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 Corvette should have won at Sebring

March 19, 2005


Corvette C6R
ALMS

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
ALMS

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 leak.

"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 Mans."

"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 today."

"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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