Battered but unbroken,
Corvette Racing overcame adversity to finish second and third Saturday in the
GT1 class at Sebring International Raceway with the new Corvette C6.R race
cars. After dominating the first eight hours of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours
of Sebring, the final third of the 12-hour race became a test of endurance
for the Corvette Racing team as both cars were damaged in accidents.
The No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R driven by Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell
and Max Papis finished one lap behind the GT1 class winner after a brake
rotor failure sent the car into a tire barrier. The No. 4 Compuware
Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen claimed third
place with six minutes remaining in the race after extensive repairs
following hard contact with another car.
"I'm disappointed that we had to finish second and third because the cars
were good enough to finish first and second," said Doug Fehan, GM Racing
program manager for Corvette Racing. "The thing that I am most proud about
is that this team simply does not give up in the face of adversity. Within
30 minutes, both cars were essentially put out of the race, yet after
repairs they were back racing at full speed."
Corvette C6R service in the pits
Starting eighth and
ninth in the 38-car field, the Corvettes were running first and second in
the GT1 class and third and fourth overall after eight hours of racing.
Corvette Racing's misfortunes began when a front brake rotor failed at
high speed on the No. 3 Corvette. Driver O'Connell pitched the car into a
spin that softened the impact against a tire barrier in Turn 17. After the
crew replaced the brakes and taped the damaged body panels, O'Connell was
back in the fray. He eventually turned a fast lap at 1:56.900 that
eclipsed the previous track record.
Fourteen minutes after O'Connell's wild ride, Olivier Beretta had contact
with another car in Turn 11 that severely damaged the right rear
suspension. The Corvette Racing crew replaced the rear upright, control
arms, tie rod and half-shaft. Beretta then overcame a 10-lap deficit in
the final 30 minutes when the third-place Saleen S7R pitted with an oil
"After the crew repaired the car, it was running strongly, quickly and
predictably - all the things a driver wants when he's racing around
Sebring in the dark," said Gavin. "We led for so long, but the No. 4's
luck struck again. Today's result backs up all the hard work that Corvette
Racing has done to keep us in there. The philosophy here is 'Never give
up.' We've seen that at Le Mans, and we saw it here again today.
"It's an extremely promising start to the season," Gavin noted. "Corvette
comes to every race to win, and this is a milestone year with the
introduction of the new C6.R in Corvette's 50th year in competition. We're
going to be right there for the rest of the season, pushing hard."
Papis, teamed with Fellows and O'Connell in the No. 3 Corvette for
endurance events, appreciated the team's true grit today.
"I felt that today everyone at Corvette Racing really tried very, very
hard," he said. "This is part of racing - sometimes you win, sometimes you
finish second. We have more battles to fight and we're looking toward Le
"Yet again Sebring showed us that this track can find any weakness," said
Fellows. "In all the years we've been doing this, I've never seen an
incident like the one that Johnny had. I was amazed at how quickly the
team got the car back out on the track. Simply amazing."
The GT1 class in this year's 12-hour enduro featured an international
field of sports cars that included legendary names such as Aston Martin,
Maserati and Ferrari.
"There were seven different makes in the class, and several could have won
the race," said Corvette chief engineer Dave Hill. "Our drivers drove
heroically and I think Corvette customers can be proud of what they saw
"It was a good day with two Corvettes on the podium in the C6.R's first
event, and good competition among great marques in the GT1 class," added
Steve Shannon, GM executive director of marketing services. "I think it
will be an epic battle."
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