A two-day test at the roller-coaster Road Atlanta circuit has prepared Corvette Racing for Saturday's 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans, the ninth and final round of the 2010 American Le Mans Series. Having scored seven victories at this event in the GTS/GT1 division, the team is hoping the enduro will again play to its strengths as it seeks to end a winless American Le Mans Series season with its GT2-class C6.R.
Although rain on Sunday dampened the second day of a scheduled two-day test at the 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course, engineering director Doug Louth is confident the Chevrolet team is well prepared for the long day of racing.
"If you look at any performance metric – average lap times, fastest race or qualifying laps, or the fastest race stint – the entire GT2 field has, on average, improved by almost one percent since 2009," noted Louth. "That is one reason why the GT2 class is super-competitive. With continued development of the Corvette C6.R, our lap time performance is right there with the improved performance of our competition. Although there is much less latitude in the GT2 regulations for development than in the old GT1 regulations, there is still much that can be done with systems, settings, parts configurations, and processes to realize performance improvements."
The Road Atlanta track is obviously very different from Le Mans, with less time spent at maximum speed and much higher loads from the elevation changes, banking, and overall track configuration," Louth added. "Consequently, the chassis setup and tire choices are quite different between Le Mans and Road Atlanta. But the one thing that the two races have in common is that the length of the event provides more opportunity to leverage the team's long-run performance and to develop a winning strategy."
Last year's Petit Le Mans was red-flagged after only four hours and 50 minutes of racing when a huge storm descended on Road Atlanta (LEFT). With the preceding ALMS round at Mosport International Raceway also abbreviated due to guardrail damage, there is unfinished business for the team at Petit Le Mans.
"It was a frustrating end to last year's Petit Le Mans with the downpour," said Oliver Gavin, driver of the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R and a four-time Petit Le Mans class winner. "Everyone was just keeping themselves in the game, staying on the lead lap, and then all of a sudden the rain hit and the race was red flagged. We never got a chance to push in that final few hours and battle to the end.
"This year the GT2 class is massively competitive, and everyone at Corvette Racing is very keen to win this last race," Gavin noted. "We're going to be 150 percent focused on everything that needs to happen to make the race ours. The intensity is as high as Le Mans. The whole ethos of the race is the fact that you're racing in different classes with the best sports car drivers in the world."
The Corvette squad will retain the revised driver lineup that made its debut at Mosport, with Johnny O'Connell, Olivier Beretta, and Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette. Gavin, Jan Magnussen, and Emmanuel Collard will share the No. 4 C6.R.
"It's not just about being fast at Petit Le Mans, but about staying out of trouble," said O'Connell (RIGHT). "The biggest challenge is the difference in speeds among the various classes, and that will become apparent with 45 entries on a relatively short racetrack. As we saw at Le Mans, when you have factory prototypes slugging it out, the GT cars can be on the receiving end of some overly aggressive driving."
O'Connell will host his annual charity auction at the conclusion of track activities on Friday, Oct. 1, to benefit the Alzheimer's Association and The Guest House, a senior citizen day care center in Gainesville, Ga. Drivers, teams, and manufacturers have donated memorabilia and merchandise, and O'Connell will play the role of auctioneer. The event has raised more than $200,000 for charity since 2001.
"We'll have some great autographed driver gear, and my daughter, Kelly, will sing a Taylor Swift song," O'Connell said. "There will be some surprises, and if we raise enough money for charity, I'll even sing the heavy metal song I've written. We always have a good time and benefit two outstanding organizations."
The 1,000-mile/10-hour race will start at 11:15 a.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 2. The race will be televised live on SPEED.