As Chevrolet celebrates its centennial year in 2011, Corvette Racing is upholding the racing tradition that began when race car driver Louis Chevrolet and financier William Durant founded Chevrolet back in 1911. Chevrolet has been in and out of racing over the past 100 years, but they're firmly placed at all levels of the sport today. Corvette Racing is closely aligned with Chevrolet at the corporate level, even though they're an independent business.
Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen in the #4 Corvette claimed the team's first American Le Mans Series victory of the 2011 competition year at the Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport on July 24. It was not the first victory of the year for the intrepid 'Vette pilots, however, as the team won their class at the actual Le Mans 24 hour race in France back in June.
Gavin and Magnussen drove their C6.R to the GT class win by 4.4 seconds, besting the Ferrari 458 Italia of Jaime Melo and Toni Vilander. In the same race, Gavin and Magnussen's Corvette Racing teammates Tommy Milner and Olivier Beretta finished sixth after contact with a slower car cost them valuable time on the high-speed Canadian circuit.
After qualifying sixth and eighth on Saturday, Corvette Racing drove a strong race that put them back on top of the podium, breaking a three-race winning streak by BMW. The two-hour, 45-minute endurance race was typical of the American Le Mans Series style - complete with spins, crashes, close calls and penalties that affected the outcome of the contest.
"We had a team meeting after qualifying and agreed that we all just needed to do our jobs because anything can happen," said team manager Gary Pratt. "The crew made great pit stops, the drivers made smart decisions, the engineers made good calls, and here we are with a victory. You have to be able to take advantage of opportunities, you have to be able to close the deal, and today we did."
As the race started, the Corvette team worked its way through the field towards the front. "We started coming on these big clumps of traffic, and things started getting crazy," Gavin said. "I had this mad battle with Toni, where he passed me going into Turn 2 and then he went around the outside of a GTC car. I managed to undercut them both and come back around the outside into Turn 3 - it was fantastic racing!"
Contact with the Ferrari in Moss Corner punctured a tire, and the crew scrambled as Gavin dove into the pits with one hour and four minutes to go in the race. Magnussen took over the Corvette and emerged in third. Magnussen passed the Ferrari with 30 minutes to go in the race, and then took the lead with 20 minutes remaining when the leading BMW was assessed a stop-and-go penalty for avoidable contact.
"I knew that for us to get a good result out of this race, we had to be 100 percent focused every second," Magnussen said. "We could never relax, just push all the time. To pull a win from where we were after qualifying is just fantastic. These guys have done it before and they'll do it again - you can never count Corvette Racing out. The way this team pushes, I'm so proud to be part of it."
Gavin agreed: "The team won this race," said the Englishman. "We got our first win on the board and we've broken BMW's stranglehold on ALMS victories this year. I'm absolutely delighted!"
The second pit stop proved pivotal. "We had 10 seconds for everyone to get ready," said crew chief Brian Hoye. "The guys know what to do and they were ready to go. We knocked out a quick stop, kept the car in contention, and we ended up with a victory. We used every session to make the car the best it could be for the race, and it turned out be a spectacular result."
The No. 3 Corvette was less fortunate today as contact with the No. 11 Porsche GTC and a resulting spin took them out of contention. Milner had executed a series of passes to pull the No. 3 up to fourth place before the accident.
"The No. 3 Corvette was really, really good, the best I've driven all year long," said Milner. "My spot today was Turn 5, where a lot of people were getting held up in traffic and I was able to get underneath them entering 5B. It's a pretty safe spot to pass, and you can rub fenders there without it being an issue. I got a number of passes done there, but then we had that contact in Turn 10. Unfortunately we have a few drivers who need more seat time, especially running with other class cars. I gave him a lot of room going into 9, but he wanted to race me. The result was I got spun out."
The contact damaged the Corvette's left-rear suspension and required an extended pit stop to get the car back onto the circuit. The delay placed the No. 3 Corvette a lap down from the leaders. Beretta drove the last 62 minutes to secure sixth place for the Le Mans-winning Corvette.
"It's a good win for the No. 4 Corvette and good for the whole team," Beretta said. "Tommy did a very good job, we were just unlucky to be touched by a gentleman driver and that was the end of our race. I was hoping for a yellow to close up the field, but it didn't come, so I just brought the car home."
Along with their 9th win at Mosport, Corvette Racing earned the Michelin Green X Challenge as the fastest, cleanest, and most efficient entry in the GT class.
"As the inaugural winner of the Michelin Green X Challenge, it's always an honor when Corvette Racing collects one of these trophies," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "It's a testament to how hard our engine group, our chassis group, and our aero group have worked to maximize the efficiency of the Corvette. It's also a testament to Chevrolet's willingness to race with cellulosic E85, and as the world's largest producer of flex-fuel vehicles, it's only appropriate that the Chevrolet team won the Green X Challenge today."
Corvette Racing's next event is the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge in Lexington, Ohio, on Saturday, August 6, starting at 3:30 p.m. EDT. Live video coverage will available on www.ESPN3.com in the US and www.americanlemans.com for international users. ESPN2 will televise the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge on Sunday, August 7, at 10 p.m. EDT.