It was a great test for Olly and Corvette Racing at Sebring over the last two days. Olly, Jan and Richard Westbrook’s #4 Corvette was quickest in all four sessions of the American Le Mans Series Winter Test in Florida. After Jan turned the quickest times in the first three sessions on the historic circuit in their Compuware Corvette C6.R, Olivier Beretta posted the fastest lap of the test in the GT class with the #3 Vette in the final session. They were closely followed by the Flying Lizard Porsche and, in the final session, by the new Ferrari 458 in Jaime Melo’s hands. All indications are that the season will be closer than ever.
Here’s the official press release from Corvette Racing:
Jan recorded a best time of 2:02.260 in the Wednesday morning session, and then improved to 2:02.235 in the afternoon and again to 2:02.197 on Thursday morning. Olivier turned a 2:02.186 lap in the No. 3 Corvette C6.R in the final minutes of Thursday’s rain-shortened afternoon session. That lap set the performance standard among the 16 entries in the GT class for the only official test before the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 19.
“The team did a really good job,” Olivier said. “We had many things to test, and we stayed with our plan. Sometimes when you are testing, you know it is not the right direction, but you have to keep going. At one point I was like a fish out of water, but my engineers were 100 percent sure of what they were doing. They told me to be patient, and when they put everything together, the car was very quick.”
“I think we’ve had a good test, and we got through many of the items we wanted to do,” Jan said. “We’ve had no major issues and we were improving all the time, so I’m very happy. The GT category is so tough that if you can find even a slight advantage somewhere, it’s going to show on the final results. Of course, a driver always want more testing – if you have two days you want three, if you have 10 days you want 11!”
Corvette Racing participated in the preseason test with two new race cars and two new drivers, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook. Milner gained experience in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R with co-drivers Antonio Garcia and Beretta, while Westbrook turned laps in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R that he will share with Oliver Gavin and Magnussen in endurance events.
Announced as a full-season driver in the No. 3 Corvette C6.R in January, Milner settled in quickly with the Corvette Racing team. “I feel very comfortable in the car now, and getting more laps is good for me,” Milner said. “The crew made some damper adjustments during my long run in the morning session today, and I could feel the differences those changes made. That reaffirmed that I can give good feedback to the engineers, which is important to make the car better and more consistent.”
Westbrook’s time in the No. 4 Corvette was limited by red flags and weather, but the Briton adapted quickly to his new ride and ran impressive times in the final session. “We made good progress, and the changes we made were positive,” Westbrook reported. “I’m getting more comfortable in the car, and it was nice to be in P1 for a while. The Corvette C6.R is an excellent piece, and a pleasure to drive. Every time I get the call to get in the car, it puts a smile on my face.”
Corvette Racing went to the ALMS Winter Test with a long to-do list, and checked most of the boxes. Although the test produced positive results, much remains to be done before the start of the season in Sebring.
“You never really know what the competition is doing, but it’s good to be near the top,” said team manager Gary Pratt. “A successful test like this gives everyone confidence, especially the drivers, and that’s a good feeling going into race week. The new systems in the cars worked well and proved to be reliable. That’s why we test, to make things better.”
Corvette Racing received more good news this week with official invitations to the 24 Hours of Le Mans from the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) for both of its Corvette C6.Rs. The twin Corvettes will compete as Nos. 73 and 74 in the GTE-Pro class in the 24-hour endurance classic. Eighteen invitations were issued for the highly competitive GTE-Pro category.
“One Corvette C6.R was automatically qualified with our dramatic victory at Petit Le Mans, but the second Corvette needed an official invitation from the ACO,” explained Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “We know what it means to the fans to have the Corvettes race at Le Mans, and we’re looking forward to competing in the world’s greatest sports car race for the 11th consecutive year.”