There were 9 hours and 35 minutes of long, hard racing at the 1000 Mile Petit Le Mans race today, and the three drivers of the No. 4 Corvette – Oliver, Jan Magnussen and Richard Westbrook – never gave anything less than 100% effort from start to finish. The outright pace of the opposition, however, proved to be just a little too much for the Corvette crew who chased a podium placing throughout. Fourth place in class (14th overall) was the eventual reward for all their hard work.
The result, at the season finale of the 2011 American Le Mans Series, secured second place in the GT Drivers Championship for Olly and Jan. It has been a season of many highs and lows, and a string of strong points-scoring finishes, including a class win at Mosport in July, brought the Vice-Championship to the British driver and his Danish team mate. However, a repeat of their 2010 Petit Le Mans victory was not to be today.
Road Atlanta’s prestige event lived up to all expectations in terms of action and excitement. The 53-strong field took several hours to settle into a steady rhythm and four of the race’s ten full course caution periods took place in the first three hours due to incident after incident. The No. 4 Corvette had a relatively trouble-free race, but was unable to lap at the same pace at the race-winning AF Corse Ferrari 458, the Flying Lizard Porsche and the BMWs.
A reflective Olly said afterwards: “It was nice to get the result for the guys and we ended up second in the championship which was great. It was a battle at the end there! When we put the tires on for the last stint I thought ‘this is going to be great’ but then I got into a number of really tight spots with some very slow traffic and, as it got darker and darker, people got more cautious. The softer tire we were on started picking up more of their rubber and the Georgia clay all round here, and it got very slippery and slick at times.
“You had to be super cautious getting on the power and carrying the speed into the corners. Wolf was at one point catching me quickly but I managed to stretch it out a bit, then we got the caution and the little lead we needed. Fourth place was, though, about all we could have really hoped for today.”
Thinking about the year as a whole, Oliver went on to say, “We had an awful lot of promise through the year and I think it’s fair to say we seemed to have raced a lot better than we qualified. There were a number of races we could have won including Baltimore, Mid Ohio – if it hadn’t rained – and we could have stood a good chance at Road America if other things had gone our way. This is a highly competitive championship and we just need to come back stronger and better. I think things need to be looked at in terms of the way performance balancing is done here and within ACO Championships because, for us, it’s not right.”
Although the ALMS season has come to a close, Olly heads to Australia towards the end of October for the Gold Coast 600 invitational round of the Aussie V8 Supercars championship.