The 12 Hours of Sebring reared its head and bit the Corvette Racing team hard on Saturday as the team faced multiple challenges in the first American Le Mans race of the season. Both cars had issues, and their fate was sealed when the #4 Corvette crashed into the #3 Corvette in pit lane. Although both Corvettes were able to get back out on the track, the lost time in the pits and garage cost the team 11 laps off the lead and consigned the #3 and 4 to 8th and 9th place finish respectively.
The race started out well for Corvettes with Jan Magnussen running fourth and Oliver Gavin in fifth and both moved up to second and third within the first hour. But that’s when things started going wrong. The #3 Corvette had to return to the garage to repair a power steering hose at 1:55 in the race, costing eight laps in the process.
At 3:09, the #3 Corvette pitted for tires and a driver change. Magnussen replaced Johnny O’Connell and was just leaving the pit box when the Emmanuel Collard was pulling into the #4 pit box. Although the #3 Corvette left pit lane, the damaged body work shredded the front left tire and so Magnussen immediately returned. Damage to the #4 Corvette as more significant and the car drove to the garage where the crew replaced its front stabilizer bar and bodywork.
“I can’t tell you all the things that had to line up for that to happen right there, but it was super unfortunate and everyone is feeling bad about it,” Magnussen said. “I feel so sorry for the No. 4 Corvette – we were out of contention because we had a long pit stop, but the No. 4 car was in with a good shot, it was fast. I can guarantee that things will be done so that never happens again.”
“It was a misunderstanding because normally I should pit one lap later, but I had a low fuel alarm on the back straight,” Collard explained. “I put the reserve on and they asked me come to the pits.”
“An incident like this has never happened before at Corvette Racing,” said program manager Doug Fehan. “A perfect storm of events that certainly we can’t attribute to any one thing caused the two cars to come together in pit lane. We’ll go back and look at what took place, establish procedures to ensure that it never happens again, and come back stronger for the next event. Even when our guys were laps down to the leaders, they ran just as hard after that incident as they did before. That tells you what Corvette Racing is about.”
Misfortune continued to plague the team as in the 8th hour as the #4 Corvette with Gavin driving hit an errant tire on the course. When darkness fell, Gavin found that the headlights weren’t working. The Corvette returnd to the pits and the crew replaced the nose, headlight and harness assembly.
The race continued on without incident, and O’Connell took the #3 Corvette across the finish line with Oliver Gavin in the #4 Corvette behind him.
“Racing is hard stuff, and no matter how hard you try and how hard you prepare, sometimes things go wrong,” O’Connell said. “You can either beat yourself up or be encouraged by how well the crew performed to get both cars back in the race. The guys were awesome. We got a lot of positives out of this event: We made good progress on our engine development and we got a gauge to measure where we stand versus the competition. The mark of a champion is overcoming adversity and finding ways to win, and I know this team can do that.”
Winning the 12 Hours of Sebring GT class was the #62 Risi Ferrari 430 and the two BMWs finished 2 and 3. The Fancy Lizards Porsches finished 4th and 5th.
Corvette Racing’s next event is the American Le Mans Series at Long Beach on Saturday, April 17. The one-hour, 40-minute race will start at 4:15 p.m. PT and will be televised at 8 p.m. ET on SPEED.
Bondurant School of High Performance Driving