Magnussen and O’Connell Score First Victory for New-Generation Corvette, Gavin and Beretta Take Third
BOWMANVILLE, Ont., Aug. 30, 2009 – Corvette Racing returned to the American Le Mans Series winner’s circle with the first victory for the GT2 Corvette C6.R at the Grand Prix of Mosport. In only the third race for the production-based GT2 race car, Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen scored a .331-second victory in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R over the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GT of Jamie Melo and Pierre Kaffer. Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta finished third in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R, one lap behind their sister car. The winning Corvette C6.R completed 117 laps on the 2.459-mile Mosport International Raceway road course and finished sixth overall.
It was an emotional win for O’Connell and Magnussen, who shared their first ALMS victory at Mosport in 1999. Today O’Connell scored his record-setting seventh win at Mosport in his milestone 100th ALMS start. Magnussen celebrated the birth of his second son on Monday, and then shared the victory podium with O’Connell today.
“It’s been the best week of my life,” said Magnussen. “First a new baby boy, and then the first win with the GT2 Corvette in Johnny’s 100th race.”
The decisive moment in the two-hour, 45-minute race came at the 2:15 mark during the final round of pit stops. Kaffer’s class-leading No. 62 Ferrari pitted for fuel and tires, followed one lap later by Magnussen’s Corvette C6.R in second. When Magnussen rejoined the race, the two cars went side-by-side into the fast downhill section following the pit exit. Magnussen held the inside line though Moss Corner and took the lead for good going into the Andretti Straight. The Dane then withstood intense pressure from Kaffer for the remaining 30 minutes to the checkered flag.
“The pit stop was fantastic and we managed to get out just ahead of the Ferrari,” Magnussen said. “That out lap was really hard because my tires were cold and he already had one lap on his tires. There was a bit of banging going into Turn 3, but not too bad. That was the key moment in the race for us.
“After that my Michelin tires were super good and I was able to open up a little gap,” Magnussen noted. “When the tires stabilized, it was a matter of not making any mistakes. Kaffer and I were fast in different points of the track, so I had to be really careful in some places and I could relax in other places.”
O’Connell started the No. 3 Corvette C6.R fourth on the GT2 grid and moved up to second on the ninth lap. Struggling with a loose car, he handed off to Magnussen at 58 minutes into the race with the car in fourth place. Commenting on Magnussen’s charge, O’Connell said, “That was one of the finest drives I’ve ever seen. It was mistake-free, and knowing what he had to do with that car, today was all Jan. He was a rock star, and the crew had a killer pit stop to get him out in front of the Ferrari.”
Gavin started the No. 4 Corvette C6.R from the third spot on the GT2 grid, and quickly slotted into second at the green flag, overtaking the No. 90 BMW of Bill Auberlen. He then took the lead eight minutes into the race, passing the pole-winning BMW M3 of Tommy Milner. Both BMWs subsequently encountered problems, finishing ninth and 11th. Meanwhile Melo drove the Ferrari from the back of the pack to the front after missing qualifying due to an accident in practice.
“At the green flag I got a better jump than the BMW on the outside, so I followed the pole-sitting BMW,” Gavin recalled. “For a moment I thought I might be able to get him going into Turn 2, but then decided to bide my time. It seemed like he was struggling with his tires and he had a bit of a bobble coming out of the last turn. I just managed to get around him going into Turn 1, and he was very fair and gave me room.
“We managed to pull away from the BMW, but the Ferrari was coming on strong,” Gavin continued. “I had a lot of oil on the windshield, then the rain started, and when I turned on the wiper, it smeared the oil and I couldn’t see where I was going. It was a blessing that the caution came when it did.”
Beretta replaced Gavin in the No. 4 Corvette while the Ferrari took the lead on the pit stop exchange under a full-course caution. When racing resumed, a six-car train of GT2 cars was racing nose-to-tail, and traffic was heavy. Beretta and Magnussen both passed the Ferrari in Turn 5, seizing the opportunity when the leader was balked by a prototype. At 1:59 into the race, Beretta was forced off the racing line by a prototype. He ended up in the grass, but rejoined in third place.
“Olly did his usual fantastic job and was leading the race when he pitted,” Beretta said. “I got in the car and was doing good lap times to try to keep the Ferrari behind. Unfortunately a prototype driver caught me on the top of the hill where the car is very light, and I went off. My main concern was not to crash the car. It was just bad luck for us.”
Corvette Racing also scored its third consecutive victory in the Michelin GREEN X Challenge. The No. 4 Corvette C6.R had the best overall score among the 19 GT and prototype entries based on energy used, greenhouse gases emitted, and petroleum fuels displaced. The No. 3 Corvette C6 placed second in the competition.
“The Michelin GREEN X Challenge is indicative of the engineering that goes into these Corvettes,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “We’re not just engineering a fast car, we’re also engineering a green car through fuel efficiency and E85 ethanol. Those advances transfer into GM production vehicles, so what we saw today was a victory for engineering that will produce a greener future.
“BMW gave us a little help at the beginning when both cars had problems, and we knew it was going to be anybody’s race between the Porsches, Ferrari and Corvettes,” Fehan said. “We had four marques battling it out. Once again Corvette Racing won it in the pits – we went in second and came out in first place, so the team won it today.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., on September 26. The race is scheduled to start at 11:15 a.m. ET. SPEED will broadcast live flag-to-flag coverage starting at 11 a.m. ET
Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport GT2 Results:
1. O’Connell/Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 117
2. Melo/Kaffer, Ferrari 430 GT, 117
3. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 116
4. Henzler/Werner, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 116
5. Bergmeister/Long, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 115
6. Farnbacher/James, Panoz Esperante GTLM, 115
7. Law/van Overbeek, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 115
8. Feinberg/Hall, Dodge Viper, 113
9. Hand/Auberlen, BMW E92 M3, 110
10. Robertson/Robertson/Murry, Ford GT MK 7, 105
11. Mueller/Milner, BMW E92 M3, 71