Team makes massive gains from practice to qualifying on damp day in Texas
AUSTIN, Texas (Sept. 20, 2013) – Corvette Racing didn’t let heavy rains and an unfamiliar track deter its efforts in qualifying Friday for the inaugural American Le Mans Series race at Circuit of The Americas. The two Compuware Chevrolet Corvette C6.Rs earned the second- and third-place starting spots in the GT field for Saturday’s two-hour, 45-minute race.
Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette qualified on the outside of the GT front row with a lap of 2:17.442 (89.056 mph) around the 3.4-mile, 20-turn layout. The Spaniard, who drives with Jan Magnussen, set his best time on his final lap to overtake teammate Oliver Gavin for the second spot.
Gavin posted a best lap of 2:17.594 (88.957 mph) in the No. 4 Corvette. The Englishman and seatmate Tommy Milner come to Circuit of the Americas with a two-point lead in the GT drivers’ standings as they try to repeat as class champions. Garcia and Magnussen are second in the championship and sit just two points back.
In the manufacturer standings, Chevrolet leads BMW by 20 points. Corvette Racing also heads the team championship with three rounds left in the season.
Friday’s qualifying effort saw a remarkable turnaround for the two Corvettes. After placing fourth and seventh in the day’s first practice and fifth and eighth in the second session, team and Michelin tire engineers developed a sound strategy for time trials. The results spoke for themselves. Only Joey Hand qualified faster at 2:17.178 (89.227 mph).
ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R
“We know this track appeared to be very aggressive on tires. So over 15 minutes you only have two or three shots at a good lap. My very first lap, the balance wasn’t quite there. So I knew where to push on my second run. I put together a very, very nice lap. It is great to have Corvette Racing in P2 and P3, especially after how the last session went. We knew the performance was there but couldn’t quite put it together. But I am very happy. The car was really good.”
(His best lap) “On the very last lap, the tires were giving up on the last three corners. At one point I thought comparing that lap to my previous best that I could go down in the 2:16s but the tires just gave up over the last few corners. Still, it was pretty decent work and happy to be on the first row.”
(Starting second and third) “Being up front is always good. We know anything can happen. In a situation like Baltimore, just being one spot or one row behind where we were would have put us out of the race. You cannot predict that but for sure being on the front row gives you the best shot in the race.”
(The fight with BMW) “We are the meat in the sandwich. For sure, we’ve seeing again that the four strongest cars are from both manufacturers. They will be very strong tomorrow so we will see how it develops. We still don’t know how the weather will be. If it is part of the race, it will come down to the pits and crews again. As I’ve said in the past, Corvette Racing is the best third driver you can have. I’m glad to be in this position.”
OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 4 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R
“This is a big fill-up for us. It’s been a difficult couple of sessions for us, and we didn’t look so good in the rain early on. But we worked away at a plan. (Lead engineer) Chuck (Houghton) and the guys from Michelin worked hard together as well with the No. 3 car and us to put a plan together of how we were going to run the session. We knew that we had to do (the times) early to make it work, and it did. So we’re pleased to be second and third. My strategy after the first timed lap maybe wasn’t as aggressive as Antonio’s in terms of what he did to get the performance back for his (final) timed lap. But he did a fantastic job to get to that time. This is a very solid place for us to start the race tomorrow.”
(On the race outlook) “I think it will be dry and we will just have to see. It’s a little bit of an unknown for all of us being here for the first time – seeing what tire life is like, how cars hang up in the heat and how the race evolves. The track will be washed off today and should rubber up for our race. Balance of the cars may change throughout and how cars react to certain things. Things like tire pressures and different compounds… It will be very busy on top of the timing stand to make sure we’re on top of all that.”
(Adjustments from practice to qualifying) “The biggest change was our approach with the tire, understanding it and how we were going to get the lap time from that tire and which particular wet tire we were going to run. It looked like we made the right choice because we made a nice little jump. I’m pleased with that. I far prefer to start second and third than eighth and ninth.”
DOUG FEHAN, CORVETTE RACING PROGRAM MANAGER
“We saw earlier in the week the challenge that Circuit of The Americas can present. Those were amplified today with periods of heavy rain and a wet track. The improvements our engineers – both from Corvette Racing and our partners at Michelin – and crew made between practice and qualifying was the stuff of champions. Baltimore proved how critical your starting position can be, and having our Corvettes second and third on the grid gives us a great chance to secure important championship points.”
ESPN2 will air at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday with live coverage available on ESPN3 beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.
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