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Corvette Racing Finishes Fifth and Sixth in 24 Hours of Le Mans
Corvettes Overcome Adversity to Take Checkered Flag in GTE Pro
LE MANS, France, June 17, 2012 – Corvette Racing finished the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans for the 12th time in 13 attempts as both the No. 73 and No. 74 Compuware Corvette C6.R race cars were running at the finish of the world's most demanding sports car race.
The No. 73 Corvette C6.R driven by Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, and Jordan Taylor completed 326 laps and finished fifth in the GTE Pro category. The No. 74 Corvette C6.R of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Richard Westbrook completed 215 laps and was sixth across the finish line, but was not classified because the car did not complete the minimum race distance. The No. 51 AF Corsa Ferrari won the GTE Pro class by a three-lap margin with 336 laps completed.
The No. 73 Corvette crew was relentless as the drivers and mechanics clawed their way back into contention after losing time to a steering rack replacement and electrical problems. With four hours to go, the crew replaced the alternator and then made a series of battery replacements to cope with a problem in the charging system. Le Mans rookie Jordan Taylor did a triple stint at dawn, followed by doubles by Jan Magnussen and a triple by Antonio Garcia. Magnussen drove the car to the checkered flag.
The No. 74 Corvette suffered extensive damage in a crash in the Porsche Curves in the 18th hour. Tommy Milner nursed the battered car back to the garage, where the Corvette crew virtually rebuilt the back half of the chassis. After a 2 hours and 12 minute pit stop, Oliver Gavin had the No. 74 back on track. With no possibility of advancement in the final standings, the star-crossed car was held in its garage until the final 40 minutes of the race. Gavin drove the car to the finish in his 12th appearance at Le Mans.
Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Program Manager: "Sometimes in motorsports, the greatest battles that are waged are not against a competitor, but rather against the challenges that one faces. Today was one of those days for both the No. 73 and No. 74 Corvettes. When we got to the 12-hour mark, it became clear that it would be difficult to leave Le Mans with a victory. At that point we engaged the enemy head on, which was adversity. I think by any measure, anyone who watched this event saw us emerge victorious against that enemy as we brought both cars home once again to a finish in one of the most brutal, hard-fought battles in our Le Mans history. I think we can all be proud of the passion, the dedication, and that never-say-die attitude of Corvette Racing. Hopefully, our fans enjoyed every minute of it."
Antonio Garcia, No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R: "All I could do was push, push, push, but in the end it’s not down to us whether we finish on the podium or not. It’s a shame, of course, because the car was really good throughout the race, except for the problems with the steering rack and the alternator. Some years ago you could maybe still hope to make up a five-lap deficit over 12 hours, but nowadays the competition is so tough that the slightest problem puts you out of contention. We’ll have to come back next year for some suitable revenge."
Jan Magnussen, No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R: "The car was fantastic, very fast and very consistent. My double stint in the morning was the best double I had in the entire race. It’s a shame we lost some time by changing the alternator. Other than that I’m feeling fine when I’m in the car as the adrenaline takes over and I then don’t suffer from my cold and fever."
Jordan Taylor, No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R: "It was great to race at Le Mans, every stint I've done has been better and better. It was a relief to get through those stints safely, without any mistakes and keeping the car on the track. That's the name of the game here. We didn't make any mistakes, although we did have mechanical problems. It was just beginning to get light when I started, and it was really cool to go through the Porsche Curves at sunrise and then down the Esses at Dunlop, to remember the footage and photos from the old days and to think that I was in the same position as those cars. I'm glad I got to do that kind of stint and feel the history while I was driving."
Doug Louth, Engineering Director: "We had the drivers, cars, and team to compete for a win this weekend. It was a pleasant surprise to find our lead increasing at night as the cool conditions are the most challenging for us. It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to leverage our warm weather performance on Sunday afternoon – we expected to gain performance as the temperature increased and for our competitors to drop off. What we ended up with is a fresh reminder of the scope of the undertaking that is the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There are so many details, checklists, and tasks that go into running the perfect 24-hour race. We missed a few of these today and had some bad luck along the way, but we have our 13th Le Mans 24 behind us, and we’re already looking to 2013."
24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Pro Results:
1. 51 Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander, Ferrari 458 Italia, 336
2. 59 Makowiecki/Melo/Farnbacher, Ferrari 458 Italia, 333
3. 97 Mucke/Turner/Fernandez, Aston Martin Vantage V8, 332
4. 71 Bertolini/Beretta/Cioci, Ferrari 458 Italia, 326
5. 73 Garcia/Magnussen/Taylor, Corvette C6.R, 326
6. 74 Gavin/Milner/Westbrook, Corvette C6.R, 215
7. 66 Cocker/Walker/Wills, Ferrari 458 Italia, 204
8. 77 Lietz/Lieb/Henzler, Porsche 911 RSR, 184
9. 80 Bergmeister/Long/Holzer, Porsche 911 RSR 114
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Le Mans: Larbre Competition score successive GTE-Am victories for Corvette
In 2011 the French Larbre Competition team brought two cars to Le Mans, a Porsche and Corvette. They competed in the Grand Touring Endurance (GTE) Am (Amateur) category. When the checkered flag fell the Corvette finished at the top step of the podium. It was a great day for brand because a factory Corvette also won the GTE Pro category. It was a one-two for Corvette and it was a nice celebration for the 100th Anniversary of Chevrolet.
The historic 24 Hours of Le Mans celebrated the 80th running of their classic race this year. Larbre Competition brought two ex-Pratt & Miller Corvettes to compete at the French classic. Their goal was clear: repeat their 2011 GTE-Am class victory for Corvette. The starting field was deep in both Pro and Am classes and competition was fierce among the leading manufacturers. In the Pro class, the #74 Corvette was at the top of the field for the first half of the race. During the night, there was drama for the nr74, when a crew member forgot to attach the left rear wheel nut securely. The wheel quickly fell off and Richard Westbrook slowly drove around the 8 mile circuit on three wheels. This caused major damage and the car lost a total of 120 laps for extensive repairs. The second factory car running third in class pitted shortly after the problem with their team car with a major mechanical problem. The #73 Corvette lost 10 laps during its pit stop. Both factory cars now had a big mountain to climb to repeat their 2011 win. “To win you must keep the car out of the pits" said Corvette Program Manager Doug Fehan. It was shortly after that, when the wheel nut incident happened to the #74 Corvette.
Fortunately for Corvette, Larbre Competition followed Doug’s advice and minimized their pit stops to stay out of trouble. Larbre had a hard fought battle with Anthony Pons in the #67 IMSA Matmut Porsche RSR throughout the race. The race came down to the final few minutes, as Pedro Lamy in the #50 Larbre Corvette turned in a series of blazing laps to catch the #67 Porsche. With less than 20 minutes remaining in the race the #50 Corvette was roughly 12 seconds behind the class leading Porsche. "I overtook him on the track and the team told me that I was passing the Porsche for the lead." said Pedro Lamy.
The race was not over yet for Larbre as there was late drama near the end for the nr50. The team had to pull Pedro Lamy into the pits at the last moment to put Julien Canal into the car after missing a driver swap due to a pitlane speeding incident earlier in the race. Within minutes of the checkered flag the Porsche had a left rear tyre go flat, which secured the victory for the French squad.
Larbre team owner Jack Leconte reckoned the #67 Imsa Porsche team would have protested the result, as Canal would have been 13 seconds shy of completing the minimum required track time for each driver. "We swapped because we worked out that the driving time was compromised," he said. "We thought Canal had done 13s too little and Porsche were going to protest. We had a pitlane speeding issue during the safety car and I was talking and doing other things during the pitstops. We knew that so we were lucky that they had a puncture, otherwise I don't know what would have happened."
"It is a nice feeling," said Pedro Lamy. "It was an intense struggle over the 24 hours of racing. It seemed more a sprint race, where we had to push as hard as we could. It was a tough race, but this win is very special. I am very pleased with this victory and I want to thank all the great support that Larbre Competition have given me over every moment of my career. This victory is not mine alone, is all of ours."
The sister nr70 of Pascal Gibon, Christophe Bourret, and Jean-Philippe Belloc brought their C6R home to 5th place in class.
Quote gathered by Tom Mallett