This year’s test day for the 24 Hours of Le Mans was held on Easter Sunday and it was a day with a bit of a difference. Corvette Racing’s four full-season American Le Mans Series drivers – Olly, Jan Magnussen, Olivier Beretta and Tommy Milner – used a Larbre Competition C6R instead of their own cars which were busy being prepared back at Pratt & Miller’s Indianapolis base.
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 – at the test day 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 (not unsurprisingly) fastest in the category.
“Everything worked according to plan,” said Corvette Racing team manager Gary Pratt. “Tommy completed his mandatory 10 laps (for drivers who haven’t been at Le Mans in the last 3 years) at the beginning of the morning session, 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 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.”
Olly 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. He 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,” Olly 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.”
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.