74 Corvette Retires After Accident, 73 Corvette Second at 18-Hours in Le Mans
LE MANS, France, June 12, 2011 – "OK, that's it." With those words from crew chief Brian Hoye, the 24 Hours of Le Mans ended for the No. 74 Compuware Corvette C6.R.
The yellow and black Corvette had led the GTE category since the safety car period in the first hour of the race. Nearly 16 hours later, contact with a Porsche resulted in extensive damage to the front and rear of the car and a loss of drive. Driver Jan Magnussen was unharmed, but the car could not return to the pit lane and was retired.
"I was coming out of the Porsche Curves behind a Porsche, and it looked like he was going to make room for me after the fast chicane after Corvette Corner," Magnussen said. "I went in there, he turned in on me, and instead of just hitting him I tried to take some of the curb and straightline the grass. The curb just kicked the rear out and I went into a huge tank-slapper, hit him, and then hit the wall.
"I'm OK, but the car is not," said the Dane. "It had lots of damage, there was no steering input, and I couldn't drive it back. I'm so sorry for all the guys."
It was the second consecutive year that misfortune befell the team in the early morning hours at Le Mans. Last year a crash in the Porsche Curves while leading took the Magnussen/Gavin Corvette out of contention.
"It seems when it gets around 8 o'clock, something happens, whether it's an issue with the car or a crash like today," said Oliver Gavin, Magnussen's teammate. "It's just devastating when you work all year toward this race. The crew has worked so hard, they've done everything right. We didn't have the easiest car to drive but it was fast when we got it dialed in. We led from the first safety car period and that's what makes it so hard – we keep leading for so long and then something happens. That's what makes Le Mans so cruel and so great to win when you overcome all that and succeed. This is the hardest race in the world to win."
While the front-running Corvette was withdrawn, the No. 73 Corvette of Olivier Beretta, Antonio Garcia, and Tommy Milner was second at the 18-hour mark, one lap behind the class-leading No. 51 Ferrari 458 Italia. Milner and Garcia had triple-stinted through the night, and the crew had replaced the front brake rotors and pads at the halfway point for the run to the finish.
Olivier Beretta ran the stint at sunrise. “There were just so many incidents and pace cars that there was no way I could settle into a comfortable rhythm, so I concentrated on bringing the car home.”
"The 74 Compuware Corvette was running great, just tires, fuel, and drivers all night long," said team manager Gary Pratt. "We had seven hours to go, a two-minute lead, but it was still a hard race, and Jan knew that. The crew was doing a good job, the pit stops were clean, we just needed to bring it home. We still have one bullet left with the 73 Corvette. The car's a lap down, but we can make that up."
With six hours remaining in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, bringing the No. 73 Corvette C6.R home is now the team's focus.
24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Pro Top Five after 18 Hours:
1. 51 Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander, Ferrari F458 Italia, 228
2. 73 Beretta/Milner/Garcia, Corvette C6.R, 227
3. 55 Farfus/Muller/Werner, BMW M3 GT, 226
4. 77 Lieb/Lietz/Henzler, Porsche 997 GT3 RSR, 225
5. 76 Narac/Pilet/Armindo, Porsche 997 GT3 RSR, 225
Source: Corvette Racing