Category Archives: Le Mans 24 Hours

Le Mans test day acts as dress rehearsal for the big event

This weekend Olly is at Le Mans for the annual official Test Day for the 24 Hours in two weeks’ time.

The race will be the biggest challenge yet for the new Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, and the eight hours of track time for the C7.R and Corvette Racing’s drivers will be invaluable.  It’s the only time cars can run on the 8.3-mile circuit ahead of official practice and qualifying for the world’s most gruelling sportscar race on June 14-15th.

Le Mans is the biggest event on Corvette Racing’s schedule, and for good reason. It tests man and machine like no other in some of the most extreme conditions imaginable. And it’s one where Corvette Racing has a strong history – seven class victories since 2001. Once again, the team will compete in the LMGTE Pro class.

The driver lineups are the same in each Corvette for the third straight year. Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Jordan Taylor will drive the No. 73 Corvette C7.R, while Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook will share the No. 74 Corvette. The group has a combined 12 victories at Le Mans – four each for Gavin and Magnussen, three for Garcia and one for Milner.

All six drivers tested the Corvette C7.R in a low-downforce aero package during a two-day test earlier this month at Road America. It marked a significant change in feel and handling from the high-downforce setup the two Corvettes use in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Taylor and Westbrook are racing in Detroit on Saturday so will arrive at Le Mans mid way through Sunday’s test.

The Corvette C7.R debuts at Le Mans nine years after its predecessor – the C6.R – made its first start in 2005. Much has changed with new design and engineering efforts that will aid Corvette Racing and its drivers at the 24 Hours. Even with limited downforce, the C7.R is much more stable and predictable than the previous generation Corvette, drivers say. That will make the Corvettes that much stronger in the medium and high-speed corners that dot the Le Mans layout.

This also is the first race at Le Mans for a Corvette with a direct-injection engine since the final GT1 race for the C6.R in 2009. Corvette Racing engineers expect a 3 percent gain in fuel economy over the C6.R which could mean one less pit stop over the course of 24 Hours – a potentially huge advantage.

Sunday’s test sessions at Le Mans run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 6 p.m. Central European Time or 3 to 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. to noon ET.

ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 73 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R

(Benefits of Road America test) “Every single lap we do is important. We did all we can to get to Le Mans with the maximum amount of knowledge about the car and maximum amount of development. It took me a few laps to get used to the car in a low-trim setup. Even Road America isn’t a low-downforce track. You have to adjust your style to the aero more than the track. What I remembered about Road America was completely different because we ran a completely different aero configuration. You have to focus on driving the car and forget about where you are. We know we could have adjusted the car to go faster around there, but the focus was our Le Mans program and gain as much data as possible.”

(Test Day outlook) “When we left Road America, we were happy with how things progressed and how the car behaved on the track. Now we have to wait to see how this new C7.R is around Le Mans and where we are compared to our competition. The test will be important considering the weather. It has been difficult the last three years. If we have a week like we had last year – with almost no dry running – it will be difficult for us. We hope to have a good, clean run Sunday with nice weather that is good enough to confirm that all we have is good enough for the race and what we expect.”

JAN MAGNUSSEN, NO. 73 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R

(Road America test) “As usual at Le Mans, everyone is looking for top speed and stability. I think we got through a good number of things at the test that will help us at Le Mans. But we won’t know how we stack up against the competition probably until the race at Le Mans. Even at the Test Day, people are testing stuff and not exactly going for a lap time. But we will get a good idea of where we are on the Test Day. Unfortunately if we are not near the top, there is not a lot we can do between the test and the race other than some fine-tuning. But I do think we are much better prepared this year than we were last year.”

(Outook): “We are in a much better position this year. Last year we were a huge amount of time off the fastest cars. This year I don’t think the gap will be that big. But if you are a half-second or a second off, that’s still a problem. We’ve done everything we can to be as well-prepared as possible.”

JORDAN TAYLOR, NO. 73 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R

(Being back with Corvette Racing) “It’s been a long time since I drove the C6.R – since last year’s Petit Le Mans. It was nice to finally get laps in the C7.R. It’s a way different car –everything from the cockpit to the way it drives and the seating position. I sat in it at Daytona and Laguna Seca to get a feel for it, and to get to drive it at Road America was really fun. Getting up to speed in a car like that in such a competitive class is always difficult. It’s great having guys in the car with you like Antonio and Jan, who are obviously on it in the class and won the last two races. So I have the perfect guys to compare my data to and really figure out the car.”

(First C7.R impressions) “The biggest thing for me is how much more comfortable to drive and how much more predictable it is. The C6.R was always on edge; when it started to slide, it would slide quickly and it was hard to catch. Finding the limit of the car was always a little intimidating because there wasn’t much time to react when the car started to break loose. But once I got in the C7.R, I could instantly feel the grip and a much better sensation of where the car is in the corner. You know what’s about to happen and you can react much quicker. For our type of racing, it’s huge to have that predictability just for consistency over a run.”

OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 74 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R

(Road America test) “It’s always good to go to Road America and test. I felt pretty confident in the car. You know from many years of going to Le Mans what the car needs to be fast at Le Mans. Did we tick all those boxes? I’d say we ticked some of them but you never know if you ticked all of them until you get to Le Mans and you see what your pace is like and what your straight-line speed is like. Le Mans is so unique and it’s so hard to replicate that and reproduce it anywhere in the world.”

(High-downforce vs. low-downforce setups): “Fundamentally the balance of the car is very similar. Just the level of grip in medium- and high-speed corners go down when you have a light-downforce package. So you know you have to be a little more delicate with the wheel, the brakes and slow with your hands and feet so as to not upset the car under braking – the sort of mindset that you need for when you go back to Le Mans. And that was another great thing about having that test at Road America. After running the cars with the highest levels of downforce possible for first part of the year, it was a bit of a culture shock to how the car needs to be set up and how it needs to be in order to go fast around 8.3 miles at Le Mans. You have to make those adjustments so not only is it good for us to go to Road America to test the car and see what it’s like in those configurations, it’s good for the drivers to get that experience and feel.”

TOMMY MILNER, NO. 74 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R

(Driving with low-downforce settings) “It was a big difference in general from what I’m used to. But you have to reset your brain a little bit on what the car feels like in high-speed corners and under braking. Certainly for a first stab at it, the car wasn’t too bad. But over the two days (at Road America), we worked really hard on making it more comfortable to drive. We definitely achieved that – as comfortable as it can be with very little downforce. At a place like Road America, if you can be pretty comfortable in the Carousel with little downforce, then that usually bodes well for Le Mans.”

(Team preparations) “The atmosphere within the team doesn’t change much. But everyone on the team is a little more anxious to see how the car feels, how fast it can be and what we say about it over the radio because in some ways it is our first taste of what to expect for Le Mans. The biggest difference is just those first impressions and they make a bigger impact on the mood of the team a little bit early on. The car was obviously not very fun to drive to start with (at Road America) but nobody panicked. We put our heads down and started working on the car. We definitely left the test feeling pretty optimistic about going to Le Mans with a car that should be quick and one that is fairly nice to drive. But having said that, I’d trade a comfortable car to drive for a fast car at Le Mans any day. That’s part of Le Mans – trying to find that elusive balance.”

RICHARD WESTBROOK, NO. 74 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R

(Back with Corvette Racing) “It’s great to be back in the Corvette Racing family. It feels like it has been too long. I had to sit out Daytona and Sebring because of my duties with the Corvette Daytona Prototype, so I was really excited to get back with the team and I was keen to try out the Corvette C7.R. I certainly wasn’t disappointed. It’s an amazing piece of machinery and engineering. Everyone at Pratt & Miller and Chevrolet did a fantastic job in improving on the successful C6.R in every department. It was a very encouraging test.”

(First impressions) “The thing that struck me was the lower center of gravity in the car. You can feel that right away. You can feel the added stability especially at high speed. The thing that was a big, big step is the lateral grip. The advancements in the center of gravity are just incredible. It was a real joy to drive and I have to say it was a little easier to drive and step into than what I was used to before. It feels much more like a racing car – something you can grab hold of and drive. When you have quick sections like the Porsche Curves, it’s all about confidence and this car really introduces a lot of confidence into its driver.”

DOUG FEHAN, CORVETTE RACING PROGRAM MANAGER

“I know all our fans are anxious to see the new Chevrolet Corvette C7.R turn its first laps at the upcoming test day at Le Mans. Experience tells us that any track time there proves to be extremely valuable and fundamental to success. While our recent two-day test at Road America was beneficial to get our first taste of running the car in a Le Mans-style, low-downforce setting, you simply can’t simulate actual Le Mans conditions at any other track in the world. That’s what makes the challenge and allure of Le Mans special and why it is the cornerstone of our racing program year in and year out.”

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Olly beats the weather, the odds and a heavy heart to finish 7th at Le Mans

The Vettes were always playing catch up at this year’s Le Mans

There were many challenges facing all competitors at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 90th anniversary of the first running of the famous French endurance race:  the unpredictable weather, the odds against a top six finish, and the emotional toll of getting through a race which claimed the life of a popular friend and competitor from the LMGTE paddock, Allan Simonsen.

Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin overcame those hurdles today to finish 7th in the LMGTE Pro category.  The current ALMS GTE drivers’ champion was teamed with his regular driving partner, Tommy Milner, and their endurance team mate, Richard Westbrook.  The class was won by the Porsche 911 of Lieb-Lietz-Dumas.

Both Corvette Racing C6.Rs have had a difficult week at Le Mans as Olly explains: “It’s certainly this has been one of the hardest Le Mans races I’ve ever done because of the weather conditions, the emotions involved with what happened to Allan, and then us fighting with every GT car out there to make some headway, whether that was with Am or Pro cars.  We were missing a bit on straight line speed and when you’re in that situation it can be a very hard race.

“At the end we had a problem when the car had gone off track (Richard Westbrook, after contact with a prototype) and we had a broken exhaust.  I thought it would be okay but then I noticed my left arm was getting very hot in the car, then the side of the seat and then it started super-heating and I was struggling to continue in the car because of fumes.  In the end we had to give up 5th place because the car wasn’t going to finish like that – it was either going to burn me or catch on fire so we had to park it for a couple of laps, make a basic adjustment to the exhaust system to last us through to the end.

“When it was completely dry and the circuit was rubbered in the car really came good and the deficit we had in straight line speed we were able to make up for in the way we’d tuned the chassis.  Our whole aim from the start of the week was to think about how the circuit was going to be at the end but we needed it to be like it was at the end ten hours earlier.  Then we could have fought with everyone and we would have had a far stronger event, not just fighting with the Ferraris for positions but the Porsches and Astons too for potential podiums.”

The Corvette Racing team plans to return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2014 with the new C7R which, by June, will have already taken part in the Daytona 24 and the 12 Hours of Sebring.  Good tests indeed for the world’s biggest sports car race.

 

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Frustrations at Le Mans hamper Corvette qualifying performance

It has been a frustrating couple of days so far for Oliver Gavin and the Corvette Racing team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.  The considerable experience within the team has been put to the test as the team has struggled to match the pace of the front-running LMGTE Pro Aston Martins, Ferraris and Porsches.

Olly managed to improve his fastest lap time today, but his best of 3:58.644 in the No.74 Corvette C6R placed him 7th in class – a long way from the pole positions of the past.

Both Corvettes have been struggling to determine the root of a handling problem which has hampered their progress, and the constant interruptions for both red flags and rain showers over the three qualifying sessions haven’t helped.

Olly said tonight:  “We’ve never been in this kind of situation before and it makes it really hard for everyone.  If you’re at the front and you’ve got a relatively sorted car then it’s not as critical to have that track time but we needed every minute there was available to help us get through our programme of planned changes.

“The fragmentation of the sessions has been frustrating but we’re not making excuses.  This is the package we’ve come with but it’s not worked out for us so we’ve just got to work harder.  Part of the problem has been that we haven’t run with this particular Michelin tyre before, while our competitors have (at the WEC 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps) and we’re still learning about how to get the best out of it with our car.

“We’re catching up and we’ll spend lots of time tomorrow analysing all the data and seeing where we are.  We’ve improved since yesterday and we are confident we’ll have a comfortable car for the race but it’s not been working out for us up until now!”

20th June 2013

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Wednesday practice and qualifying sessions at Le Mans

The big team shot at scrutineering started the 2013 Le Mans week

With an eye toward its eighth class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2001, Corvette Racing continued to work toward the ideal race setups for the two Compuware Corvette C6.Rs on Wednesday. Both cars ran through a predetermined programme on the opening day of track activity for the world’s greatest endurance event, but the day didn’t go without its frustrations.

Antonio Garcia set the team’s fastest time in the No. 73 Compuware Corvette at 3:59.526, good enough for eighth on the provisional grid in GTE Pro. Olly was next in the No. 74 Corvette at 3:59.860. But just as during the official Test Day on June 9, much of the focus remained on fine-tuning both cars for the race that begins Saturday.

The strength of the GTE Pro class was evident Wednesday with the top seven cars within 0.915 seconds with provisional pole position at 3:55.658. So there is room for improvement for Thursday’s two final qualifying sessions.

“I don’t think anyone is completely happy with the performance today,” said Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Program Manager. “The good news is that we turned a significant number of laps compared to our competitors. But on the flip side, our competitors enjoyed an advantage on lap times and speeds. Fortunately we know what it takes to win Le Mans, and that is perseverance and endurance. That is the advantage of having won this race seven times before. Our guys will use that experience and feedback to improve the car for tomorrow’s final qualifying session.”

Olly said:  “When you look at the outright lap time, we’re 3.5 to four seconds off and no one wants that. But we have won at this event when we’ve been off our fastest competitors. We have the best team in the pitlane to do this. We have the most reliable car. We have a great setup. And of course we have won this race many, many times. I have great faith in how we are going to go out and run the race. We have to keep a logical approach, keep our heads about us and work the problem to go through all the variables. We will come up with a solution and a plan for tomorrow.”

Next time on track will be this evening (Thursday) between 7-9 pm local and then for the final qualifying session between 10pm and midnight.

 

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Corvette Racing Q & A

A man happy in his work!

Here’s a great Q & A from Corvette Racing which we thought you might enjoy!

Oliver Gavin’s Le Mans career with Corvette Racing reaches the “dandy dozen” level this year when the Englishman makes his 12th start at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 22. The four-time winner – who drives the No. 74 Compuware Corvette C6.R with Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook – discusses the challenge of Le Mans.

Question: How important was the victory at the Sebring 12 Hours in March, and can you take anything from that to Le Mans?

Oliver Gavin: The momentum we gained at Sebring can put us in good stead for Le Mans. I think it’s something that will give us a certain amount of confidence, especially coming off the battles of winning the ALMS championship last year. Tommy and I have really established a very good partnership. We seem to work really well together. Some races, we are right together in terms of lap time and that’s fantastic; it’s happening more and more now. It’s great to see that this partnership is working so well.

Q: What is the secret to Corvette Racing’s success?

OG: It starts with the people at the top – those who are running the program whether it is people like Doug Fehan (program manager), Gary Pratt (team manager) and Doug Louth (engineering manager). They do the basics very, very well. They aren’t trying to overcomplicate things. They know they don’t have to re-engineer the wheel. They aren’t trying to find a silver bullet. They know that to win the 24 Hours, you have to have good pit stops, cars that are strong and reliable, and drivers who can drive them. You have to have momentum going into it where everyone is confident and comfortable with their jobs. That’s the reason Corvette has been so successful. It’s nothing secret.

Q: With all the depth in the GTE Pro class, do you think the strongest competitor may come from within your own team with the No. 73 car?

OG: They have two of the most experienced drivers in the whole field in Antonio (Garcia) and Jan (Magnussen). I’ve never driven with Antonio but I’ve driven with Jan for four years off and on so I know how strong a competitor he is. It’s a huge amount of fun racing with and against him. Antonio is much the same. Whereas Jan can be a bit bullish, feisty and will hound you throughout, Antonio operates a bit under stealth. He is an assassin who creeps up on you, bangs you over the head and passes you. He’s a very clever guy in the car and is calculating all the time in the car. That’s a great thing to have in a 24-hour race – thinking constantly about the long game and not necessarily what’s happening right in front of him at that point. And then Jordan (Taylor) is going from strength to strength. Sure, he’s lacking experience at Le Mans but he’s gaining confidence all the time. He is having great success in GRAND-AM and hopefully he comes to Le Mans full of confidence and ready to go. Jordan is learning all the time and is maturing. He is willing to listen and is great to have on board.

Q: So who do you think presents the biggest challenge at Le Mans?

OG: If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Aston Martin (being the biggest threat). They’ve loaded everything up into this one year. It’s their 100th anniversary and it’s their opportunity to nail it for a victory at Le Mans. They have great lineups and experience. They were exceptionally fast at Sebring, Silverstone and Spa. For the first couple hours (at Le Mans) in 2012, I was racing against (Stefan) Mucke as I remember racing the Aston Martins in 2005-08. Porsche also have been very smart approaching this year. They aren’t to be underestimated and never show up just to bolster numbers. The real unknown is SRT and Viper. They have been fast in a lot of races. We don’t know whether that big 8-liter motor is going to make a difference. You can’t get away from the fact that Le Mans is all about horsepower. It’s all very new for them. Whether their car is right for 24 hours is the biggest question. Then there is Ferrari who always is right there. The class is incredibly strong. I can’t remember it being as strong as it is right now.”

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Olly’s A-Z of Le Mans: a preview with a twist!

A different driver photo!

A…American Le Mans Series, our racing home from home.

B…Brian Hoye, my crew chief who keeps everyone on the No.4 car on the straight and narrow!

C…Corvette Racing, this year going for an 8th class win, and the great, race-winning C6.R.

D…determination, dedication and devotion to duty…the watchwords for the whole team.

E…stands for engineers and engineering – Doug Louth, Chuck Houghton and Kyle Millay step forward.  Oh, and endurance, the best type of racing in the world.

F…Fehan, the boss, he who must be obeyed, our greatest advocate and critic!!

 

G…great GT competition from Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche and Viper.  Let the battles begin.

H…Helen, my wife, without whose support I would be lost.  My family come to Le Mans each year to cheer me on which means a lot to me.

I…there’s no ‘i’ in team – no one person is responsible for success (or failure), it’s a team effort.

J…for June – the annual pilgrimage to France for the world’s biggest sportscar race.

K…knowledge.  A London cab driver has to pass ‘The Knowledge’ exam before he is licensed to take passengers.  I believe a driver needs several years to acquire enough Le Mans knowledge to successfully deal with the event, on track and off.

L…long!  The track, the week, the race…every year you find new and improved ways to cope (see above about needing several years to acquire said knowledge).

M…magical, mythical, massive, memorable, marathon, mind-blowing…so many ways to describe the 24 Hours.

N…night. Some drivers hate it but I love it – it’s cooler, the field is usually spread out a little more, and you can get into a good rhythm for 2-3 hours.  Compared to Daytona, the hours of complete darkness at Le Mans are relatively short.

O…optimum preparation necessary to succeed in endurance racing.

P…pressure; you can either embrace it or be swallowed up by it.  And Pratt, Gary and Robin; Corvette Racing wouldn’t be the team it is without them.

Q…is for qualifying.  Those pole position trophies are impressive, but not sure we’ll get one this year as the Astons seem very fast…

R…is for PR!  We said goodbye at the beginning of the year to our esteemed, long-time media guru, Rick Voegelin, and now welcome the newest member of the team, Ryan Smith.

S… Slick tyres. If it’s a dry race we will use about 14 sets of tyres and, following the test weekend, we ALL want a dry race.

T…is for Tommy [Milner] and Tan Man, otherwise known as Richard Westbrook, my team mates.

U…unending and universal. The week at Le Mans can sometimes feel unending but that’s overshadowed by the fact that it’s universally followed: 250,000 spectators, over 2000 media, hundreds of millions of TV viewers.

V…Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans.  The reason we all go sports car racing.

W…Winning, especially at the big events.  We’ve conquered Petit Le Mans and Sebring in the last few years, now it’s time for Le Mans to come the way of the No.4 again. It’s been too long since our last victory (2006).

X…is for X-factor.  No one element makes a successful team; it’s a combination of the car, the drivers, the engine, the tires, the team, and that X-factor…usually provided by Lady Luck.

Y…youth, combined with experience and expertise; Corvette’s driver line up to the letter.

Z…Zzzzzz.  Sleep; what we all become obsessed with at Le Mans.  Our Corvette Racing compound in the paddock is where the drivers sleep, eat and relax for the week.

 

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Corvette Racing off to a solid start at Le Mans test day

Here’s Corvette Racing’s official press release on the Official Test Day for the 24 Hours of Le Mans for you.  It was a day of rain and red flags so a bit frustrating for everyone, but there were no big problems which is always the objective.

The 2013 Corvette Racing Team at Le Mans

Corvette Racing successfully worked through its testing program Sunday for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The pair of velocity yellow Compuware Corvette C6.Rs completed eight hours of running with no major issues ahead of the world’s most famous endurance race on June 22-23.

Jan Magnussen set the team’s best time of 3:59.491 (127.3 mph) in the No. 73 Corvette C6.R to finish fifth in the GTE Pro order. Magnussen, driving with Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor, opened and closed the test in differing conditions. The session began cool and damp, but the track eventually dried in the afternoon when the fastest times were set. The No. 73 Corvette turned a class-high 42 laps in the second session.

Meanwhile, Tommy Milner posted the best time in the No. 74 Corvette he shares with Oliver Gavin and Richard Westbrook. Milner’s best effort was a 4:00.319 (126.9 mph). The top six cars in class were separated by less than a second.

“Our guys followed the three golden rules today – don’t hit anything, don’t break anything and stay on the race track,” said Doug Fehan, Program Manager for Corvette Racing. “Considering the weather and track conditions, we feel comfortable with where we are in the program. Recording the fastest lap is never our ultimate objective during this test. Our experience at Le Mans has taught us that speed isn’t the single deciding factor. Our goal is simply to be capable of running a competitive pace and keep our time in pit lane to a minimum with great execution on every stop. You meet those objectives and good results will follow.”

The next time Corvette Racing takes to the circuit at Le Mans is 4 p.m. CET/10 a.m. ET on Wednesday, June 19 for free practice and qualifying. Corvette Racing will go for its eighth class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2001 at 3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET on Saturday, June 22 with coverage on SPEED. Corvette Racing’s last victory at Le Mans came in 2011.

JAN MAGNUSSEN, NO. 73 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R

You were out early in the wet conditions. It had to be less than ideal.  “It wasn’t so nice out there. The track was right in between were the tires work best. Some parts of the track were dry-ish – not quite dry, but at least there was no spray. But it’s good to see the track again and get into the rhythm. But in those conditions you don’t really learn anything. You just get through the motions. I think that laptime-wise we were quite OK considering the conditions when we were out.”

ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 73 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R

How much did the track conditions improve in the afternoon?  “Finally we got to put the slick tires on the car, which was good for us because every single lap you can do in the dry here may be very important toward the race. I know It’s only two hours in dry conditions but we just need to focus on making the most of every single lap we can do. I was the first out on slicks in tricky conditions, which wasn’t maybe the best moment for the track (conditions).  But at least I got to run a bit in the dry. The car felt quite good, as it has been doing during the season. We still need to double-check how it really goes, but so far it’s heading in the right direction.”

JORDAN TAYLOR, NO. 73 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R:

Did you enjoy your return to the Corvette and Le Mans?  “It was good to be back in the car for the first time since Sebring, and first time back at this track since last year’s Le Mans. So it was good. This was the first time I did a run in the rain in this car so I learned a few things, but overall we’re learning as much as we can on a day like this. So far so good.”

TOMMY MILNER, NO. 74 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R

Were you satisfied with the test day?  “It was a kind of boring first half of the day. It was good to get some wet weather running since we don’t do that a whole lot on those cars. We got a good feeling for the car in the wet. It was good to get some dry running at the end there and prove some of the bits and pieces we’ve developed over the year. We got some new tires from Michelin to try and see how those worked. It’s nice to have sort of a baseline going into race week. For me it was good. I think I could have gone quite a bit quicker; my in-lap would have been quicker and probably have put us right at the front (note: Milner’s sector 1 and sector 2 times were the fastest of the day for the No. 74 car before he pitted). So the pace is good, and the car is comfortable to drive.”

OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 74 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R

The changing weather didn’t do anyone a favor, did it?  “The track was drying out, which was good as it gave us some good data. It looks like we’re there in the ballpark with everybody else so that’s encouraging. But it’s been a frustrating day for everybody; it’s been wet and then it’s been dry again and then wet again. You have one day a year here to test and it was beautiful the week before and it looks like it’s going to be nice next week. It’s frustrating for all but it just so happens that the wet day was today. But the car felt pretty well and things look good for next week.”

RICHARD WESTBROOK, NO. 74 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R

Do you feel confident for the race after today?  “It’s always good to be back at Le Mans. It was a good test for us but it’s clear the competition has stepped up as it always does in GTE Pro. Just when you think it can’t get any tougher it seems to be getting more competitive. We’ve definitely got our hands full this year, and therefore it’s important we focus on our own job and that’s what we did today. The main thing is the car feels good and drivable for 24 hours. We’ve definitely got a good starting point for race week.”

 

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Le Mans 2012 – a race of two distinct parts

Chasing his fifth 24 Hours of Le Mans title, and coming into the world’s most famous endurance race on the back of two consecutive wins in the American Le Mans Series, Olly had every reason to be hopeful of a positive result.

Great start to 2012 LM24

Unfortunately the twice-round-the-clock race went on for approximately 14 hours too long for Olly and his team mates Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook in the No.74 Corvette C6.R.  The trio held a commanding lead of the GTE Pro category for much of the first ten hours of the race, in the face of strong opposition from Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche.  They looked to be in a strong position to maintain that position through to the chequered flag, but the race began to unravel badly after the ten hour mark and ultimately ended in disappointment and frustration.  Although running at the end of the race, the No.74 was unclassified as it didn’t complete the minimum race distance.

Starting third on the GTE grid, Olly quickly moved to challenge the class-leading Aston Martin on the first lap. He took the lead shortly after the first hour and there followed some of the entertaining and hard-but-fair racing with the Prodrive-run Aston Martin car which was reminiscent of the GT1 glory days.

But it all started to go wrong in the 11th hour, as Olly explains:  “Richard took over from Tommy and had just left the pits when he lost the left rear wheel at the Dunlop Esses.  He then had to travel an entire lap of the circuit on three wheels to return to the pits. A rapid repair job was carried out by the guys but he later returned to the pits with a gearbox problem and, then, a bad vibration which took ages to get to the bottom of.  By that time we were already about 20 laps behind.

The crew worked so hard to get the car back out

“Tommy was really unlucky in the Porsche Curves in the 18th hour and hit the barriers pretty hard, although he nursed the car back to the garage, it was pretty battered.  Our crew virtually rebuilt the back half of the chassis but we lost hours in the pits and it was game over.  With no possibility of a decent result, the car was held in the garage until the final 40 minutes of the race when I drove it to the finish as it was important for Corvette Racing to have both cars finish the race.

“I can’t find the words to describe how I feel about the outcome to be honest.  “After the wheel came off it was like someone has pushed a button for everything to go wrong.  The real shame is that we were all driving really well, all quick and the car was perfect.  In 11 years of coming here with Corvette I’ve never seen both our cars in the pits at the same time during the night.  It wasn’t a great day for sure but we’ll come back stronger, more organised and even more determined to get another win.  Planning starts now.”

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Olly qualifies 3rd for his 12th Le Mans

Night qualifying

“If you’d asked me before the start of the qualifying sessions tonight (Thursday) what I thought would be our starting position, I’d have said I’d be happy with third on the grid; it’s a good place to start here.  But now it’s all set, I can’t help being disappointed we didn’t get a decent chance to challenge for pole.”  Those were Olly’s initial feelings and emotions after the end of the six available hours of qualifying for Saturday’s 24 Hour of Le Mans.

Taking part in his 12th consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans for Corvette Racing, and having won the GT1 class four times, the British driver signalled his intentions for victory this weekend’s race by setting the fastest time in the GTE-Pro category and securing provisional pole position on the first day of track action (Wednesday).  In the first of three two-hour qualifying sessions, he set his best lap time of 3:55.910, but this was bettered on the second day by both the GTE Pro class pole-winning Luxury Ferrari 458 and Olly’s long-time friend and rival Darren Turner in the Aston Martin.  The opportunities to counter their charge never presented themselves, despite there being dry conditions throughout.

“Track conditions were different tonight and that seemed to affect us more than the others,” he said. “I just couldn’t generate the same cornering force that I could yesterday, and couldn’t attack the corners like I did yesterday. It was very close with the Aston Martin getting ahead of us by only a few hundredths of a second on an 8.5-mile circuit. So we’ll go with what we’ve got.  I

“It just didn’t all string together for us today as it did yesterday which is a bit frustrating but fundamentally we have a good race car and both Tommy and Richard were very happy with the feel and balance of it so that’s the main thing.  Ultimately, come Saturday afternoon, qualifying will be forgotten and we’ll be fully focused on what we have which is starting from a pretty good position.  The Corvette feels comfortable and nice and consistent to drive, which is what you want for a 24 hour race.”

The cars are back on track Saturday morning for warm up, and the drivers meanwhile will be on parade in the city centre this evening.  The race begins at 3pm on Saturday 16th and can be followed on www.radiolemans.com or on www.lemans.org which has a webtv service as well as live text.

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My Perfect Le Mans Week!

We’re all allowed to dream a bit aren’t we?  Or should that be visualisation…a positive psychological technique used by many athletes and sportsmen and women?  Here is Olly describing his ‘Perfect’ week at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  The driver from Yardley Hastings is chasing his fifth 24 Hour class win with Corvette, and will be driving the No.74 GTE-Pro entry with Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook. Read more →

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