Built in 1957, the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit has become a cornerstone for any American racing series, whether on two wheels or four. This weekend, the American Le Mans Series took to Laguna Seca, as Corvette Racing clashed with longtime rivals Porsche, BMW, Ferrari and Ford. The Grand Touring (GT) class was especially brutal, as eight different cars lead the race at one point, including both C6.R Corvettes from Corvette Racing.
Unfortunately, neither Corvette was able to hold on to the lead for long, despite a strong effort from all four drivers. Pit stop penalties, late caution flags, and a punctured tire ultimately forced Corvette Racing into third and sixth place finishes.
Corvette Racing started out very strong though, the Number 3 Compuware Corvette qualifying third and the Number 4 car qualifying fourth for the start of the race. The Number 4 car, driven by Oliver Gavin and Oliver Berretta, fell as far back as seventh place on their fourth pit stop during the six-hour race, which is by many considered to be a “warm-up” for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
But during his second round of driving, Gavin was able to rocket from seventh place to first, holding on for a few laps before falling back to third. He was within striking distance of eventual first place finisher Flying Lizard Porsche, driven by Jorg Bergmestier and Patrick Long. Unfortunately, two late-race caution flags ended any chance of stealing the race from Porsche, which passed the BMW M3 driven Bill Auberman and Tommy Milner on the last lap.
“I wish that last caution hadn’t come because I think we had them,” Gavin said. “We had the speed but that last caution just killed any chance. It was great fun racing against the Porsche and the BMW – there was a bit of bumping, but it was all fair. In the back of my mind was always the thought that this car needs to go Le Mans in a few days, and any damage today could have a direct effect on how we perform there. I wanted to make sure that it would be ready to leave for France next Thursday.”
The Number 3 Compuware Corvette, driven by Jan Magnussen and Johnny O’ Connell, also briefly held the lead. After the first pit stop, the car stole first place, but was penalized in the pit lane, which dropped the car back to seventh place.
But with Jan Magnussen behind the wheel, the Compuware Corvette again took first place four hours and eighteen minutes into the race before his tire punctured during the last twenty minutes of the race. The Number 3 car finished in sixth place, and is in fifth place overall in the GT class. The Number 4 car is tied for twelfth place overall.
Despite the sixth place finish, the Number 3 Corvette did win the Michelin Green X Challenge, which was discussed last week in the fourth installment of the Corvette Racing web series. The Green X Challenge awards teams and cars based on how far, fast, and efficiently they competed in the race. The Number 4 car was the fastest while using the least amount of fuel.
This weekend’s race was special for another reason though, as GM gets ready to celebrate fifty years of racing the Corvette at Le Mans. Both Corvette Racing cars were joined Corvettes and their drivers from the past fifty years, making for quite the spectacle at Laguna. GM is preparing a special, one-off Corvette for next week’s 24 Hours of Le Mans race.