The 24 Hours of Le Mans is just around the corner, with the race start happening less than a day from now, and Corvette Racing is primed and ready to defend their 2011 winning title. No one says that’s going to be easy but with the team and their new 2012-spec Corvette C6.Rs practiced, qualified and ready for some intense racing, we’re expecting to see a well-oiled machine at tomorrow’s race.
As we found out from CorvetteBlogger, Corvette Racing will be going into the race at the top of their game, placing first and third in the first of three qualifying rounds on Wednesday. In his first few laps of qualifying, Oliver Gavin threw down a 3-minute and 55.910-second lap time, qualifying the No. 74 Compuware Corvette C6.R for a provisional pole position in the GTE Pro class. Jan Magnussen ran a lap of 3 minutes and 57.181 seconds on Wednesday, placing him and the No. 73 Corvette in third coming out of the first round of qualifying.
Antonio Garcia, who will be co-driving the No. 73 C6.R with Magnussen and Jordan Taylor for the 24-hour race came out of the first round of qualifying with a best lap time of 3 minutes and 59.480 seconds.
“I never thought we would get down to such quick lap times in a GT car,” Gavin was quoted as saying in Corvette Racing’s Wednesday announcement . “It’s amazing to run 3.55s with the regulations in this class. It shows what Corvette Racing can do. The car was really fantastic, one of the best I’ve ever driven at Le Mans.”
Wednesday’s practice and following qualifying session also proved beneficial for the other Corvette Racing drivers. Rookie Taylor took to the Le Mans course for the first time after having a brush with a tire wall at the June 3rd practice session. Although a bit intimidated at first, Taylor said in the Corvette Racing news release that he was happy to get in some more laps on Wednesday and gain more experience on the track.
Richard Westbrook, who will be co-driving the No. 74 C6.R with Gavin at tomorrows race was also able to get some practice in after a scheduling conflict prevented him from attending the first practice session.
On Thursday, Corvette Racing had two back-to-back qualifying sessions in France’s wee hours of the morning, ultimately qualifying the team for third and fifth-place starting positions.
While the fastest lap times that were laid down in the No. 73 and 74 Compuware Corvette C6.Rs on Wednesday held as the team’s quickest times, the No. 59 Ferrari and No. 97 Aston Martin ran faster qualifying times on Thursday, knocking Corvette Racing out of their single provisional pole position.
While Gavin’s Wednesday run was enough to keep him in the top three starting positions for the GTE Pro class, Magnussen’s best time qualified the No. 73 C6.R for a fifth-place start. No. 74 Corvette co-driver Tommy Milner set the early pace of Thursday’s qualifying session with a 3-minute and 58.214-second lap, but it wasn’t enough to keep Corvette Racing in their provisional pole position.
“The car feels good, the lap times are very good, but we don’t know what the competition is doing,” Westbrook was quoted as saying in Corvette Racing’s Thursday news release. “Everyone is on a different program. Some are using qualifying as a race setup simulation like us, some are going for a qualifying lap. It’s very difficult to judge where you are. All we can do is our own thing; the Corvette C6.R feels great. It would be nice to know for sure that we are as competitive as it feels we are, but we’ll all know for certain on Saturday afternoon.”
The 24 Hours of Le Mans starts tomorrow at 8:30 ET and will be broadcast live for a full 25 hours including the full race as well as pre- and post-race activities on SPEED.com. Fans of Corvette Racing tuning in will get the added bonus of live video streams shot from inside both the Compuware Corvettes for a second year in a row as they battle the field at the classic endurance race, as well as footage shot from inside the Corvette Racing Garage.
“Last year Corvette Racing gave fans the ride of a lifetime,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President for Performance Vehicles and Motorsports in a recent Corvette Racing news release. “They were in the cockpit through twilight and darkness, the early-morning rain showers that made the track so difficult, Tommy Milner’s thrilling pass for the lead, and Antonio Garcia bringing home Corvette Racing’s seventh win at Le Mans. Now we are very proud to provide fans with even more opportunities to experience the magic of Le Mans and to see Corvette take on a field of world-class competitors in the most demanding sports car race on the planet.”
Be sure to tune in early tomorrow morning to catch Corvette Racing start the race to defend their 2011 title and continue to check back for live in-car ride-along footage as the team battles through 24 hours of head to head racing.