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Torrential Rain Forced Officials to Halt Petit Le Mans on Road Atlanta Circuit
Torrential rain in Braselton, Georgia forced officials to red flag the 10-hour Petit Le Mans after four hours and 50 minutes of racing. The Road Atlanta circuit was drenched and there was no hope of drying the track.
Torrential rain forced officials to red flag the Petit Le Mans after only a few hours of racing, photo by GM Corp.
Two Corvette C6.Rs dominated the first three hours of the Petit Le Mans Race in Braselton, Georgia, photo by GM Corp.
When the race ended Corvette Racing’s No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R was fourth in the GT2 class, one lap behind Risi Competizione’s GT2-winning No. 62 Ferrari 430. The No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R was classified sixth, only two laps down.
Oliver Gavin pits on the Road Atlanta circuit in Corvette Racing's Compuware Corvette C6.R, photo by GM Corp.
Corvette Racing's next event is the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, photo by GM Corp.
The two Corvette C6.R’s dominated the first three hours of the race. They ran first and second consistently until a flurry of pit stops mixed the running order. That’s when the heavy rain arrived.
The Corvettes changed to rain tires and quickly asserted themselves at the start. Oliver Gavin took the No.4 Corvette C6.R to second and Johnny O’Connell slotted the No.3 Corvette C6.R to fourth on the opening lap.
Gavin made a move to pass the Ford GT of David Murry in the Turn 10 chicane on the second lap, but lost grip and fell to fourth. O’Connell immediately applied more pressure to the No.3 Corvette, taking the lead on the third lap with an inside pass going into the high-speed first turn. On the fourth lap, Gavin passed the Flying Lizard Porsche of Patrick Long to take third place.
“I knew we had a good car in the rain,” said O’Connell. “Everyone was being a little tentative at the start, but I felt confident. Oliver got in a little too deep and went off trying to pass the Ford GT. It was then my turn to take care of business.”
A dry line started to emerge and the Corvette crew made the decision to switch from rain tires to slicks on the first pit stop. Gavin was the first to pit at the 45 minute mark, with O’Connell stopping two laps later. Following the pit stops, Gavin emerged at the front of the GT2 class with O’Connell comfortably in second.
“I thought I was super careful, but obviously I wasn’t careful enough when I went across the grass in Turn 10,” said Gavin. “Fortunately the car wasn’t damaged and I got going again and passed the Porsche and the Ford GT. I could see the track was going to be nasty in several turns, but thought that if I could build enough heat in the tires, it should be good for the rest of the track. As soon as I went out on slicks, I knew we made the right choice.”
The Corvettes made their first driver changes during a full-course caution after 62 laps. Jan Magnussen replaced O’Connell and Olivier Beretta replaced Gavin. A second full course caution closed the field. During the third yellow flag, Corvette made another change of drivers. Antonio Garcia took over the class-leading No. 3 Corvette C6.R and Marcel Fassler drove the second-ranked No. 4 Corvette C6.R.
The Corvettes suffered a setback during a fifth caution. They ceded track position to Marc Lieb in the No. 45 Porsche, and Joerg Mueller in the No. 92 BMW. That put Fassler in third place and Garcia in fourth.
“It was difficult because the two cars in front of me were fighting for position,” said Garcia. “They defended their positions really hard. I thought our pace was faster, so I took it easy and waited for my opportunity.”
The weather continued to deteriorate and the downpour began at 4:28. O’Connell aquaplaned off the track in the downhill Turn 12 and was beached in the gravel trap. Quick work by the IMSA safety team had the No. 3 Corvette back on the circuit after only losing one lap.
“The rain was unbelievable,” said O’Connell. “I came under the bridge like I’ve done a thousand times before and suddenly hit a stream of water. I was not pushing hard at all. I just wanted to catch up with the field.”
The downpour intensified and race officials displayed the red flag and stopped the race at 4:50. The clock continued to run while the cars were parked in the pit lane, and the race was terminated three hours and 55 minutes later.
“It was a very unusual event, and in some respects a disappointing one,” said Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan. “Rain is a perfect environment to race the GT2 Corvette C6.R, the engineering that has gone into this chassis provides tremendous mechanical grip. We certainly would have liked to finish the race with a good result. But safety is always paramount at GM Racing, and we applaud the officials for making the decision to call the race. Safety must always prevail.”
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Corvette Racing’s next event is the Monterey Sports Car Championships. The four hour race is scheduled to start at 2:45 p.m. PST on Saturday, October 10 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. SPEED-TV will broadcast the race on Sunday, October 11 at 2:30 pm EST.
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