This past weekend the American Le Mans Series took to the streets of Long Beach, California. This famous race circuit has been dubbed America’s favorite street race, and it is easy to see why. The two mile track was the scene of a lot of jockeying for position as points contention remains tight in all the classes.
Corvette Racing was out to make up for a poor showing at the opening race at the 12 Hours of Sebring where they finished in eighth and ninth place.
But it was a new day, and Jan Magnussen managed to move the No. 3 car up four places to second place in the closing laps of the race. He finished right behind his arch nemesis Jorg Bergmeister and the No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche. It was a heroic effort that saved the day for Corvette Racing, as the No. 4 car finished far back in ninth place.
The race was down to the wire in many ways, and several different manufacturers and teams led the race at various points. There was no clear favorite in the crowded field where 36 cars on in different classes duked it out for victory. This would work against the two Olivers (Gavin and Beretta) driving the No.4 C6.R. The No.4 car, if you recall, was hit by the No.3 Corvette in the pits during the 12 Hours of Sebring. Starting in fifth, Oliver Beretta had managed to move up to fourth place before hitting a tire barrier.
While the damage was minor, the No.4 car had to pit for repairs including ripping off the front bodywork and driver’s door. Gavin replaced Berretta in the driver’s seat, but had two return to the pit twice more including a fix to the side view mirror. As the race wound down, No.4 had fallen back to ninth place, and rather risk further damage to the bar Beretta took it easy. Not a great finish, but there is always the next race.
This left Corvette Racing’s fate in the hands of O’Connell and Magnussen. O’Connell pitted the No.3 Corvette C6.R, which would need less than half a tank of E85 ethanol to finish the race, and the car also got four new tires, which would prove essential later on. The lighter weight and short stop time should have helped the car out initially, but the brevity of the stop had unforeseen consequences. O’Connell switched out with Jan Magnussen, who did not have a chance to get himself ready in the cockpit. This cost them position in the pit lane, and by the time Magnussen was able to get back on the track, the No.57 car had fallen back to sixth place.
But Magnussen is one hell of a driver, and the C6.R is one hell of a car. Still, the Long Beach Grand Prix is a 100 minute race, which did not leave Magnussen much time to move up the ranks. The Corvette C6.R had also been outfitted with a 25 kilogram (about 60 pounds) ballast to keep the race “fair”. With its new 5.5 liter engine revving and humming high, Corvette Racing dashed towards the finish and had some help from their competitors along the way.
Other teams’ mistakes allowed Magnussen to capitalize on the pit stop. First the class-leading Ford GT crashed, moving him up a spot. The new tires allowed him to slide past the two BMWs, which had foregone a pit stop and were still running on worn tires. Magnussen finished just four seconds behind Bergmeister. But there wasn’t enough time on the clock for him to catch up to the Flying Lizard Porsche.
That puts the Porsche tied for first place, with Magnussen and O’Connell four spots behind in fifth place, though they are just 11 points behind Porsche. The two Olivers have fallen back to twelfth place. The next race is May 22nd, the six hour race at Monterey’s Laguna Seca Raceway, and Corvette Racing has a chance to climb back up the ranks. There are seven races left in the series and plenty of points to go around, so it is still anybody’s race.