A persistent rumor has been burning up and down the internet this week. Murphy the Bear, that furry prognosticator of the ALMS says that longtime Corvette C6.R driver Johnny O’Connell is allegedly out of Corvette Racing for the 2011 season. His replacement is said to be former Rahal Letterman BMW driver Tommy Milner.
Corroboration of this rumor also comes from John Dagys who covers sports car racing for SPEED. On Tuesday, Dagys posted on twitter that Milner left Rahal Letterman Racing for “Another Opportunity”. A couple minutes later he also tweeted the following: “SPEED.com learned that Tommy Milner tested with Corvette last month”.
That test refers to the recent testing of Corvette Racing’s C6.Rs at Sebring in early November.
Murphy adds that this decision was made before the start of the 2010 season. If you recall, following the 12 hours of Sebring, Corvette Racing stayed at the track and ran for another 12 hours. During that time, they brought in three drivers to test, one of whom was Graham Rahal.
We sent an email asking for confirmation to Corvette Racing and the following reply is from Mark Kent, manager of GM Racing:
“At the conclusion of every season, we review and evaluate all aspects of the Corvette Racing program. We will release information on Corvette Racing’s 2011 program when this process is completed.”
O’Connell is 48 years old and has been a driver for Corvette racing since 2001. He holds the record for class wins at Sebring (8) and is the first American driver to score four victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He is currently the only American driver for Corvette Racing.
One of the hallmarks of the Corvette Racing team is the connection it has with the fans. I can tell you with certainty that this will not go down well if the fans perceive that O’Connell’s release was done in bad faith. Murphy alludes to that as well and says if this is the decision, it should be treated like the retirement/departure of Ron Fellows. “It was time”…
Corvette Racing fans are loyal to the brand and the desire to win is great so any new team member will be welcomed into the fold. But some longtime fans still harbor resentment over previous driver changes including the release of Andy Pilgrim several years ago.
As stated, this is all rumor and conjecture until Corvette Racing officially releases is 2011 driver lineup. Until then we’ll have to play wait and see.
Bondurant School of High Performance Driving
Johnny O’Connell, Jimmie Johnson and DeAngelo Williams on SPEED’s Test Drive: Corvette
[VIDEO] Johnny O’Connell Talks with CorvetteBlogger at the 2010 Petit Le Mans
Corvette Racing Realigns Driver Lineup for Mosport ALMS