Le Mans-Winning Team Sets Its Sights on American Le Mans Series Titles in Seven-Race Summer Stretch
What happens in Le Mans stays in Le Mans. That’s because Saturday’s American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park is something completely different from the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Corvette Racing returns to the American Le Mans Series after capturing its seventh class victory in France on June 12. The differences between Le Mans and Lime Rock are stark. The former is an 8.5-mile circuit in the French countryside; the latter is a 1.5-mile bullring around a former gravel quarry. Lap times in Le Mans are nearly four minutes long; the laps click off at Lime Rock in under 60 seconds. Instead of 24 hours and two dozen pit stops, the third round of the ALMS will be a quick two-hour, 45-minute sprint with a pair of scheduled stops.
“The transition from the longest track on the schedule to the shortest is always a test for race teams,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “The two tracks are dramatically different, yet many people underestimate just how fast Lime Rock really is. With lap times under a minute and average speeds approaching 100 mph for the GT cars, pit stops are paramount because you’re almost certain to lose a lap during a green-flag stop. The engineering staff plays a crucial role in developing a plan, and the crew has to perform perfectly. So in spite of the immense differences between Lime Rock and Le Mans, both races ultimately come down to strategy and execution.”
Corvette driver Jan Magnussen relishes the return to the roller coaster track in the Connecticut countryside. The Dane drove Stevenson Motorsports’ Camaro to a GT class victory in the Grand-Am Memorial Day Classic at Lime Rock five weeks ago, and hopes to continue that momentum when the ALMS arrives.
“You always like a track where you won your last race,” Magnussen said. “Lime Rock is very challenging, a bit bumpy and definitely the kind of Old School circuit that I like. It’s fast and fun to drive, but it’s very, very hard to race cleanly there because there are no obvious passing points.
“When I won at Lime Rock in May, I learned the importance of qualifying well there,” Magnussen noted. “We started on the GT class pole, and I saw the value of being able to do my own race while everyone behind me was fighting each other. I put a lot of emphasis on qualifying, but Lime Rock is always going to be a hard race for everybody.”
Magnussen and co-driver Oliver Gavin will be racing the same Compuware Corvette C6.R that led the GTE Pro class at Le Mans for nearly 16 hours before being sidelined in a high-speed shunt. The chassis has been repaired and will return to action at Lime Rock.
“After Le Mans, the team took the car back to the shop, put it on the chassis plate, and assessed the damage,” Fehan reported. “When we saw how the production aluminum frame had compressed perfectly to absorb the impact, it gave everyone an even greater appreciation of the effort that the production Corvette engineers put into vehicle safety for the consumer. No pun intended, but things like that don’t happen by accident – they’re designed in. That’s why Corvette competes in the GT class: The race car is relevant to the product because it is the product.”
After nearly a three-month hiatus since the series’ second round in Long Beach, Calif., the race for the ALMS championship begins in earnest at Lime Rock. With seven races in the next 13 weeks, the pace will be fast and furious for Corvette Racing. Magnussen and Gavin are second in the drivers championship with 36 points, and the Le Mans-winning duo of Tommy Milner and Olivier Beretta are third with 31 points. Chevrolet is second in the manufacturer standings behind BMW and ahead of Porsche, Ferrari, Ford, Jaguar and Lamborghini.
The American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix is scheduled to start at 2:05 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 9. Live video coverage is available on ESPN3.com in the US and americanlemans.com for international users. ESPN2 will televise the race starting at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 10.
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