Racing has been a part of Chevy's heritage since the company was founded in 1911 by Swiss-born race driver Louis Chevrolet and financier Billy Durant. Now as Chevrolet celebrates its 100th birthday and Corvette Racing commemorates the 10th anniversary of its first class win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2001, Corvette Racing is seeking to write another chapter in Chevrolet's rich racing history with its first victory in the GTE Pro (formerly GT2) category at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Corvette Racing faces fierce competition on the imposing Le Mans circuit with entries representing Ferrari, BMW, Porsche Lotus, and Aston Martin. Corvette Racing relishes a challenge, and this year's edition of the 24-hour classic presents a formidable one.
Corvette Racing has won six times in the GTS/GT1 class at Le Mans since 2001. In 2010, the team moved to the GT2 category where it set the performance pace before accidents and mechanical problems sidelined both cars by the 18-hour mark. Now there is a sense of unfinished business as the team prepares for its 12th appearance at La Sarthe.
“Last year we had a great car that could compete with anybody,” said Oliver Gavin, the pole winner in the GT2 category. “We were the pace-setting team, and we hope to continue that this year. Le Mans is such a special race, a race that everyone wants to win. You build your whole year on it, there's so much expectation and anticipation. The accident that we had showed the real mettle of the Corvette Racing team, how the crew fixed the car and got us back out quickly.”
Gavin will be teamed with Jan Magnussen in the No. 74 Compuware Corvette C6.R at Le Mans, a pairing that won the GT1 title three consecutive years in 2004-'06. Richard Westbrook will complete the trio this year as Olivier Beretta has moved to the No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R.
“I've won every time I've been to Le Mans with Oliver,” Magnussen noted. “That's a big plus. Richard did a great job in testing and at Sebring, he's easy to get along with and very fast. We're all going there with high hopes.
“The approach has to be same as last year,” the Danish driver continued. “We have to push as hard as we can. Going with a team like Corvette Racing, with all of the preparation and planning, you can feel the team's energy all week long. But Le Mans is Le Mans, and anything can happen – and probably will happen.”
Joining Beretta in the No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R will be Tommy Milner and Antonio Garcia. The trio was third in the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
“I have raced in Le Mans since 1995, and every year I go there to achieve what every driver wants – to win,” said Beretta, a five-time class winner at Le Mans. “Before you can think about the victory, you have to go through the week and make everything ready. I have won three years in a row, and I have lost three years in a row. Now I am looking for my sixth victory, and I hope 2011 will be the one.”
The driver from Monaco has a deep reverence for the world's oldest and most prestigious endurance race. “People who have never been to Le Mans cannot understand what we are saying when we talk about it,” Beretta said. “You have to be there to understand what Le Mans means. When you have the opportunity to go with a great car and you know everything is being done to win, that can give you even more motivation.”
Beretta will be joined by his American Le Mans Series co-driver, 25-year-old Tommy Milner of Lake Mary, Fla., for the first time at Le Mans. This year marks Milner's third journey to Le Mans; his first two Le Mans races ended in disappointing DNFs by the Panoz team, but the combination of speed and experience in the No. 73 Corvette holds the promise of a better result this time.
“Le Mans is magical,” Milner said. “You can feel the history there, the legendary drivers who have raced there, and the success of Corvette Racing. There is definitely something special about driving onto the Mulsanne Straight the first time. At the same time, we have to treat Le Mans like any other race, and we have to stick to the plan we use at every event. When I'm in the car, I won't be thinking about Le Mans, I'll be thinking about how to make the car faster.”