Corvette Racing makes history at Sebring
The 57th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring was a history-making event for Corvette Racing. For Johnny O'Connell, it was a record-setting eighth Sebring class victory. For Jan Magnussen, it was his milestone 100th career victory in the American Le Mans Series' landmark 100th race. For Antonio Garcia, it was his first win with Corvette Racing. And for Corvette Racing, it was a perfect performance that included an ALMS record for laps completed in the GT class at Sebring to jump start the 10th anniversary of America's premier production sports car racing team.
O'Connell, Magnussen and Garcia completed 349 laps in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R to take a one-lap victory in the GT1 class over Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta, and Marcel Fassler in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. The Corvettes finished sixth and seventh overall, and the winning car set a record for the most laps completed by a GT car in ALMS competition in America's most demanding endurance race. The No. 3 Corvette C6.R also won the inaugural Michelin Green X Challenge race-within-a-race with the best score in the GT classes based on performance, efficiency, and environmental impact.
"In our final race in the GT1 class at Sebring, I think we raised the bar high by setting an all-time laps completed record and running a flawless race," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "Today was an example of what we've done since the inception of this program - continuous improvement. This gives us a solid foundation for going to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and completing our mission over there."
Gavin started on the GT1 pole with Magnussen in close pursuit. The first round of pit stops at 49 minutes into the race proved decisive. Magnussen pitted first, handing off to O'Connell. One lap later, Gavin pitted and was replaced by Beretta. The two cars emerged from their stops side-by-side, with O'Connell taking the lead for good in Turn 10. The No. 3 Corvette C6.R then held its advantage through 11 long hours of racing and 11 more pit stops.
"I had the advantage of a killer lap going out of the pits," said O'Connell, who extended his record as the all-time leader in Sebring victories with his eighth career win on the historic circuit. "Maybe our car was a little better in that stint. I came by as Olivier was coming out of the pits on cold tires, so he had knife for a gunfight on that first lap. Anytime you get close dicing like that it's a lot of fun, and Olivier was pushing me every bit of the way.
"I don't know why this place has always been special for me, but a lot of it is that I've been here with good people," O'Connell continued. "When you have a race car prepared by Corvette Racing and the support of Chevrolet, this is how you want to start a year. To have won this so many times with Ron Fellows, and now to do it with Jan and Antonio, makes me very excited about the future. Not only did we win the race, we also won the Michelin Green X Challenge, so there is a lot for Chevrolet to be proud of today."
Magnussen reached a milestone with his 100th career victory. The 35-year-old racer from Denmark has scored wins in single seaters, touring cars, prototypes, and GTs. His resume now includes 23 ALMS victories.
"Winning my 100th race in the 100th ALMS event is perfect," said Magnussen. "I'm so happy for Johnny, and to welcome Antonio to the team with a win couldn't be better. We had a nearly perfect race - we didn't make any mistakes and everything went according to plan. A victory here is the best possible preparation we could have for Le Mans."
Garcia completed a trio of endurance racing victories after wins in the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona. The Spaniard notched his first ALMS victory in his debut with Corvette Racing.
"Starting off with a win with my new team, I can't ask for anything more," Garcia said. "Everything went perfectly, the team did a magnificent job, and the pit stops were awesome. For me today was a learning race, and I think I achieved everything that I wanted."
The gap between the two Corvettes was never more than 30 seconds through the long day of racing. Gavin and Magnussen started and finished the race, running five stints, while their teammates each completed four stints.
"It came down to a couple of little things that just didn't quite work out for us," Gavin said. "We had some bad luck with the cautions and safety car, and we were a little off on tire pressure or the setup on a few stints. There was really almost no difference in performance between the two Corvette C6.Rs, so it was going to take just one small thing to throw it one way or the other. Unfortunately it didn't work out our way today, but there's a lot of positives for us to take away from this. We had a car that was strong and that we all could drive well."
Beretta agreed: "It was a good race, but we just had some little issues and some bad luck on the pace car," he said. "Congratulations to the No. 3 Corvette, they did a perfect race. We are leaving Sebring with two cars in perfect condition, and that is the most important thing."
Marcel Fassler has raced Corvette C6.Rs extensively in Europe, and the Swiss driver was delighted by his first race with the Corvette Racing team. "This gives me confidence going to Le Mans because the car was reliable on a very tough track," Fassler said. "To finish second is never nice, but the No. 3 Corvette today was a little faster and they did a good job. I congratulate them, and I really look forward to Le Mans."
Corvette Racing backed up its overall victory in last year's inaugural ALMS Green Challenge with a win in the first Michelin Green X Challenge at Sebring. Created jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy, SAE International and ALMS, the Green X Challenge ranks the competitors on the amount of energy used, greenhouse gases emitted, and petroleum displaced.
"Today's race was the final appearance by Corvette Racing in the GT1 category at Sebring, and we ran an absolutely perfect race with cellulosic E85 ethanol fuel," said Steve Wesoloski, GM Racing Road Racing Group manager. "We accomplished our mission and demonstrated Chevrolet's technical capabilities. This same technology is applied to other vehicles in Chevy's product line, and that's what we're demonstrating every time the Corvettes are on the race track."
Corvette Racing's next event is the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif., on April 18.
Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring GT1 Results
1. O'Connell/Magnussen/Garcia, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 349
2. Gavin/Beretta/Fassler, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 348
April 18, Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach, Long Beach, Calif.
TV: ABC tape delay, April 19, 12:30-2:30 p.m. ET