Political war in ALMS could cost series Aston Martin UPDATE The fact that Aston Martin is being sold could mean there is no money for racing next year, in which case the Aston Martin name could disappear from ALMS unless a privateer picks it up, but why would they do that when they know they could not beat a factory effort like Corvette.
09/05/06 [Editor's Note: The press release below from Corvette expresses their unhappiness with the latest rules changes by IMSA to try and stop the Corvette's domination. Meanwhile, Aston Martin execs were telling people in Mosport this past weekend they will not be back in 2007 because they do not like the way they have been treated in the ALMS. Such is the political BS one must endure when trying to keep manufacturers happy. This is why NASCAR is switching to one body and a spec engine, both with multiple badging. Only the decals are different and then no one can complain the other has an advantage. It's the only fair way to go racing without all the political BS.]
Mother Nature proved to be a fan of sports car racing today as days of rain gave way to a dry track for the Grand Prix of Mosport. But the dark sky overhead reflected the mood in the Corvette Racing pits as performance handicaps and penalties hampered the team's performance in the eighth round of the American Le Mans Series.
Sharp pit strategy and hard driving earned a runner-up finish for Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R, which finished one lap behind the No. 009 Aston Martin DBR9. An early stop-and-go penalty torpedoed the chances of the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R as Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell finished fourth in the GT1 division.
"Corvette Racing's primary objective is to win the manufacturers championship, and Oliver and Olivier did a great job today to protect the lead we have," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "But we found out today just how far great pit strategy and flawless execution will take you - and that's to second place."
Series officials mandated a reduction in the size of the Corvettes' intake air restrictors for this race, an adjustment that cut engine output by 35 horsepower. The Corvettes were also required to weigh 199 pounds more than their British rivals.
"I'm proud of what we accomplished today running at such a large competitive disadvantage," Fehan noted. "We challenged ourselves to do the best we could with what we had to work with, and I'm pleased with what we achieved. The engineers worked very hard on the strategic side of racing, the drivers worked hard in the cars, and the crew worked hard on the cars. But at the end of the day, the deficit was impossible to overcome."
The team seized the opportunity to run an out-of-sequence pit strategy by bringing in the No. 4 Corvette for fuel and tires during the first full-course caution period at just 15 minutes into the two-hour, 45-minute race. That move put Beretta just seconds behind the leading Aston Martin when racing resumed. Beretta took the lead one hour later when both Aston Martins pitted, but then surrendered the point during the Corvette's second stop at 1:28 into the race.
With Gavin now at the wheel, the No. 4 Corvette regained the lead at 2:12 when the 009 Aston Martin pitted, but 12 minutes later the green machine passed Gavin on the Andretti Straight. Gavin made a final pit stop for a splash of fuel with nine minutes remaining and then maintained second place to the finish.
"I think it was inevitable that the Aston was going to get in front of us," said Gavin. "They were too fast for us today. The performance adjustments have gone backward and forward all season, and it seems they've tipped too far in their direction. We were running flat out, as hard as we could.
"The pit strategy could have paid off if it had rained or we had caught an opportune caution period," he noted. "It was great thinking by the engineers and great execution by the crew. Splitting the strategy helped us to stay ahead of the 007, and we came away with a good result in the manufacturers points."
Ron Fellows was assessed a controversial stop-and-go penalty at the start of the race for contact with the No. 007 Aston Martin. Although the Canadian maintained his innocence in the incident, the penalty effectively eliminated the hometown favorite from contention.
"It was a bad call," said Fellows. "I was on the right, and the 007 was supposed to be on the left. I think he was attempting to fall into line behind the 009, but you must maintain your position until the start-finish line. He came across the nose of my car as we were exiting Turn 10, nowhere near the start-finish line. How is that my fault? After the stop-and-go penalty, we didn't have a chance."
The No. 3 Corvette could not make up the deficit, finishing fourth in class, two laps behind the leader.
"These decisions are a question of interpretation, and our interpretation differed from the officials' view," said Fehan. "Ultimately we have to accept the officials' decision. We'll have to work with them to see how they understand what happened."
Corvette Racing's next event is Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., on Saturday, Sept. 30. The 10-hour/1,000-mile race will be televised live on the SPEED Channel from 11:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 - 10 p.m. ET. Corvette Racing