Photos: Richard Prince via ALMS
The year 2010 was a new chapter in Corvette Racing and, in all honesty, not the kind of year that the team is used to. With just one win and five podiums in the American LeMans Series (ALMS), their performance was uncharacteristic of a team that has taken credit for seven ALMS drivers’ championships, eight manufacturers’ titles and five class victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GT1 class.
In 2009, the team switched from dominating the ALMS GT1 class to being a new entrant in GT2 and, with that, entered a whole new world of long-established competitors. With a full year’s racing under their belts in 2010, the team is shooting higher. According to Gary Watkins over at Racer magazine, Mark Kent, General Motors racing director has pushed the team to make best use of the downtime between seasons.
“Every element of the program, from top to bottom, came under review during this off-season. There’s been no silver bullet, just a series of tiny improvements aimed at putting the Corvette back where it’s accustomed,” Kent explained. Attention to process will surely benefit the team, who suffered last year from a string of avoidable incidents, such as pit lane crashes, drive-through penalties and on-track mishaps.
The effort may be paying off, though. Corvette Racing went to the ALMS Winter Test with a long to-do list and accomplished much of what was needed. With two new race cars and two new drivers, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook, getting experience for all was a top priority.
Establishing solid performance capability was another. The team’s twin C6.Rs ran the fastest laps in all four sessions of the two-day Winter Test at Sebring. After Jan Magnussen turned the quickest times in the first three sessions on the historic circuit in the #4 Corvette, Olivier Beretta posted the fastest lap of the test in the GT class with the #3 car in the final session.
“You never really know what the competition is doing, but it’s good to be near the top,” said team manager Gary Pratt. “A successful test like this gives everyone confidence, especially the drivers, and that’s a good feeling going into race week. The new systems in the cars worked well and proved to be reliable. That’s why we test, to make things better.”
The pre-season has brought good news to the team as well. Corvette Racing received official invitations to the 24 Hours of Le Mans for both of its Corvette C6.Rs. They will compete as #73 and #74 in the GTE-Pro class in the French endurance classic. Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan was very pleased. “We know what it means to the fans to have the Corvettes race at Le Mans, and we’re looking forward to competing in the world’s greatest sports car race for the 11th consecutive year.”
The team’s next event is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in Sebring, Florida, on Saturday, March 19. The classic endurance race will be shown live, both on ESPN3 and americanlemans.com, starting at 10 a.m. eastern time. ABC will televise race highlights between 12:30 and 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 20.