Corvette team thinks it can win LeMans again Corvette Racing has proven its dedication to the pursuit of perfection. Despite little outside competition for the team, Corvette Racing has taken the early portion of the 2007 season to test every aspect of the cars in preparation for the trip to Le Mans, France and the world’s premier endurance race.
“We think we’ll win for the fourth time at Le Mans because we have the best team. They know the car inside and out,” said Oliver Gavin. “The crew will be well-drilled.”
The field for the 75th running of the most famous sports car race in the world will consist of 55 highly-sophisticated sports cars with the 15 competitors in GT1, including five Corvettes. This year’s competition has undergone an upgrade in quality and an increase in quantity.
The team has known all along that the competition will be stiff at Le Mans with competitors from Aston Martin, Saleen and other Corvettes. Preparation is paramount and Corvette Racing has taken the five races in the American Le Mans Series season to fine tune the elements of the team.
“Aston Martin will be there and we beat them last year. Everyone is waiting for that,” said Olivier Beretta. “It’s difficult to know what the other competition is like at Le Mans. We have very good preparation and have a very good team with Michelin. The last three years have been good so we’ll just wait and see.”
From the beginning of the season, the drivers of the sister Corvettes have proven their competition doesn’t lack luster as the two C6.Rs fought for the top spot in each race. Every race is a chance for the team to perfect aspects of the car, and no one on the team has taken those opportunities for granted.
No where was this more evident that the recent Utah Grand Prix. "It was a very important day for us because it was the last practice before Le Mans," said Beretta. "We had to finish with the car in one piece. We want the mechanics to be well rested because they've done a fantastic job since the start of the season. We went through three street races without any accidents and now we've completed a successful Michelin tire test. We are ready to go to the big one now."
Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan agreed: "It was a perfectly executed race and we learned a tremendous amount. I think we've made a very good tire selection for Le Mans. The last compound we had on looked really good, so we're excited about that. We'll be as prepared as possible."
Over the course of the first five races in the American Le Mans Series, the team has made some improvements to the Corvette C6.Rs including adding a new driver cooling system. Although temperatures are predicted to be mild in Le Mans, France, 24 hours in a closed cockpit car could produce a need for the new system.
“Corvette has made a lot improvements to the cars as far as driver cooling and driver comfort with the new cooling system and that should pay dividends in a 24-hour race,” said Johnny O’Connell.
The improvements and the consistent testing have paid dividends for the team. Those efforts were apparent in the first test session at the Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans. The No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R driven by Jan Magnussen, O'Connell and Ron Fellows ran the fastest lap in the GT1 class at 3:49.207. The No. 64 Corvette of Gavin, Beretta and Max Papis was third quickest among the 15 GT1 entries with a lap at 3:51.628.
"Some people wondered why we were racing in the American Le Mans Series even though we had little competition, and I think the test day result provides a clear answer," said Fehan. "We've done a tremendous amount of work over the winter and early this season, and the testing that we've done with Michelin has been outstanding. The drivers, engineers and mechanics did another exceptional job, and that's one of the reasons why Corvette Racing is successful."
The 75th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is scheduled for 3 p.m. CET (9 a.m. ET) on Saturday, June 16 from the Circuit de la Sarthe. SPEED will provide 17.5 hours of coverage in North America starting at 8:30 a.m. ET on June 16. MotorsTV will air week-long coverage throughout Europe. Live coverage can be found on Radio Le Mans through americanlemans.com.
The next race, is Round Six of the American Le Mans Series is the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix, set for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 7 at Lime Rock Park. CBS Sports will televise the race at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 8. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.