O'Connell and Magnussen break through with first win
Jan Magnussen and Johnny O'Connell teamed up to win their first race together since 1999 as the pair drove their No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R to their first victory of the season tonight in the Lone Star Grand Prix. Racing on the rough and rugged 1.7-mile JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park temporary street circuit was like riding a mechanical bull, but Magnussen and O'Connell held on throughout the two-hour and 45-minute race to stake their claim to the GT1 winner's circle.
(With both speed and good fortune on their side, Magnussen and O'Connell completed 138 laps and finished 50 seconds ahead of Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. O'Connell notched his 26th career ALMS victory, putting him third on the series' all-time winners list. Magnussen tallied his 12th ALMS win, becoming only the second driver to score at least one victory in every year since the series' inception in 1999.
Magnussen joined O'Connell as a full-season driver for Corvette Racing at the start of the 2007 season. Their last victory together was in an LMP1 prototype at Mosport International Raceway in 1999.
"It's a super great feeling to win tonight!" Magnussen exclaimed. "Johnny did a fantastic job in his stints and opened up a gap. He did all the hard work and made it easier for me when I got in the car. I'm glad to be back winning with Johnny, and I hope we're starting a string of wins."
O'Connell started behind pole-sitter Beretta on the grid, but took the lead on the first round of pit stops at 40 minutes into the race. He was able to build a 13-second advantage before the second pit stop exchange at the 1:20 mark, when Magnussen replaced O'Connell and Gavin replaced Beretta.
The race had only one full-course caution period, but it proved to be decisive to the outcome in GT1. When the yellow flag flew at 2:02 into the race, the two Corvettes were separated by the overall leader. Consequently the leading No. 3 Corvette gained nearly a full-lap on its rival following a wave-around. With nearly a one-lap advantage and only 30 minutes of racing remaining at the end of the caution period, the No. 3 Corvette was on the road to victory.
"I did everything I could to have good in-laps and out-laps, and that got us in front," O'Connell reported. "Then I pushed as hard as I could. I really felt that luck hasn't gone our way this year, and it's so sweet to finally get luck on our side."
While O'Connell and Magnussen had some racing luck, they also had serious speed. O'Connell turned the fastest lap of the race at 1:07.423, and eclipsed his qualifying time in the morning warm-up.
"We went the wrong direction in the session before qualifying - sometimes that happens," O'Connell explained. "We worked with our engineer, Joe Kiefer, and came up with a solution. Jan and I like the same thing in the car, and as the season goes forward I think we're only going to get stronger."
The win by the No. 3 Corvette ended a three-race winning streak by their teammates in the No. 4 Corvette.
"Olivier and I have had a good run, but it was a tough race today," said Gavin. "Olivier got a tough break with traffic and then we had a bit of a misstep on the driver change because I didn't realize the car was in second gear and stalled the engine. Then we got a tough break with the caution period, and from then on we were pretty much passengers. The No. 4 Corvette C6.R ran really well, and it was a good, constructive test with the tires, but it just wasn't our day."
Corvette Racing employed an unusual three-stop pit strategy today as the team rehearsed for the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
"We were doing a tire test today, but we were letting the drivers race," reported Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing program manager. "They were hammer and tongs all race long. The No. 3 Corvette had an excellent stint, then the No. 4 Corvette came back with an equally strong run. It was a shame that we had the caution period that caught them out because it would have been a good race to the finish. We did learn a great deal today under race conditions, and both cars are in one piece, so it was a good day." Corvette Racing