LeMans 2008: Corvette Racing Finishes Second and Third

#63 Corvette C6.R at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

For the second consecutive year, Corvette Racing has finished second in the LMGT1 class. Johnny O’Connell, Jan Magnussen and Ron Fellows ran 344 laps in their Velocity Yellow Corvette C6.R and was on the lead lap but finished 4:23.843 behind last year’s winning #009 Aston Martin DBR9. The #64 Corvette C6.R piloted by Gavin, Beretta and Papis overcame a multitude of issues and fought their way back to a third place finish completing 341 laps.

Corvette Racing was running 30-40 seconds behind the #009 Aston Martin for much of the second half of the race. The tuning point came in Hour 17 when the #63 Corvette pitted and the decision was made to replace the right front rotor assembly and brake pads. The procedure took only a minute 24 seconds but the team went a lap down in the process.

“Once again, we saw one of the epic battles in all of sports car racing,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “When you can take two cars, run them for 24 hours, and have them finish just minutes apart, it’s an incredible achievement for both teams. We had a brake issue with the No. 63 Corvette and overcame a problem with the alternator in the No. 64 Corvette, and both cars finished on the podium. When we look at Corvette Racing’s overall record and performance here at Le Mans, Chevrolet can be proud.”

The #64 Corvette C6.R also overcame much adversity and was able to fight its way back to the third position on the podium. Early in the race the Corvette had an issue with its alternator which required it to be replaced. That repair was done in just six minutes. The team also had an incident in the pits where the Corvette’s hydraulic jack came down in the middle of a tire change, dumping the Corvette on the ground without a rear left tire.

Corvette Racing strategy involved 14-lap fuel stints, one more lap than the Astons were capable of, but the rain and safety cars negated much of those opportunities. In the end, the #009 Aston Martin was able to run a nearly trouble-free race to earn their win. We congratulate them, knowing that Corvette Racing will return next year refocused and hungry for the win that has now alluded the team two years running.

Quotes from Corvette Racing’s Drivers:

Olivier Beretta, No. 64 Corvette C6.R: “I’m already thinking about 2009 Le Mans. Everyone at Corvette Racing did a fantastic job preparing the cars. We just had bad luck on the No. 64 Corvette with the alternator and the safety car, and that was two laps gone. When it was raining, I pushed hard, I felt comfortable, and did four or five stints. At Le Mans, the last thing to do is to give up, so I just pushed and hoped that we would have better luck. It’s a disappointment to finish second or third, so there is only one place to be — in first. We did that three years in a row with Corvette, I did it five times in my career, and I hope that the sixth one will come next year with Corvette Racing.”

Ron Fellows, No. 63 Corvette C6.R: “I felt that we had the opportunity to win this one. We were well prepared and both teams put up a hell of a fight — and we were second best today.”

Oliver Gavin, No. 64 Corvette C6.R: “This is a race that just sort of got away. I think we were fast enough and any one of the four cars from the Corvette and Aston Martin factory teams could have won today. It just came down to the one that had the cleaner race. We had bad luck with the alternator and then the floor issue. Maybe we were lacking some pace in the night, and got some unlucky breaks with the safety cars. It all adds up to the three laps that we were behind. That’s Le Mans for you. We’ll be back to fight them next year.”

Jan Magnussen, No. 63 Corvette C6.R: “Standing on the podium at Le Mans is special, but second is not exactly the spot we wanted. We hoped to improve on last year, and we had a nearly flawless race — but unfortunately, so did Aston Martin. In the night they had a little more speed than us, and it was tough to get back that gap. All of the guys worked so hard for this, they deserve a win. We’ll just have to work even harder and get a victory next year.”

Max Papis, No. 64 Corvette C6.R: “You need a perfect race to win Le Mans against Aston Martin, and my hat’s off to them. Sometimes you win or lose over a small detail, and that’s what happened to us. We tried every Michelin tire, from rain to dry to intermediates. I felt that everyone did everything they could. It’s great to be able to count on your teammates, to know that everyone who gets in the car will contribute. We came up a little short, but a podium finish at Le Mans is always something special.

Photo Credit: Arnaud Cornilleau – ACO/Nikon

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