the GT2 and LMP2 cars are really rather unpredictable in their approach to faster cars.”
Oliver Gavin, No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R: "You have to roll with the way the safety cars work at Le Mans. It's such a large track that it requires two safety cars, and it was just pure bad luck that we had pitted and the No. 63 Corvette was just coming in for its pit stop. I had to run over quite a lot of debris, and it was fortunate that I didn't get a puncture. The guys were monitoring the tire pressure sensors, so that's reassuring.
"The first stint was reasonably relaxed. I think Jan and I were both being cautious because we're double-stinting the tires and we wanted to see how they were doing. The car is understeering more than it did in the morning warm-up because the track is quite different now. It looks like we have a very strong and competitive car that can race everyone in the class, including our teammates. I just hope that the safety car doesn't decide the race – I really don't think it will, but stranger things have happened."
Olivier Beretta, No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R: "It was a good stint, but I had a lot of traffic at the wrong places, but this is racing. We had really bad luck with the safety car at the beginning of the race – it's like starting the race two minutes after everyone. It's just pure bad luck, and I couldn't believe it, but the race is very long.
"Although it's very warm outside, the GM people have done a wonderful job with the air conditioning. This is my 14th time at Le Mans, and the car is quite comfortable. I was conservative with the Michelin tires on my first stint, and the tires were very consistent in my second stint."
Marcel Fassler, No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R: "It was a good run until I went through the gravel in the chicane on the straight in my second stint. Maybe I didn't recognize that the grip level of the tires had started to change by that time. It was a mistake, and a warning for me to keep the car on the track like I did in the beginning and the end of my stint."