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Corvette Racing

The sanctioning body for GT1 class has had it in for Corvette Racing this year, and finally at Lime Rock on Saturday it pays off for Aston Martin. With a string of 12 consecutive wins, Corvette Racing is the dominant team. Over the last few years champions and challengers alike (Viper and Ferrari) have fallen to Corvette Racing. This year, in a bid to make the GT1 class more competitive, the sanctioning body of the ALMS is attempting to level the playing field by making changes to Corvette Racing’s car setup, most notably weight. In March at Sebring, the first race this year, the weight for the #3 and #4 Corvettes were required to be an additional 122 pounds heavier. Following the stunning win at LeMans, the longest track on the ALMS Tour, Corvette Racing’s Corvettes were required to be an additional 199 pounds heavier, have smaller intake restrictors and a smaller fuel tank capacity than its rivals when racing at Lime Rock on Saturday, the shortest and one of the most congested, technical tracks on the circuit. And despite these sanctions, the #3 Corvette finished in second place with only 0.33 separating them from the GT1 Class Winning 009 Aston Martin DBR. I don’t wish to take anything away from Aston Martin’s win at Lime Rock, but image the #3 Corvette being nearly 200 pounds lighter and maybe one less pit stop due to a smaller fuel tank and you get the picture. This should have been a win. Carbon Fiber body panels and a hydroformed steel chassis drops the weight of the Corvette C6.R to an astonishing 2,425 pounds (500 pounds less than the 2006 Corvette Z06). Millions of dollars have been spent by General Motors and Corvette Racing in developing the kind of advanced racing machine that wins 12 straight races. And then when it dominates, it is punished in the “spirit of competition”. Competition breeds success. Competition makes not only the champions better, but the challengers as well. Imagine the NFL telling a team that their wide receivers were too fast and then required them to wear five pound ankle weights during the game. Changes the game. Maybe not a lot, but 0.33 seconds is enough.
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Holiday traffic was heavy today at Lime Rock Park in the fourth round of the American Le Mans Series, with hard contact and close calls the order of the day in the New England Grand Prix. Corvette Racing’s bid for a record 13th consecutive victory in the GT1 class came up just short in a photo finish between the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R and the No. 009 Aston Martin DBR9. Aston Martin driver Pedro Lamy edged Corvette star Johnny O’Connell by .033-second at the stripe. It was the first race since March 2005 that Corvette Racing had to settle for the second spot on the podium. “He had me by two feet, but with another lap or two we might have got him,” said O’Connell. “The guys on the No. 3 Corvette crew have been working so hard and I really wanted to get them a win. This is a very busy race track, but it was a fun battle and we raced each other clean.” “It was crazy out there – as crazy as I’ve ever seen it,” said O’Connell’s teammate Ron Fellows, who drove the first one-hour, 41-minute stint. “That’s typical of Lime Rock. I was a tick quicker than the Aston in a couple of areas, but not quick enough to take a shot at him.” The two-hour, 45-minute race on the roller coaster 1.54-mile circuit was punctuated by frequent contact and three full-course caution periods. The first incident was the result of Dyson Racing’s LMP1 prototype making an optimistic passing attempt in Turn 3 on Olivier Beretta in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. The prototype pushed the Corvette off the track, and both cars ended up in the guardrail, mired in mud.”The car was flying and I was pushing hard to catch the leaders,” Beretta reported. “I was trying to do my job and an accident happened. I turned into the corner and straight away I felt a car there. He touched me and I went off on the grass. My main concern was the steering. The crew did a terrific job as usual to get the car back on the track.” It took eight minutes for the track workers to extricate the wounded Corvette from the muck, and 17 minutes later the C6.R was back on the track with a new front end and Oliver Gavin behind the wheel. “The crew had to change the nose, change the engine undertray, and replace a broken tie rod end,” reported team manager Gary Pratt. “We cleaned off the mud, changed the tires, and the car was back going again.” That accident ended the bid of Beretta and Gavin to extend their record-setting winning streak to nine consecutive victories. “We’ve had some luck for the last eight races, and it ran out today,” said Gavin. “It was just not our day. I was impressed with how the boys got the car back out there. We completed the required 70 percent of the laps, earned some points, and now it’s on to the next race.” The race for the GT1 title was another pitched battle between the Aston Martin and Corvette camps, with the three frontrunners locked in combat on the same lap for the entire race. Fellows took the lead on the start, passing pole sitter Darren Turner’s Aston Martin. At the 10-minute mark, Beretta and Aston Martin driver Stephane Sarrazin made contact in Turn 1 and both spun. After one hour and 19 minutes of flat-out racing, Fellows and Sarrazin swept past Turner on the inside of Turn 1. Following the final round of pit stops and driver changes, O’Connell took second place from Tomas Enge with eight minutes remaining, and then narrowed Lamy’s margin from 3.7 seconds to a fender length at the finish. The Corvettes were carrying 199 more pounds than the Aston Martins, running smaller intake restrictors, and using smaller fuel tanks as a result of “balance of performance” adjustments mandated by the sanctioning body. “At some point in time we knew that the 200 pounds and the restrictor would be too much to overcome, and today turned out to be that day,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “It was certainly one hell of a battle, and it’s a good thing for Aston Martin that the race wasn’t about four feet longer. I think the fans got their money’s worth today.” Corvette Racing’s next event is the inaugural Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City on July 13-15. The fifth round of the 10-race ALMS will be televised tape-delayed by CBS Sports on Sunday, July 15, starting at 2 p.m. EDT.
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Corvettes Qualify Second and Third at Lime Rock

by Keith Cornett on July 1, 2006

Crew chief Dan Binks’ final instructions to driver Ron Fellows before the start of qualifying were succinct: “Have fun out there.” When Fellows returned to the Corvette Racing pits after taking the second spot on the GT1 grid for Saturday’s New England Grand Prix, his report was equally brief. “Guys, that was fun!” he radioed to the crew of the No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R. “The car was great.” Fellows’ lap of the 1.54-mile Lime Rock Park road course in 50.491 seconds fell just .219 seconds short of Darren Turner’s pole-winning time in the No. 007 Aston Martin DBR9. Olivier Beretta ran the third quickest qualifying lap at 50.873 seconds in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. Pedro Lamy was fourth fastest at 50.905 in the No. 009 Aston Martin DBR9, joining the qualifying session late after an off-course excursion into a bog left by the torrential rain that has inundated New England. “I had a good, fun lap,” Fellows reported. “The car has been working very well since we rolled it onto the track for the first lap of practice. I don’t know if I could have gone quicker, but I sure would have liked another lap and taken a crack at it. “It’s amazing how fast this Corvette is here,” he added. “I still hold the track record in Trans Am from back in 1995, and it’s a 50.2 . . . and that’s without a chicane. Here we are going almost that fast with the chicane!”As a result of performance adjustments imposed by the sanctioning body last week, the Corvettes are now 199 pounds heavier than their Aston Martin rivals and have a 10-liter smaller fuel capacity. “I was quite pleased that Corvettes’ qualifying times pretty well matched the times from last year because the cars are in a significantly different configuration,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “That’s a testament to the hard work that the Corvette Racing team has done. If anything surprised me, it was that the Astons weren’t a bit quicker with the advantage that they now have. “Lime Rock is a great circuit on which to race – it’s bumpy, it’s fast, and there are some very challenging corners,” Fehan noted. “You can’t make a pit stop in the time it takes to complete a lap, so anything can happen on race day.” Fresh from a GT1 class victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Olivier Beretta was still making the adjustment from the longest track on the schedule to the shortest. Beretta and his teammate Oliver Gavin will be racing for their ninth straight ALMS victory on Saturday. “This feels like a go-kart track after driving on a super track like Le Mans,” said Beretta. “Ron did a very good lap time, so congratulations to him. The important thing was not to damage the car, and that is the target for the race. Now we have to see what happens in the race, and I’m feeling confident.” The New England Grand Prix, the fourth round of the 10-race 2006 American Le Mans Series, will start at 3 p.m. EDT on Saturday, July 1. The race will be televised tape-delayed by CBS Sports on Sunday, July 2, at 4 p.m. EDT.
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Racing Across the US in a Classic ’54 Corvette

by Keith Cornett on June 27, 2006

Arthur Alvis and 15 year old son Elliot are cruising across America in a 1954 Red Corvette. But the drive isn’t for pleasure. It’s a race, but one based on precision, not speed. They are competing in the Great Race, a road race featuring antique cars 45 years old or more. Drivers are awarded points on the accuracy of a driver and navigator to match a time and average speed over a predetermined course. Each day the drivers are given a new set of written directions which have instructions like “Take the first road to the right”. GPS is not allowed. Team Alvis, who hail from Wichita and call themselves the Kansas Flying Monkeys, a reference from Wizard of Oz, departed Philadelphia, the starting point of the Great Race on June 24 and as of Monday were in 27th place. There are 90 or so contestants driving originally equipped antique cars as well. Driving a classic Corvette 4,000 miles across the US does have its pitfalls. Passing through a thunderstorm in Pennsylvania, Arthur had to drive with one hand out the window, running a squeegee across the windshield. the wiper assembly came loose leaving him with only one wiper. While some of the interior got soaked, Arthur doesn’t sweat it. He says the ’54 is not a show car. “It’s plastic…it won’t rust.” Follow the Kansas Flying Monkeys in their quest to win the Great Race and take home $250,000 in prize money by visiting the Great Race website. Good luck guys…we’re all counting on you! Source: Kansas.com
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Final LeMans Wrap-up

by Keith Cornett on June 23, 2006

We promise this will be the last post about Corvette winning the GT1 class at the 24 Hours of LeMans. It is it hard to ignore the contributions of a winning race program and the pride and prestige it brings to the enthusiast. Similar I guess to those that follow a favorite NASCAR driver, but different because the knowledge that the technology that is tested on the track and in the pits will filter down to the production cars you and I drive every day. Our final LeMans wrap-up includes comments and links to three different elements of the Corvette racing program.
Oliver Gavin – Driver of the #64 Corvette Oliver talks about how the outcome could have changed for Corvette Racing had they given up after circumstances that could have taken a lesser team out of the race. He mentions how he had a brush with an LMP car that sent the Corvette into the gravel and punctured a tire. That collision also caused body work damage to the right rear quarter panel that seemed to take some of the speed from Corvette on the straight-aways. That dropped the #64 Corvette 2-3 minutes behind the #009 Aston Martin. But Team Corvette kept pushing and pushing and started making up that deficit when mechanicals forced the Aston into the pits for an extended stop giving the #64 Corvette the class lead. Click here to read Oliver’s account of Winning at LeMans.
Tom Wallace – Corvette Chief Engineer In a Podcast from LeMans, Tom Wallace talks about his impressions from his first visit to the historic track. “With the competition of the Astons, and the back and forth battle that went down to the wire, Corvette overcame the problems that happened during the race better than the Aston team. All Corvette owners and future owners should be darn proud of Corvette and this team and what they have shown during the world’s biggest race.” Visit the GM Fast Lane Blog or Download the MP3.
Peter M. DeLorenzo – AutoExtremist.com Sweet Pete D. as he is affectionately called by the Jalopnik.com boys again focuses his weekly rant on how GM needs to leverage this historic win by Corvette Racing as a symbol of how GM is doing things right. “It wasn’t too long ago that the idea of GM challenging the world with a factory-supported racing effort would have been scoffed at and dismissed as folly internally. Fortunately, those bad old days are long gone. The powers that be at General Motors have finally – finally – come to understand that racing can be much more than just a source of company pride or another excuse to fill the France family’s over-stuffed NASCAR coffers. They’ve learned that going up against the world’s best in the most intensely competitive environment possible is an ideal way to train and develop engineers – and the engineers involved with the Corvette Racing program are indeed some of the company’s best and brightest. They’ve come to understand that technical lessons learned on the racetrack can be directly transferred into improvements on their production cars – which is why the Corvette Z06 is arguably the best all-around sports car in the world at this very moment. GM has also learned that a winning, world-class racing program is an invaluable image and marketing tool that can transform an organization and translate into a winning image both on and off the track.” Read Peter’s entire rant at AutoExtremist.com Photo Credit: Richard Prince
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Corvette Racing Wins The 24 Hours of LeMans

by Keith Cornett on June 18, 2006

This year’s running of the 74th annual 24 Hours of LeMans featured only a few lead changes as it became a battle between the #009 Aston Martin and the #64 Corvette. The Corvette was leading after 6 hours in the race, but a slightly longer pit stop allowed Aston to get out first and take the lead of the GT1 class. The Aston then lead with a 1 lap lead for most of the night and into the day when they developed a problem with their clutch. That pit stop allowed the #64 Corvette driven by Gavin/Beretta/Magnussen to take the lead for good. The #63 Corvette ran into problems early in the race. A spinout dropped the Corvette driven by Fellows/O’Connell/Papis down to 7th place in the GT1 class where they stayed most of the race. Finishing second in the GT1 class was the #007 Aston Martin. 5 laps down from the #64 Corvette, they were never a threat to Corvette Racing’s 1st place finish. A European team racing the C5.R Corvette finished 3rd. This is Corvette Racing’s 5th GT1 class win at LeMans in 6 years. Photo Credit: Philippe Chemin – ACO/Nikon
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More On Corvette’s Win at LeMans

by Keith Cornett on June 18, 2006

This year’s 24-hour endurance test reprised the drama of last year’s battle. The No. 63 Corvette C6.R and the No. 009 Aston Martin DBR9 were in lockstep from the start, separated by less than a lap in the running order for hour after hour. The turning point came in the 22nd hour when the green Aston Martin went to the garage with a mechanical problem. At 2:09 p.m., Jan Magnussen officially took the lead – a lead that Corvette Racing would not relinquish. The winning Corvette completed 355 laps, made 25 faultless pit stops, and won by a five-lap margin of victory.

“You have a one-lap cushion, the Aston is in the garage, and you are five laps ahead of the next car,” crew chief Ray Gongla radioed Magnussen when he took the point. “Do you copy? Can you hear us?” “Yes, I can hear you,” the Dane replied, “but I just can’t believe it!”
Joining the three Corvette Racing drivers on the victory podium were Luc Alphand, Patrice Goueslard and Jerome Policand, who finished third in their independent Corvette C5-R with 346 laps completed. The No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R of Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Max Papis finished seventh after encountering drivetrain problems. The No. 63 Corvette’s star-crossed weekend continued when it pitted at 1:20 p.m. in a cloud of smoke from the transmission. The crews from both cars went to work, removing, rebuilding and reinstalling the overheated gearbox. One hour and nine minutes later, Johnny O’Connell rejoined the fray. “The rules don’t allow you to replace the complete transmission, but you can rebuild it,” explained team manager Gary Pratt. “We had a gearbox issue in Sebring, but we didn’t expect it here, and it might have been the result of one problem creating another problem. Corvette Racing Quotes: Olivier Beretta: “The key to our success was to never give up. Once again Le Mans proved to be race that isn’t won until the checkered flag is out. We had a difficult moment during the night when Ollie hit an LMP car and we subsequently got some vibrations. Then we had a refueling problem and all of a sudden we were almost a lap down. We decided to push and a couple of hours from the end we started biting big chunks out of their lead. Then they hit problems and the race fell back our way. ” Oliver Gavin: “As always it was a fantastic race, super hard all the way against the Aston Martins. And once again everybody dug deep. This race is a testament to everybody involved who has worked so hard. It’s been a truly remarkable result to win three in a row against a super professional team like Prodrive. There were moments when you thought, this is going to be tough, when you felt the race falling away from you, but we just hung in there until it came back to us.” Jan Magnussen: “It was a very tough race, all 24 hours of it. We pushed all the way, and after we hit problems we didn’t sit back. We didn’t want the race to run away from us. By daylight we were almost a lap down but we just kept pushing and pushing until the Astons failed, and eventually they did. We never got any presents, we earned this win!” Source: CorvetteRacing.com
Photo Credit: Philippe Chemin – ACO/Nikon
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Podcast: Final Preparations for the 24 Hours of LeMans

by Keith Cornett on June 17, 2006

What a great weekend for Corvettes. In Illinois, the 34th Annual Bloomington Gold Corvette show and Auction is now in full swing, and for racing fans, the 24 Hours of LeMans starts today. I’ll be tuning into the Speed Channel often throughout the day and into the night for updates on Team Corvette and their quest for the 5th win in 6 years.

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Podcast: Team Corvette Ready for LeMans

by Keith Cornett on June 7, 2006

In this latest podcast from GM’s Fastlane Blog, Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan talks about Corvette Racing’s preparations for the most prestigious racing event in the world, the 24 Hours of LeMans. Doug discusses what Team Corvette needs to do in getting ready for this endurance race that taxes not only the cars, but the drivers and crew as well. Competition in the GT Class will be intense this year with four Aston Martins, a Saleen, Ferrari and a European C5 Corvette team. According to Fehan, the GT class tends to be the focus of most of the fans because that’s where the classic battles take place. Despite the competition, Fehan is optimistic that the Corvette Racing team will extend its record to five 1-2 finishes in the most recent six years at LeMans. Visit the GM Fast Lane Blog or Download the MP3. Photo: Richard Prince
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Jalopnik.com was up at Indianapolis for coverage of the 500 and one of the boys scored a lap around the Brickyard in the Z06 Corvette Pace car with Chevrolet’s pace car guru Gary Mulder. While not quite hitting the track with the gusto one would expect if equipped with the 505 hp Z06, it was still a fun lap around and it’s amazing to see just how big this fabled track is. Click here for Wert and Austin’s official I Am Indy posts.


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