Corvette Racing Returns to Scene of First GT Victory for ALMS Grand Prix of Canada
Bowmanville, Ont., Aug. 25, 2010 – In a season that has seen the celebration of Corvette’s 50th anniversary at Le Mans, another mainstay of North American motorsports, Mosport International Raceway, is also celebrating its golden anniversary. Chevrolet and Corvette have been linked with Mosport, the site of Sunday’s Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Canada, for five decades.
Corvette Racing drivers Jan Magnussen and Johnny O’Connell scored Corvette Racing’s first victory in the American Le Mans Series GT2 division (now GT) one year ago at Mosport. With second- and third-place finishes in the last two rounds of the 2010 ALMS, the team is on track to return to the winner’s circle.
When construction of the 2.459-mile Mosport circuit in began in 1960, the builders carved a fast, flowing circuit through the Canadian countryside. The result was a daunting combination of high-speed corners and soaring straights that commands the respect of drivers.
“Mosport is a real old-school race track, and it’s a good challenge to be fast there,” said Magnussen, who teamed with O’Connell to score the pair’s third straight victory at Mosport after back-to-back GT1 wins in 2007 and 2008. “Last year Johnny and I got the first GT2 win for Corvette, and it would be fantastic to repeat and score the first win of this season. We’re closing in on the competition, and a win is in the cards.”
The final 30 minutes of last year’s race featured a spellbinding wheel-to-wheel duel between Magnussen in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R and Pierre Kaffer in the Risi Competizione Ferrari that presaged this season’s ultra-competitive GT battle. Magnussen withstood the pressure and took the win with a .331-second margin of victory. Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta finished third in the sister No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R after being forced off the track by a prototype while leading the GT2 class.
“Mosport is a throwback to the old days when race tracks could be dangerous, and every lap at Mosport is daunting,” said O’Connell. “When a driver goes flat-out through Turn 8, he’s defying all of Newton’s laws. The Canadian fans are awesome, and every race there is just spectacular.”
O’Connell and Magnussen first teamed up for a Mosport win in 1999, when they captured the overall victory in a Panoz LMP1.
“I first raced there in 1989 in a 24-hour Showroom Stock race,” O’Connell recalled. “I fell in love with the track. It was cold, dark and rainy – typical Mosport. I had more fun doing that race. That first win with Jan in the Panoz was really significant for us, and it was the first victory for Don Panoz.”
Corvette’s racing heritage at Mosport reaches back to the track’s early days, when Chevy engines thundered in the Can-Am and Formula 5000 series. The track hosted the SCCA Trans-Am series beginning in 1976, and Canadian Eppie Wietzes won the Trans Am title in 1981 in a Corvette. In recent years, the Corvette Racing team has competed 10 times at Mosport, tallying eight victories. O’Connell and long-time teammate Ron Fellows won three straight in GTS in 2001-03, while Gavin and Beretta were victorious in 2005-06 in the renamed GT1 category. But it’s the one that got away that stands out in Fellows’ memory.
“Corvette Racing’s first ALMS race at Mosport was in 2000, but the team initially didn’t plan to run there,” Fellows recalled. “I begged Joe Negri, who was in charge of road racing at GM Racing, to let us go. I told Joe that I’d guarantee a win – nothing like going out on a limb!
“Andy Pilgrim and I had it covered until the last two corners of the race,” Fellows said. “It was a wet race, and our car was very fast on rain tires. But the track was drying, our rain tires were going away, and the Viper of Olivier Beretta and Karl Wendlinger was gaining on us. I think Wendlinger passed Andy on the last lap in Turn 8. That was that. Driving home, I got the call from Joe. All he said was, ‘Hey, I thought you guaranteed us a win!’”
Fellows, known as the Mayor of Mosport for his mastery of the track, notched his most recent victory there in May, winning an SCCA World Challenge race in the Cragar Wheels Corvette after a frantic transcontinental dash from California.
“Having grown up at Mosport, it was important to me to race there in the track’s 50th anniversary, and to get a win was special,” Fellows said. “My memories of Mosport go back to 1969 when I got my first exposure to car racing at the Canadian Grand Prix as a kid. My first Trans-Am win was there, and I clinched my first championship there. In 2007, Corvette Racing entered a third Corvette in white Ron Fellows special edition livery for me and Andy, and that was very cool.
“Mosport is a track that has really suited Corvette over the years with its high-speed corners,” the Canadian ace explained. “It’s a driver’s track, it’s a place you need to give a lot of respect to, and there is no forgiveness. If you make a mistake there, it’s going to be a big hit. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of race track in my mind.”
Fellows’ archrival in 2000, Olivier Beretta, has been a member of the Corvette Racing squad since 2004. “Not only do I have many good memories from Mosport, I like the track because it is quite old-fashioned and fast,” Beretta said. “The track is awesome, but you must have a fantastic car, otherwise you have no confidence. It is the only ALMS race in Canada, so I can speak in French with many of the fans.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. The two-hour, 45-minute race will start at 3:05 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 29. The race will be televised tape-delayed on SPEED from 4 – 7 p.m. ET. Live radio coverage will be available on American Le Mans Radio, Sirius Channel 127, and XM Channel 242.
Bondurant School of High Performance Driving
Photo Credit: Richard Prince