Corvette gears up for Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. – The streets of Long Beach are uncharted territory for the American Le Mans Series, but several Corvette Racing drivers already know the ins and outs of the famed waterfront circuit. The upcoming 100-minute sprint race on the bayside circuit on April 14 – the shortest race on the ALMS calendar – will mark the series' first appearance at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, but it will be dejaà vu forCorvette Racing's Jan Magnussen and Johnny O'Connell.

"All in all, Long Beach is a great setting for a race and it's good for the ALMS to race there," said Magnussen, who shares the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R with O'Connell. "I've raced a Daytona Prototype there previously, and the track is much like the street circuit in St. Petersburg in terms of how the track is crowned. One corner that's unique to Long Beach is the very tight hairpin at Turn 11. It's a place where you just don't try to pass, and you hope that nobody else tries to pass you."

The Danish driver has considerable experience in street races, from the famous city course in Macau, China, to the Monaco Grand Prix where he drove for the Stewart Formula 1 team. "On street circuits it's all about patience," Magnussen explained. "You have to be aggressive to get a quick lap time, but there's such a fine line between being aggressive and being stupid. The concrete is so unforgiving that even a small mistake on a street circuit becomes a big mistake nine out of 10 times.

"On a new street circuit I like to go out and feel my way around," he said. "I'm normally way off the pace in the beginning and then I work my way down. I just don't want to have to look anybody in the eye after crashing in the first session!" O'Connell's experience at Long Beach dates back to his days as an up-and-coming driver in the open-wheel ranks. He's also spent time behind the wheel of a Trans-Am car on the Southern California circuit.

"I've driven a little bit of everything at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, but the course has changed quite a lot since I last raced there so it will take some time to get familiar with the layout," said O'Connell. "We'll have to get up to speed quickly because practice time is very limited, but we have such an amazing engineering staff at Corvette Racing that all I have to do is focus on my driving. "The most important part of Corvette Racing's program is the 24 Hours of Le Mans, so while we approach these street races as good preparation for Le Mans, we don't want to bang up our race cars. It forces us to be very precise and drive with good technique. Racing in Long Beach is a great opportunity for all of the Corvette owners in Southern California to see the Corvette C6.Rs in action."

While Long Beach is famous as the home of the Queen Mary , another British import will be on board with Corvette Racing in Long Beach: Oliver Gavin, who shares the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R with Olivier Beretta. Unlike the drivers of the No. 3 Corvette C6.R, neither Gavin nor Beretta has seen the course in person. "Long Beach is one of the classic street circuits, and I've followed the races there since the early days when it hosted Formula 1 events," said Gavin, the two-time and reigning GT1 champion. "The track certainly has great history and character.

"Olivier and I haven't raced there previously, and with only 45 minutes of practice before we go into qualifying, that could tip the balance in favor of Johnny and Jan," Gavin conceded. "When it comes to the race, it's going to be an all-out sprint. With only one scheduled pit stop, there's really no strategy. It comes down to who can get out in front and avoid trouble." With a compressed two-day schedule, Corvette Racing will use its high-tech simulation and analysis programs to prepare for the Grand Prix of Long Beach. And with the third of three consecutive street races coming up in Houston, Texas, on April 21, having a clean and quick race on the streets of Long Beach is a top priority for Corvette Racing. The ALMS race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the third round of the 12-race 2007 American Le Mans Series, is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. ET (4 p.m. local time) on Saturday, April 14.

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