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Corvette Wins GT1 at Sebring March 23, 2008

Posted by wilsonniblett in Auto News, Enthusiastic Commentary.
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CORVETTE RACING SCORES SIXTH SEBRING 12-HOUR GT1 VICTORY

O’Connell Notches Record-Setting Seventh Sebring Class Win with
Magnussen and Fellows

SEBRING, Fla., March 15, 2008 – After a long day’s race into night,
Corvette Racing scored its sixth GT1 class victory in seven years in
America’s classic endurance race, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Johnny O’Connell, Jan Magnussen and Ron Fellows drove their No. 3
Compuware Corvette C6.R to an eight-lap victory over their teammates
Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Max Papis in the No. 4 Compuware
Corvette C6.R.

The winning trio completed 328 laps of the 3.7-mile, 17-turn road course
and finished eighth overall. The runner-up Corvette completed 320
circuits and finished 10th overall. The No. 008 Aston Martin DBR9 was
third in the GT1 class with 299 laps completed.

O’Connell became the all-time leader in Sebring victories with his
seventh career win on the historic circuit. His victory tonight broke a
longstanding tie with motorsports legend Phil Hill, who tallied six
victories on the Sebring course.

“Every record you get is special, but this was probably the most
special,” O’Connell said. “I’ve been coming here for 18 years, and I
can’t think of a better hot rod than the Corvette C6.R to set the record.

“It’s huge to break Phil Hill’s record,” O’Connell continued. “Phil is
the embodiment of everything that was wonderful about that era of sports
car racing. When you meet some of your childhood heroes, they’re a
disappointment, but when I met Phil, he was the coolest cat in the
world. He talked about the beauty of the cars he competed in and the
spectacle of this race. When you spend time with someone who is that
deep and insightful, you come away with a much better understanding of
how special this race is.

“When you win Sebring, you share it,” he noted. “It’s not about one guy.
I got my first ALMS win with Jan in 1999, and I’ve won some 25 races
with Ron. I can’t think of two finer gentlemen and race car drivers I’d
rather share this win with.”

The ides of March did not treat the No. 4 Corvette C6.R as kindly. At
one hour and 56 minutes into the 12-hour race, Beretta brought the car
to the pits with an apparent drivetrain problem.

“I came out of Turn 9 and it went completely loose,” said Beretta. “I
thought the race was gone. I was worried that wheels would lock up and
couldn’t bring the car back to the pits. I didn’t want to get stuck on
the course.”

The stricken car went to the transporter where the crew replaced the
right halfshaft in nine minutes. The No. 4 Corvette C6.R then returned
to action with Papis at the wheel and a nine-lap deficit to the
class-leading No. 3 Corvette.

“We lost the inner tripod joint on the right side,” explained team
manager Gary Pratt. “All of the lube was still there, but it snapped one
of the three drives at the spline. We’ve never seen a failure like that
before.”

Tonight’s victory was the third Sebring win for Fellows and O’Connell as
teammates. The pair won previously with Gavin in 2002, with Franck Freon
in 2003, and with Papis in 2004. The car made 10 pit stops totaling 13
minutes – a minute and a half less time in the pits than the closest
competitor.

“Today’s race was unfortunate for the No. 4 car, but we ran well all day
with the No. 3,” Fellows said. “My crew chief, Dan Binks, and the guys
had flawless pit stops. Johnny and Jan did a great job, and I couldn’t
be happier than to win Sebring with these guys. Just like Le Mans last
year, we kept plugging away. It’s a tough, tough track; it’s hard on
equipment and physically demanding. I think all three of us feel we have
some unfinished business at Le Mans, and that’s the next big prize we’re
going to shoot for.”

Magnussen celebrated his second career Sebring victory after winning
with Gavin and Beretta in 2006.

“I’m so happy for everyone in the team, and I’m especially happy for
Johnny to get the record,” said the Danish ace. “Seven wins is amazing.
The No. 3 Corvette performed beautifully all day long, and there were
zero problems. We were fast in the beginning, stayed out ahead, and
toward the end we made sure we were consistent and didn’t make any
mistakes. I can’t wait for the rest of the season!”

After the halfshaft was replaced, the No. 4 Corvette C6.R ran perfectly
for the remaining hours, gaining one lap on the winning Corvette.

“I think it would have been a very close race, but unfortunately these
things happen,” said Gavin. “We’ve never had a halfshaft fail, but
that’s racing and that’s what Sebring does. We had two good wins at
Sebring, but this time it got away from us. It’s good to get a race
under our belts, and our new crew chief Mike West did a great job all
weekend. Now we’re looking forward to a good season.”

Papis agreed: “We had a great car after the axle was fixed. It ran like
a Swiss watch – well, maybe an Italian watch, it was fast. Unfortunately
we lost those laps early, but it’s a great testament to the team that
they never give up. We were pushing hard to see how the brakes would do,
to see what the fuel mileage would be. I’m really glad that we got all
the right answers. I’m super excited about Le Mans.”

The Sebring race marked the competition debut of two new Corvette C6.R
race cars, chassis numbers 007 and 008.

“We introduced two new cars at this event, and again demonstrated the
hallmarks of Corvette Racing: meticulous preparation, great teamwork,
and flawless pit stops,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug
Fehan. “We’ve shown that we’re ready for an exciting season in ALMS and
we’re looking forward to Le Mans.”

Corvette Racing’s next event is the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St.
Petersburg on the temporary street circuit in St. Petersburg, Fla., on
April 5. ABC will televise the one-hour, 55-minute event live starting
at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring GT1 Results
Pos./Drivers/Car/Laps
1. O’Connell/Magnussen/Fellows, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 328
2. Gavin/Beretta/Papis, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 320
3. Borcheller/Ducote/Garcia, Aston Martin DBR9, 299

GT1 Championship Standings (unofficial after one of 11 events)
Manufacturer/Points
1. Chevrolet 26
2. Aston Martin 19

Driver/Points
1. Jan Magnussen 26
     Johnny O’Connell 26
     Ron Fellows 26
2. Oliver Gavin 22
Olivier Beretta 22
Max Papis 22
3. Terry Borcheller 19
     Chapman Ducote 19
     Antonio Garcia 19

NEXT EVENT
April 5, 2008, 1:30 p.m. ET, Acura Sports Car Challenge of St.
Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Fla.
TV: ABC live telecast, 1:30 p.m. ET

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