Category Archives: American Le Mans Series

Oliver Gavin endures tough 24 Hours of Daytona

Corvette Racing; Rolex 24 at Daytona; Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida; January 28-29, 2017; C7.R #3 driven by Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, and Mike Rockenfeller; C7.R #4 driven by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Marcel Fassler (Richard Prince/Chevrolet photo).

It proved to be a difficult day in the office for Oliver Gavin and Corvette Racing this weekend (28-29 January, 2017) in the Rolex 24H at Daytona.

Having won the event last year in dramatic style, Gavin and teammates Tommy Milner and Marcel Fässler had to settle for a ninth-place finish on a weekend where an incident and a mechanical issue effectively ended the charge for a repeat victory.

·          Oliver Gavin finished Rolex 24H ninth in the GTLM class and 16th overall

·          After qualifying ninth, Gavin took the first stint despite suffering from the flu’

·          The C7.R ran competitively on the lead lap until a collision with a Ford GT after seven hours

·          The #4 team lost 21 laps whilst repairs were carried out

·          Continuous rain for 12 hours from 8pm made the racing treacherous

·          There was an unprecedented seven hours under full course yellow

Olly says…

Key to the race was contact and the breakage of the right-rear control arm…

“Ultimately our race was shaped by the contact from the #69 when Marcel was behind the wheel. We lost a lot of time but we managed to make up five laps that were lost from making the repairs. However, it was far too big a deficit and we were still 16 laps back, finishing ninth.

“At the end, the racing was fantastic and more than anything we wanted to be in that battle at the front just like last year. It looked like a lot of fun!”

After qualifying in P9, it looked to be a good start to the 24-hour race

“Yes, the first stint went well. The first lap, as always here, was eventful! You always have to weigh up how much risk to take to grab a spot from a competitor and it worked out for me and I gained a couple of places.

“From then on it was very close racing with the Ford and Porsche, a lot of fun. I got out after a single stint due to being a little under the weather. I was ill Friday, better Saturday but still fighting it off. And so it was over to Tommy and Marcel after that first stint…”

Cold and wet conditions made this an unusual event for Daytona

“My last stint in the race was okay. I was finally back on dry tyres after hours and hours on rains. The car felt good and we had pretty good pace, but like the sister car, we were just missing a little to the leaders.

“It was certainly one of the toughest 24 hour races for me. From being unwell to then the weather on early Sunday morning… Le Mans 2001 was the last time I experienced conditions as treacherous over so many hours.”

Not the dream result but a strong showing from the Corvette Racing

“We may not have had the fastest car but Corvette Racing once again showed their strengths in the pits.

““For the final stop of the race, the #3 car came in the pits in fourth position and was comfortably in the lead at the pit exit. Amazing pit work. A great job throughout the race by all at Corvette Racing.”

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Oliver Gavin confirmed with Corvette Racing for the 2017 season

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With no less than 48 wins with Corvette Racing since 2002, Oliver Gavin will again compete alongside Tommy Milner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2017.

2016 proved to be a most-successful season for Gavin with he and teammate Milner notched up the brand’s 100th GTML victory on the way to his fifth title with the team.  Naturally he is looking forward to getting back to the track and competing for more success…

On your 16th season with Corvette Racing?

“It’s definitely an honour to be back for another season. I started with Corvette Racing in 2002, so driving in 2017 and representing Corvette Racing for another full season is a huge honour and I’m really looking forward to being back on track at Daytona – the first race of the season – and seeing where we are.

“It’s great to be back with Tommy for what will be our sixth year together. We’ve had some fantastic races, won championships, and we have some great moments together, I’m sure we’ll add to those in 2017.”

A week to celebrate with home recognition from the BRDC with the Fairfield Trophy

“I’m delighted with the BRDC Fairfield Trophy I collected Monday at the awards lunch. I’m a proud member of the BRDC and to be recognised by them when I spend so much time racing in the US is very special – great to know that my competition is not cut off from the UK and Europe –  so I’m delighted to be recognised this year for my achievements.

“It was also a personal pleasure to be presented by six-time Gold Olympic Cyclist, Sir Chris Hoy. Sharing a stage with such a legend who has waved the flag and achieved so much for our country, was very special…”

With 48 wins, there must be one or two that stands out above the others?

“There’s so many races and so many wins that are special. The freshest and most spectacular was the 2016 Daytona 24hrs. That was an intense, hard fought battle with our teammates. Unreal finish.

“Le Mans 24hrs in 2006 was an exceptional race as it was hot and so tough against our rivals in GT1. The C6.R was a great car that year and I teamed up with Jan Magnussen and Olivier Beretta for the extremely intense race-long battle against the Astons. It was really a great race for Corvette Racing and it was our third in a row, so that was very satisfying.”

On 2016 and chances for 2017 at the big races at Daytona and Le Mans?

“We were not really sure how competitive we would be in 2016 against very tough competition, but on balance over the year in the IMSA championship the C7.R had strong performance. In saying that, Le Mans was very very hard for us. The Balance of Performance is a necessary evil – manufacturers, officials, fans and drivers have to accept that sometimes things work out, sometimes not. You always need to look at the year as a whole and more often than not, in 2016, IMSA got the balance correct.

“Balance of Performance especially comes into focus at Daytona and Le Mans as they’re such long races and the effect is magnified over the 24 hours, so in 2017 we come back with a similar package, albeit with slightly varying tyre compounds, so we will have to wait and see how it all plays out in the big events.”

Is there one thing in particular you would like to tick off your ‘done’ list for 2017?

“With 48 wins, I’m obviously very close to an important milestone and that – along with the championship – is the target and if I could get there it would be amazing. We’re always chasing the wins, especially at the big events. Over a 12-month period in 2015/16 we won Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring. Very special.

“One that seems to have got away is COTA (Circuit of the Americas). It’s just never clicked or we’ve had bad luck. This year the race is in May instead of late summer, so perhaps that will bring a change of fortune and I can get that monkey off my back.

“Sometimes as hard as you try, races can pick you. Road America this year is a classic example. The way things unfolded in those final laps was amazing. That race certainly picked us for the win!”

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The highs and lows of a racing year!

Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin this year completed his 10th full season with the all-conquering American giant, and finished the final-ever American Le Mans Series season in 3rd place in the GT standings – ceding his, and team mate Tommy Milner’s, 2012 Championship title to Corvette team mates Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia.

Here’s a quick glimpse at the highs and lows of the super-successful British GT driver’s racing year, beginning with the top 5 moments:

Olly, Tommy and Richard have got that winning feeling!!

1)      The 12 Hours of Sebring was huge, partly because of the way the race unfolded.  We were very quick in the early stages, and then had two major hurdles put in front of us with first a fire in the cockpit and then a penalty.  We were almost two laps down but we managed to chase down the class-leading Ferrari and it was a really tight battle at the end.  Tommy did a fantastic job in the car and got us back into the lead with 14 minutes to go; it was a great victory for everyone on our team and the perfect way to kick off the 2013 ALMS season.

Just 0.267 seconds between them at the flag!

2)      Our next victory was at Mosport (now called Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) and that was another race which I started.  I got us as close as possible to the leading Viper for the first 75 or 80 minutes and then, thanks to a brilliant job in the pits by the crew, Tommy started his stint from the lead.  He drove a fantastic defensive race, with Dominik Farnbacher’s Viper on his tail for pretty much the whole time right to the chequered flag.  The team were ace on the pits stops and that gave us that little bit of breathing space when the tyres were cold for example.  Tommy really drove very well there to hold them off and get the victory.

3)      Baltimore at the end of August was another great circuit and event to go to, even though the race was marred by a huge crash at the start which, fortunately, both our cars managed to miss.  I was looking forward to racing there because in practice I’d felt really in the groove and felt that our car would be quick.  We ended up finishing 2nd behind our team mates and, as things turned out, that would be our last time on the podium in 2013.

4)      Bizarrely, perhaps, one of my highlights was being able to watch Antonio in the No.3 Corvette perform at COTA in Austin in pretty much the slowest GT car on the track.  He did an amazing job to pull out a victory and the team’s strategy was also perfect.

5)      Another highlight was being able to watch Jan and Antonio wraping up the championship at Petit Le Mans, even though that was a rather disappointing race for us in the No.4 car after we’d had alternator problems and a couple of other minor glitches. Despite that, I had a huge amount of fun driving in that race, helping the No.3 out to get them to where they needed to be to win the championship.  With the benefit of experience, you realise that some years are not going to be ‘your year’ and, if you can’t win, you want your team mates to win.  They’d endured a very difficult 2012 and they thoroughly deserved to win the championship this year.

And the lows, in no particular order…

1)      The COTA race had to be one of the biggest lows, as our broken gearbox and subsequent retirement effectively put paid to our championship title hopes.

2)      Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was also pretty dire, with transmission problems (again) putting paid to our chance of winning that race.

3)      Lime Rock Park.  Our race unravelled right from Turn 1 of the first lap after contact from another GT car, and then in the pits.  It was one of those races you want to write off in your memory for all time!

4)      My experience with Aston Martin Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship.  I should stress this has nothing to do with the team, the series or any of the people I worked with there, but wholly with the disappointing outcome in terms of result, the car retiring with suspension damage.  It was great to work with a high level team and for me to experience the rarity of being a British driver in a British car with a British team.

5)      I know I won’t be the only one who will count this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours as memorable for all the wrong reasons.  I was running right behind Allan Simonsen’s car and I shall never be able to forget what happened…every single one of us in motor racing, and sports car racing in particular, hopes and prays we won’t see that again.

I don’t want to end on that negative note though as we all have to look forward and not back, learn from our mistakes or use experiences good and bad to make us stronger.  Next year offers new challenges for lots of us racing in North America with the inaugural season of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship.  It’s only weeks away now so I wish you all a Happy Christmas/Happy Holidays.  Here’s to a successful 2014!

 

 

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End of an era at Petit Le Mans

It was wet, dry, wet dry the whole race

The No. 4 Corvette C6.R of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook finished 10th in the last ever ALMS race, Petit Le Mans, at Road Atlanta last weekend, after having endured two lengthy stops to replace a pair of alternator belts.  The result meant that Olly and Tommy’s final placing in the GT Drivers’ classification was 3rd, behind their Championship-winning team mates Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia and BMW’s Dirk Muller.

In what was also the C6.R’s last race before the introduction of the new Corvette C7.R in January, Olly made a great start and moved from seventh to second in the first two laps.  By the time they got to 30 minutes into the 1000 Mile or maximum 10-hour race, the car’s telemetry was showing that the alternator was not charging the battery.

Olly brought the car in for fuel, tires and a driver change to Tommy Milner along with a belt replacement but that proved to be faulty and a further pit stop was required on the next lap.  This time the belt functioned properly and the car continued with the battery fully charging but the trio was six laps down and the No.4’s challenge for success was over.

They then set about doing all possible to help the No.3 car to wrap up the Drivers’ title – to add to the Teams’ and Manufacturers’ titles already claimed by Corvette Racing.

Olly commented after the race:  “These last few races have been extremely difficult and tough for usbut today is all about the No. 3 car.  Antonio and Jan deserve this championship thoroughly. They bounced back from a heart-breaking Sebring and since then they have driven brilliantly. They had great strategy and pit stops, they executed a great race every weekend, and scored points every time they were allowed to.  Full and hearty congratulations to them.

“For Tommy and I, the 2013 season can’t come to an end soon enough. It seemed like every which way we turned, things were not going right for us. After such a great start in Sebring, our luck just ran out as the season progressed. I’m just now focused on 2014 with the new car and hitting the ground running at Daytona. We had two really big highlights – winning at Sebring and in Canada was fantastic but the rest of it has been under par to say the least.”

Congratulations to Jan and Antonio!!

Tommy – as Olly’s team mate and equal 3rd-place finisher in the classification – added:  “At the end of the day, we obviously would have loved to finish better but Antonio and Jan got their championship, which is fantastic.  We’re team champions and manufacturer champions just like last year which is a great send-off for the C6.R, and we’re looking forward to the C7.R now.

“It was a rough day for us –that was our season in a nutshell. There were just little problems that sometimes can be easily fixed and solved. But this year, every little thing cost us a lot of time. All in all, and looking back on the season it was a great one again. The car was fantastic and it’s always a pleasure working with the guys at Corvette Racing.”

Corvette Racing will open the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship with the Corvette C7.R race car at the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 25-26.

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Backing up No.3 in last title push!

Discussing strategy with the boss, Gary Pratt!!

The final race for the Chevrolet Corvette C6.R will see two of Corvette Racing’s GT challengers starting fourth and seventh on the GT grid for Saturday’s Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Antonio Garcia qualified the No. 3 Compuware Corvette fourth with a lap of 1:19.128 (115.560 mph) in the finale of the American Le Mans Series.

Garcia and Jan Magnussen enter the 1,000-mile/10-hour race leading the GT drivers’ championship. With three wins this season, the duo needs a seventh-place finish or better Saturday with Jordan Taylor to clinch the title. Their only challenger for the title – Dirk Muller – will start fifth. The top seven cars were within 0.579 seconds of each other.

Garcia set his best time on his final lap of the session to beat Muller’s time. The No. 3 Corvette placed second in last year’s Petit Le Mans, and a similar showing Saturday would give Corvette Racing a drivers’ championship for the ninth time since 2001. Magnussen won the 2008 GT1 title, and Garcia was third in last year’s GT standings with Magnussen for his best championship finish.

In the ALMS’ previous round at VIR, Chevrolet clinched its 10th manufacturers’ championship, and Corvette won an ALMS team title for the 10th time.

Gavin, driving with Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook, set a best lap of 1:19.440 (115.106 mph) in the No. 4 Corvette. The trio hopes to bookend their season with a victory to match a season-opening win in March at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Gavin and Milner – last year’s ALMS champions – stand third in this season’s drivers’ points and have a chance to move up to the runner-up position in the final standings.

ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R

“We had a decent setup and decent pace compared to where we have been in past races. I felt like I could really attack. We seem to be a little closer to our competitors than where we expected. It’s a very good starting position for a long race. No one will be taking risks right away. The more toward the front you are, the less chance there is of having an issue. This is a good starting point. Now we need to run a clean race. Who knows – for sure we want to make 70 percent. After that, we will go for the win.”

OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 4 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R

“We are still searching for some punch out of the slow-speed corners. We also were looking for some direction change in the middle of the corners and made some adjustments before qualifying. I think we overshot with that. Now we have a car that is very much the other way and oversteering everywhere. I couldn’t attack any of the corners or carry my brakes all the way in. I was very nervous with the rear of the car, and my steering inputs were very, very small. It was the sort of stuff you expect when you have a little too much on the nose of the car and the rear is too light. But it’s a long race. We will take seventh place; we have worked our way up well from those positions all year. I’m pretty confident we can do it again. We will get the car right and will be there in the race.”

DOUG FEHAN, CORVETTE RACING PROGRAM MANAGER

“One of the main goals of the session was to start in front of the BMW, which we accomplished. Antonio put in a great final lap, and Oliver positioned the No. 4 to help the team car fight for the championship. Now the goal is to have a clean, mistake-free race under very competitive conditions to wrap up our ninth ALMS drivers’ title – a remarkable feat over the last 15 years. The drivers, engineers and crew have performed brilliantly under pressure all season. Now it comes down to the final race. We are prepared and ready.”

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Olly’s inside guide to Road Atlanta!

With six victories in 15 American Le Mans Series starts at Road Atlanta, Oliver Gavin certainly knows his way around the circuit. Corvette Racing’s superstar Englishman has hundreds of laps under his belt around the 2.54-mile, 12-turn circuit and is immensely qualified to speak on the challenges the track presents as well as keys to quickly getting around. He hopes to taste victory again in the No. 4 Compuware Chevrolet Corvette C6.R with Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook.

Turn 1: A Thrill

“Turn 1 for me – if you get that right – is a really, really good corner. You come down the frontstraight, are braking on the bumps and go down one gear. Then you try to carry as much speed through the apex. The car tends to slide a little bit just as you apex, but the track starts going uphill and that catches you a bit. It helps with your line and gives the car a little extra grip. Then as you come out of there you have to line yourself up for braking into Turn 3.

“Should you get it right, it builds your confidence for the rest of the lap. If you’re on a qualifying lap, you have to make sure you get that corner right. It’s so important.”

The Esses: Biggest Challenge

“The most difficult section of the track is the combination through turns 3, 4 and 5.

“As you come into Turn 3, you’re braking up and over a blind crest, and you know you have to start turning into the corner before you see the apex. It’s all about repetition and getting that knowledge of where you need to turn in and how much speed you need to carry in there. You need to get over the curb on the inside in a way that the car floats over it. Then when you land on the other side you’re not bottoming out the car and you’re giving it as much speed through there to get down the hill – but not so much that you’re going on the curb at the exit. If you do that, the car gets out of shape and it can be difficult going down the hill.

“Then you’re hugging the curb tightly at Turn 4, and the end of the complex is almost always flat out in our car. Maybe in qualifying we will be flat. But on full tanks and worn tires, it’s harder to do. It’s right on the ragged edge. It’s an area where a lot of prototype cars have caught you out of Turn 1 and they are waiting for you to go through Turn 3 and to go by through 4A. That is a real challenge – either breathe and let them go by or keep them behind you going down the hill.

“It’s difficult then to get the braking point for Turn 5 right. That is a corner where you need to carry speed in and maximize the apex speed. Getting off the corner, you want to be able to use some of the curb on the exit but not too much. If you use too much the car will start leaping and bouncing around and can easily spin or go into the wall. But it’s critical to set up the run to Turn 6.”

Turn 7: Key to the Lap

“Whenever people talk about Road Atlanta, they usually talk about Turn 12, Turn 1 or maybe the Esses. But for me the most important corner is Turn 7 – going to the backstraight. If you get that right, you can make up so much time on everybody. You’re carrying all that speed through and out of the corner and all the way down the backstraight. It’s the longest section of straightaway on the whole circuit. It’s vital to get that right because it can really impact your lap time.”

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A weekend of curtain calls!

Here is Corvette Racing’s excellent preview to Petit Le Mans.  As it’s such a momentous occasion, for so many reasons, we thought it would be good to publish it in total.

This weekend’s Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta will see two of modern-day sports car racing’s most prominent names take the checkered flag. The Corvette C6.R competes for the final time in the hands of Corvette Racing for the final event of the American Le Mans Series. One of the most successful models ever fielded by Corvette Racing, the C6.R will make way for the all-new C7.R to debut in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

Two Compuware-sponsored Corvette C6.Rs are entered for this weekend’s 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans. GT championship leaders Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen team with Jordan Taylor in the No. 3 Corvette while Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook pilot the No. 4 entry that opened the ALMS season with a victory at Sebring.

All said, the C6.R helped deliver six ALMS manufacturer and team championships along with five driving titles since 2001. Garcia and Magnussen can add to that tally this weekend by finishing at least seventh or better in class. Considering those facts, it is no surprise to see Corvette Racing, Chevrolet and its drivers throughout the ALMS’ history records.

There are 55 victories worldwide for the C6.R, which made its racing debut in 2005. Of those, 51 were in the ALMS and four came at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Breaking down the numbers further, the GT1 version of the C6.R scored 42 victories – including a record-setting 39 in the ALMS. At one point, the C6.R won 25 consecutive races in class between 2007 and 2009; it is the longest such streak in ALMS history, regardless of class.

Corvette Racing will end the American Le Mans Series as its most successful entrant. The team’s 82 victories are 27 more than any other competitor. Corvette Racing also has 54 1-2 team finishes in ALMS events and has been the fastest qualifier in 64 races – both series records.

Current Corvette drivers rank near the top of the ALMS’ lists of individual categories. Jan Magnussen enters Petit Le Mans as the co-leader in the ALMS starts with 115. Oliver Gavin isn’t far behind with 110 starts. The Brit leads in career fastest race laps with 29, and ranks third in both career victories (40) and career poles (20).

The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship is a result of a merger between the ALMS and GRAND-AM. The series will feature 12 events throughout North America.

ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R

“This car has won Petit Le Mans several times. For sure it would be great to end the ALMS by winning again this year at Petit Le Mans with it and win the drivers’ championship. It’s a very special car and has won so many races around the world.”

JAN MAGNUSSEN, NO. 3 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R

“I’ve been involved in the ALMS since the beginning. It’s been a championship that personally gave me a second career in racing. I pretty much thought that when I was done with Formula One and the way it ended that it would be it for me. Coming here and getting into this championship – first with Panoz and then in GT racing – has been a super privilege. It’s not just to race but also to fight for championships with the biggest manufacturer in the ALMS.”

OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 4 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R

“It is going to be the last race for quite a few things – whether it’s the last race of the ALMS or the last for the C6.R. I’ve gone all the way through the life of the C6.R – both the GT1 version and the GT spec. It’s been so successful and been a great car to drive and be around. I take a huge amount of pleasure in driving it. I’m sure the team has taken a lot of pleasure in working on it and preparing it for the racetrack each weekend. It has been up against the best car manufacturers in the world and oftentimes putting us on the top step.

“If journalists are looking to write a story on the ALMS, the GT car that been there through all its years is America’s sports car – the Corvette. It will be viewed as one of the dominants cars of the ALMS. Corvette has been there for every single Petit Le Mans. If you say ‘ALMS GT car’, I think the automatic reference is a Corvette. The noise and the velocity yellow scheme are the hallmarks of the ALMS. Other cars have come and gone. Chevrolet and Corvette Racing have always been here. The key has been a group of people who have stuck together and functioned properly as a team. Weekend after weekend, we are able to get that high level of performance from the mechanics, engineers, other crew and drivers. It’s been an amazing run. I have to pinch myself sometimes to realize I’ve been part of it. Sometimes in the sport, you have to look back after a couple of years and realize what you’ve been involved in. You look at the last couple of years here with great competition against different brands of cars and different teams. I’m sure we will look over the last couple years of the ALMS GT class and say there was some mighty and fantastic racing at every single round.”

TOMMY MILNER, NO. 4 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R

“The C6.R has featured pretty prominently throughout the ALMS. It was incredibly successful in the GT1 spec. And I think in GT that we have proven pretty well that the chassis and package – no matter where it was raced – was competitive, fast and won championships and everything there is to win in production-based racing. It’s a testament to the car and to the team’s drive, determination and competitiveness to make it a dominant force.”

DOUG FEHAN, CORVETTE RACING PROGRAM MANAGER

“By any measure, the Corvette C6.R has rightfully earned a place among the greatest sports cars of the modern area. Its on-track successes have proven it to be a more-than-worthy successor to the C5-R. Teamed together, these two proud representations of the Corvette production car have made Corvette Racing the most successful team in ALMS history. In addition, with seven Le Mans victories to its credit, Chevrolet and the Corvette brand are now highly respected around the world. All this was achieved through the hard work and dedication of al the guys on the team and the unwavering support of Chevrolet’s management, marketing and engineering personnel. I could not be more proud of all of them.”

(Saluting the ALMS) “It was the extraordinary passion and vision of Don Panoz that led to his creating the American Le Mans Series. In doing so, he literally set the stage for Corvette’s return to international sports car glory. His ability to bring together the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans in combination with the ALMS created what is now considered to be the most competitive sports car racing in the world. Chevrolet and Corvette will be forever grateful for his efforts – Thank you, Don!”

 

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A tough day at the office at VIR

To refer to yesterday’s penultimate round of the 2013 American Le Mans Series at VIR as a ‘bad day at the office’ for the current GT Drivers’ champion, Oliver Gavin, is probably a great understatement in the eyes of the British driver.  It was, however, a good day for the company and team he represents, Chevrolet and Corvette Racing, who wrapped up the Manufacturers and Teams’ GT titles – proving that there’s balance to be found in everything.

After a disastrous race two weeks ago at Circuit of The Americas in Texas, when the No.4 Corvette C6.R of Gavin and his team mate Tommy Milner was retired prematurely due to a gearbox issue, the duo knew that they needed nothing less than a GT win in order to keep their championship hopes alive.  Their 6th place finish at the hot and humid VIR track in Alton, Virginia came at the end of a topsy-turvy day which included a number of incidences of contact with other cars on the fast, narrow circuit.

Starting from 9th place on the grid following a disrupted qualifying session which saw Milner skid off track on oil laid down by a Ferrari, Oliver had a rough-and-tumble two hours that saw him work his way into the top five at one point before multiple incidents of contact and a one-minute penalty awarded following a collision with a GTC put him well down the order.

Team mate Milner rose up to fourth in the final hour of the race, but was badly blocked in the final 10 minutes by one of the BMWs and the Corvette had to settle for 6th or risk not finishing.

Oliver said afterwards:  “Today was a really bad day for me, one of the worst I’ve had for some time.  Every way I seemed to turn, there was contact or people hitting me.  The track is so narrow and slick at times with the different amounts of dust and rubber on it; it makes for a very tricky surface to race on.

“The first stop was a great job by the guys to get us from almost last to almost first. But after that, something silly would always happen, culminating in me having contact with a slower GTC car which slowed dramatically on both apexes of the last corner before pit entry.  We both ended up spinning, I fell back, and then had to serve a minute penalty.  It was super-frustrating.

“Fortunately we got one of the three full course cautions in the race at the right time and got Tommy in the car. He did a great job all the way to the end under difficult conditions, but it was a rough day and weekend for the No. 4 car.    The only bright side was that the main aim of securing the Manufacturers title for GM and Chevrolet was achieved, with one round of the series still to go.  With Petit Le Mans being a 1000 Mile or ten-hour race, offering more points, there is always an outside chance that luck might favour us in some way for second place in the championship but it’s going to be tough.”

 

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Gearbox problems deliver ALMS championship set back at COTA

Tommy made a great start at COTA

Racing at the highest levels sometimes offers great opportunities but it’s rare to be given the chance to drive for two Championship-leading, top-class teams in the same weekend.  In the recently completed International Sportscar Weekend at the impressive Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, Britain’s Oliver Gavin was given just that opportunity when he drove for Corvette Racing in the American Le Mans Series and Aston Martin Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The long-time Corvette Racing factory driver arrived in Texas with a two point advantage in the GT Drivers’ championship standings but the weekend never ran entirely smoothly for Olly and his team mate in the No.4 Corvette C6.R, Tommy Milner. As with most of the field, the pair had not raced at the 3.2-mile track before and that, coupled with torrential rain on practice and qualifying day, led to a difficult couple of sessions.  After a lot of hard work by drivers, engineers and Michelin, a plan was put together and Olly qualified 3rd in the GT class, just behind the No.3 sister car.

The race promised a huge amount but ultimately failed to deliver due to a rare gearbox failure, as Olly explains:  “Tommy made a brilliant start and got us into the lead but, right from lap one, we had gearbox problems; it wasn’t upshifting from second to third properly.  It was great watching him go backwards and forward, fantastic racing, and what the ALMS has done so well in the last number of seasons in the GT class – different cars, different manufacturers, brilliant to watch.  Unfortunately he was experiencing more and more problems and, after 58 minutes of struggling, the gearbox failed altogether and Tommy pulled up and parked the car.

“It was gut-wrenching from a championship point of view because it’s getting down to the business end of the season and you need to make every race count.  It didn’t happen for us at COTA which was really bad, and we need to go back and analyse what happened. Unfortunately though we’ve lost the chance to score those points, whatever they would have been, and while the championship title is not impossible for Tommy and me now, it’s been made a whole lot harder.

On a positive note both Jan and Antonio drove fantastically in the sister car, particularly Antonio in holding off the BMW and the Viper in the end.  In terms of the Manufacturers’ and Teams’ championships, Corvette Racing and Chevrolet are very close to securing those now so that’s one big positive to come out of the weekend.”

Olly’s next race will be the Oak Tree Grand Prix at VIR on 5th October.

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Third on grid for tomorrow’s Circuit of The Americas race

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 teammate 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).

Olly commented afterwards:  “This is a big fill-up for us. It’s been a difficult couple of sessions and we didn’t look so good in the rain early on. But we worked away at a plan. 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.”

With thanks to Corvette Racing

 

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