Jan Magnussen proves again why he is the best closer in the ALMS. At the halfway point of the American Le Mans Series at Long Beach, Magnussen left the pits in 6th position and battled all the way to finish in 2nd place, just four seconds behind the class winning #45 Fancy Lizards Porsche driven by Pat Long and Joerg Bergmeister.
Magnussen’s partner Johnny O’Connell handled the first half of the race at Long Beach brilliantly and went into the pits for the driver change with the #3 Corvette C6.R in third position. The pit took a little longer than customary and when Jan left the box he was in 6th position.
“We had a small problem in the pit stop,” Magnussen explained. “Because it was such a short pit stop, I wasn’t able to get myself ready in the cockpit, so we lost positions in the pit lane. I knew exactly what had happened — I wasn’t upset, I was just motivated to get back to the front. I had a great car and I was able to take back the positions one by one.”
Magnussen gained a spot when the class-leading Ford GT pitted. The two BMWs had gambled on running the race without a tire change, and Magnussen was able to pass the No. 90 BMW going into the Turn 11 hairpin to take third with 11 minutes left in the race. With the four frontrunners running nose-to-tail, Magnussen stalked the No. 92 BMW on the back straight and made the pass stick in Turn 9 with two minutes remaining. He set off in pursuit of the No. 45 Porsche, but ran out of time before the checkered flag.
Johnny O’Connell had started the opening stint from third on the GT grid, lost a spot at the start, and then passed the No. 45 Porsche to retake third. He held that position behind the No. 17 Porsche of Wolf Henzler and the pole-winning No. 62 Ferrari of Jaime Melo to the fateful first pit stop.
“It’s hard when you have a street race with different categories sharing the same track,” O’Connell said. “I think we were competitive and as fast as anyone, but traffic would separate the GT cars and then it was difficult to make that back up. You hope for a caution to open an opportunity, and as things worked out, I think we can be proud of a fine result.”
Things didn’t turn out so great for the Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta in the #4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. Beretta started the GT grid in 5th place and had moved up to 4th in the first half-hour. The Corvette went off-course and hit a tire barrier which damaged the front bodywork and driver’s door. The encounter dropped Beretta to 8th position.
Gavin took over the No. 4 Corvette at 46 minutes, but had to make two subsequent pit stops for additional repairs. The #4 Corvette finished Long Beach in 9th position.
“There was confusion at the front, and one of the Porsches braked early,” Beretta reported. “I jumped on the brakes, tried to slow down, missed a gear, and lost the car. I was in the wrong place at the wrong moment.”
“A ninth-place finish certainly wasn’t what anybody wanted,” said Gavin. “It seems like the No. 4 Corvette can’t a break at the moment. The car was good, even with the damage we had, but realistically we weren’t going to move up in the finishing order and I just brought it home without risking the car. There were cars spinning off right and left in front of me, and a car even spun into the wall in front of me behind the pace car!
“It’s great that our sister car got a fantastic finish here and Jan and Johnny have got themselves back in the hunt. So now it’s on to Laguna Seca with the hope that our fortunes will soon turn around.”
Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan reflected on the race:
“It was an absolutely awesome effort today by the crew and drivers,” he said. “In order to compete with the best, you have to believe you’re the best. Today we raced against the best, and we had a very, very good outcome.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the American Le Mans Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday, May 22. The six-hour race will start at 2:30 p.m. PT and will be televised by CBS Sports on May 29 at 1:30 p.m. ET.
American Le Mans Series at Long Beach GT Results:
1 45 GT Bergmeister/Long, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
2 3 GT O’Connell/Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R
3 92 GT Auberlen/Milner, BMW E92 M3
4 62 GT Melo/Bruni, Ferrari 430 GT
5 90 GT Mueller/Hand, BMW E92 M3
6 17 GT Sellers/Henzler, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
7 01 GT Sharp/van Overbeek, Ferrari 430 GT
8 02 GT Brown/Cosmo, Ferrari 430 GT
9 4 GT Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R
10 40 GT Robertson/Murry, Ford GT
11 75 GT Gentilozzi/Dalziel, Jaguar XKRS
12 44 GT Law/Neiman, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
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