American Le Mans Series Returns to Series’ Shortest Track for Rough-and-Tumble Fourth Round
With the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the rearview mirror, Corvette Racing is now driving for the American Le Mans Series GT championship. The series’ fourth round, the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix, will be contested on Saturday, July 7, in the tight confines of Lime Rock Park. This 1.5-mile circuit in the Connecticut countryside is road racing’s equivalent of a short-track bullring – albeit with more ups and downs than the stock market.
With the exception of the Esses and a pair of chicanes, all of the corners at Lime Rock Park are right-hand turns – a layout that affects both setups and attitudes. Several of Corvette Racing’s key team members began their racing careers on bullrings, and they bring that hard-edged experience to Lime Rock.
Long before team manager Gary Pratt was winning titles in Le Mans, he was racing late-model stock cars on short-tracks in Michigan and Ohio. Lessons learned there still apply today.
“Lime Rock is basically a clockwise oval track, so we try to maximize right-side weight because there are so few left-hand corners,” Pratt explained. “The racing on short-track ovals is usually rough-and-tumble, and that’s the way it is at Lime Rock.”
Lime Rock Park has not been kind to Corvette Racing recently. Hard contact took out the No. 3 Corvette C6.R in 2010, and last year both Corvettes were caught up in a chain-reaction accident early in the race that relegated them to ninth and 10th at the checkered flag.
“We need to be faster at Lime Rock so we can qualify up front and not have to contend with traffic at the beginning of the race,” Pratt said. “When you’re at the back of the line and somebody makes a mistake, it’s just a domino effect. I’m optimistic that with the wider track, higher downforce, and other improvements that we’ve made in the Corvettes, we can qualify higher and not get stuck in traffic.
“If we do encounter traffic, we need to be smart on the radio and tell our drivers to leave some room to avoid accidents. The time to start racing hard is after the final pit stops. Until then it’s risky to run nose-to-tail in a pack of cars.”
Dan Binks, crew chief for the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R, earned his racing stripes running in NASCAR circles with the likes of Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch. “You always look forward to races at short tracks like Martinsville and South Boston because the gloves are off,” said Binks. “You race as hard as you can, and hopefully you’re around for the green-white-checker at the end.”
“At Le Mans you conserve a little, do the best job you can without taking too many chances – Lime Rock is the total opposite,” Binks added with a laugh. “You have to get as much as you can in that kind of racing, and hopefully you’re on the giving side instead of the receiving side. Two years in a row, we’ve been on the receiving end, so I’m hoping that our cars are fast enough this year that we’ll be ahead of the pushing and shoving.”
Going into the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix, Corvette drivers Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner lead the GT drivers standings in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R by seven points on the strength of back-to-back wins in Long Beach and Laguna Seca. Teammates Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen (who will make his milestone 100th ALMS start at Lime Rock) are third in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R, 11 points back. Chevrolet leads the manufacturer championship over BMW, Ferrari, and Porsche, and Corvette Racing is first in the team standings. When the dust finally settles at Lime Rock, Corvette Racing is aiming to remain on top.
The American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix will start at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 7, and will be broadcast same day on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. ET. Live coverage is available starting at 2:45 p.m. ET on ESPN3.
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