Corvette Racing Fourth and Fifth in Provisional Le Mans Qualifying
LE MANS, France, June 8, 2011 – Preparations for this weekend's 79th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans began today with four hours of free practice followed by the first of three two-hour qualifying sessions. Corvette Racing's twin Compuware Corvette C6.Rs were third and fifth in the opening practice session. Then after a two-hour break, the initial qualifying session ran from 10 p.m. to midnight on the imposing 8.5-mile circuit.
Jan Magnussen qualified the No. 74 Corvette C6.R fourth on the provisional GTE Pro grid at 3:59.519, and Olivier Beretta was fifth at 3:59.633 in the No. 73 Corvette C6.R. The No. 56 BMW M3 GT is on the provisional GTE pole with the fastest lap at 3:58.426.
"Our objective here is not to win the pole; our objective is to develop a vehicle that can be raced comfortably and competitively by all three drivers in each car," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "Victory is our objective and that's what we're working toward."
Qualifying will continue on Thursday with a second session from 7 to 9 p.m., and conclude with the final session from 10 p.m. to midnight. With the possibility of rain tomorrow, the team has already posted competitive qualifying times with both Corvettes and all six drivers have completed their required laps in darkness.
"We got in a good qualifying run for P4, and we'll see what we can do to improve tomorrow," said Magnussen. "Our competition is fast, but we still have some improvements to make. I think we have a car now that would do very well in the race. Judging by previous years and how the track changes, we're in good shape, and we can still improve in small areas."
Olivier Beretta agreed: “All went well today," said the five-time winner at Le Mans. "We worked through our to-do list and it all worked out fine. The setup improved throughout the session each time we changed something. There was a brief interruption with a red flag situation, but it didn’t upset our schedule at all. The track was still quite dirty in the beginning of the session, but it cleaned up pretty quickly. The car is exactly how it always is when we begin an event: nearly perfect.”
Oliver Gavin had a dramatic moment at 90 minutes into the opening practice session. "I had just started a timed lap and was going through the Esses when we had a problem with the power steering system," he said. "The car was fully loaded going down the hill, and I had to make a pretty big correction. I brought the car back to the pits, but driving slowly around Le Mans is pretty hairy – those prototypes go past very, very fast.
"It's great to be back at Le Mans in our cars," Gavin added. "The circuit is a bit dirty, a little green, but felt pretty comfortable."
Tommy Milner turned his first laps at Le Mans in the No. 73 Corvette C6.R that he shares with Beretta and Antonio Garcia. "There wasn't a big difference from the Larbre Competition Corvette that I drove during the Le Mans test in April, but it's cool to be in the Corvette Racing C6.R," said the 25-year-old American driver. "Now we're focused on the task at hand. During my time in the car we made a really good change to improve the balance of the car, so we've found a direction to take and we're definitely making progress. We just have to keep at it and get the car as comfortable as we can."
“It’s good to be back in Le Mans after a year away," said Garcia. "For me it’s about getting into the rhythm again and trying to figure out traffic and how to work with the faster prototypes. We’re just concentrating on getting the car ready for the race, as we do every year. The most important thing is to get a consistent and comfortable car. Now we’ll analyze the data and fine tune the setup.”
"We've definitely got something to build on," said Richard Westbrook, the third driver in the No. 74 Corvette C6.R. "The track is changing all the time, so we have to react to that. We have a very good baseline car, and I think all three of the drivers and the engineers are confident that the small changes we make will improve things. There are no major issues, so it's just the fine tuning to react to the change in the track."
The 24 Hours of Le Mans will be contested on June 11-12. The race will start Saturday at 3 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET). SPEED will televise the race live, supplemented by live online video streaming at www.speedtv.com/corvette. Check local listings for broadcast times.
24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Pro Provisional Top 10 Qualifying Times:
1. 56 Priaulx/Muller/Hand, BMW M3 GT, 3:58.426
2. 51 Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander, Ferrari F458 Italia, 3:58.989
3. 55 Farfus/Muller/Werner, BMW M3 GT, 3:59.321
4. 74 Gavin/Magnussen/Westbrook, Corvette C6.R, 3:59.519
5. 73 Beretta/Milner/Garcia, Corvette C6.R, 3:59.633
6. 59 Ortelli/Makowiecki/Melo, Ferrari F458 Italia, 3:59.901
7. 75 Goossens/Holzer/van Lagen, Porsche 997 GT3 RSR, 3:59.962
8. 77 Lieb/Lietz/Henzler, Porsche 997 GT3 RSR, 3:59.998
9. 89 Farnbacher/Simonsen/Keen, Ferrari F458 Italia, 4:00.260
10. 79 Hancock/Dolan/Buncombe, Aston Martin Vantage, 4:00.747
Source: Corvette Racing