Tommy Milner Sets the Pace in Preparation for Legendary Endurance Race
LE MANS, France – Corvette Racing completed a successful test day at Le Mans on Easter Sunday. Corvette Racing’s four full-season American Le Mans Series drivers – Oliver Gavin, Jan Magnussen, Olivier Beretta and Tommy Milner – used one of the team’s European customer cars to collect valuable data for the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 11-12.
The immense 8.468-mile circuit includes sections of public roads in the Sarthe region of western France, so the reinstatement of the traditional test day after a two-year hiatus was welcomed by the team and drivers alike. Although Corvette Racing will compete in the 24-hour race in the GTE-Pro class – reserved for professional teams – today the team used Larbre Competition’s No. 50 Corvette C6.R that is entered in the GTE-Am class – for one-year-old cars with at least one gentleman-driver – and came away fastest in the category.
“Everything worked according to plan,” said Corvette Racing team manager Gary Pratt. “Tommy Milner completed his mandatory 10 laps at the beginning of the morning session to qualify for the race, and then the other three drivers cycled through the Corvette C6.R to cover all the areas we had planned to work on. Only a rain shower in the morning and an incident between Olly Gavin and a competitor kept the car in the garage on two occasions. Despite those interruptions, we got the data we needed and tested all of the items we had on our list.”
With exceptionally warm weather reigning over the western part of Europe for over a week, thunderstorms and isolated showers had been predicted for Sunday’s eight-hour test. However, the track remained dry for most of the day.
Drivers who haven’t raced at Le Mans in the past three years are required to complete 10 laps to be eligible for the practice sessions in June. Milner, who last drove at Le Mans in 2007, quickly dispatched that obligation.
“I got out on the track at 9 a.m. sharp to get in my mandatory 10 laps,” Milner said. “It was easy enough, even if the track was still quite dirty at that time. Le Mans is not too difficult a track to get used to again. Tertre Rouge can be a bit hairy, the run up to Indianapolis corner is daunting, and the Porsche Curves will grab your attention for sure, but the rest of the track is pretty straightforward.”
Milner confirmed his confidence by setting the car’s fastest lap of the day near the end of the afternoon session at 4:04.222. “That was fun,” he beamed, “especially after not having been here for so long. The car has been really easy to drive all day and will be even more so by June.”
Oliver Gavin made the trip to Le Mans from his home in the UK in a production Corvette ZR1 and was impressed by the power of the road car. Gavin worked his way through different setups in the racing version until his shift was cut short.
“I was coming up to Mulsanne Corner at the end of the straight behind one of the Ford GTs, when the driver suddenly braked earlier and a lot harder than expected,” Gavin explained. “I moved to pass him on the inside, but when I was right alongside him, he turned in, too. We hit each other wheel-to-wheel, which damaged the steering rack on our car and lost us half an hour for repairs.”
“We completed our entire test day schedule,” Olivier Beretta said, “and we had a great day in almost ideal circumstances. We didn’t look for performance per se, but instead worked on the suspension, the aero, the tires, and the chassis. We checked all the boxes and will continue to work hard until we’re back here in June.”
Jan Magnussen concurred with his colleagues: “It was a bit of a special day today because we didn’t use our own car and had to share this one between the four of us. But we learned a lot and the engineers will analyze the data back in the factory. When we come back in June we will have a much faster car, I’m sure.”
The 79th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours will begin with technical scrutineering on Sunday, June 5, and Monday, June 6, followed by practice and qualifying on Wednesday, June 8, and Thursday, June 9. The race will start at 3:00 p.m. local time on Saturday, June 11.
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