Spins, accidents, penalties and punctures all figured in Corvette Racing’s results in the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix. Played out before an enthusiastic crowd in the packed grandstands, the two-hour race had everything expected in a street race – and more.
When it was over, Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen stood on the GT podium in third place. That was a remarkable comeback after an incident in the first corner that pinned the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R against the wall and allowed the entire field to pass. Magnussen was on a mission, going from 12th to fourth in 22 laps. The first-turn contact had damaged a tire, however, and he pitted at 36 minutes. On four fresh Michelins, the Dane turned the fastest lap of the race, and then handed off to Gavin at the one-hour mark. Gavin was third after the restart for the race’s second full-course caution, and held that position to the end in a battered and bruised race car. Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers won the GT class in a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, completing 71 laps on the 2.04-mile temporary circuit.
Magnussen started second in the GT class, and found himself in the middle of a holiday traffic jam in the first turn. “Turn 1 is a very tight and slippery corner, and there was a bit of confusion,” said Magnussen. “No one was to blame, it was just a racing incident. I had a good start and a good run on the BMW, and then a prototype ahead of us slowed right down. When he braked, I had to follow the BMW around the outside, but then someone came up the inside and it was a mess. I was able to catch back up, pass most of the guys, and then got a puncture. I went back out on fresh tires, and the car was fantastic.”
Olivier Beretta started fourth in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R, came out of the first turn in second, survived a spin that dropped him to sixth, and was running third when he pitted at 47 minutes to give the car to Tommy Milner.
“On the start, the No. 17 Porsche was coming up the inside and I was trying to fight with him,” Beretta said. “When Jan slowed for the corner, there was no room between us. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t do anything.
“Then in the Turn 5 chicane, as I was braking, the car hit a bump and my foot slipped between the brake and throttle pedals,” Beretta reported. “For a moment it was caught between the pedals, so instead of going straight, I spun the car. I didn’t hit anything, but it was a big moment.”
Milner was second in No. 3 Corvette C6.R behind Bill Auberlen’s class-leading No. 55 BMW when the race restarted with 40 minutes remaining after a full-course caution to replace a manhole cover that had gone astray. Turn 1 was again Corvette Racing’s Achilles heel as Milner had contact with the BMW, damaging the front bodywork and incurring a stop-and-hold 60-second penalty.
“The team is giving us great cars and making the right pit calls, but lately I’ve not been holding up my end of the bargain,” Milner said. “It was a tough race. On the restart I was protecting the inside from an LMP car, and as we went into the braking zone, Bill braked earlier than I anticipated. I put myself in a situation where I braked hard and locked the fronts, and made unfortunately made contact with him. That effectively ended our race right there.”
Gavin had to cope with the aftereffects of the first-lap incident during his one-hour stint as the damaged exhaust allowed fumes into the cockpit. He pulled to within three seconds of the second-place No. 56 BMW, but after an excursion up the escape road in Turn 1, he brought the No. 4 Corvette C6.R home in third place.
“Unfortunately our race was decided by the contact in the first turn,” Gavin said. “After that we were playing catch-up, and Jan did a brilliant of getting the car into a decent position. Jan had to pit out of sequence because we had a tire going down, but then after the restart we were back in position to fight. With the damage to the car, as soon as we lost the mechanical grip on the front tires, the car started to push and slide the tires. My eyes were stinging because of the damaged exhaust system, and I just tried to keep fresh air blowing toward my helmet.”
“As so often happens on street circuits, the race track rules,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “Today’s race saw a stellar performance by the engineering team and the pit crew, and at times we had the fastest cars on the track – but it just wasn’t to be today. That’s what makes street racing so interesting. It was great to be part of a wildly successful Baltimore Grand Prix. We look forward to this event continuing, and we’ll come back with a vengeance.”
ABC will televise the Baltimore Grand Prix on Sunday, September 4, at 4 p.m. ET. Corvette Racing’s next event is the six-hour ModSpace American Le Mans Series Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday, September 17, at 1:30 p.m. PT. Live video coverage will be available on ESPN3.com in the U.S. and americanlemans.com for international users. ESPN2 will televise the ModSpace American Le Mans Series Monterey on Sunday, September 4, at 4 p.m. ET.
Baltimore Grand Prix GT Results (Top 10):
1. 17 Henzler/Sellers, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 71
2. 56 Mueller/Hand, BMW M3 GT, 70
3. 4 Gavin/Magnussen, Corvette C6.R, 70
4. 48 Miller/Maasen, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 70
5. 55 Auberlen/Werner, BMW M3 GT, 70
6. Melo/Vilander, Ferrari F458 Italia, 70
7. 3 Beretta/Milner, Corvette C6.R, 70
8. 44 Neiman/Law, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 68
9. 01 Sharp/van Overbeek, Ferrari F458 Italia, 68
10. 02 Brown/Cosmo, Ferrari F458 Italia, 68
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