Corvette won Petit Le Mans on Saturday night! The #10 Corvette Daytona Prototype in the hand of the hugely talented Jordan and Ricky Taylor (plus Max Angelelli for this race) won overall in the ten hours of Petit Le Mans. Ten Hours not the 1,000 miles it used to be – Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Program Manager wasn’t happy about this when I pointed it out during his Q&A session at the Corvette Corral on Friday – it meant he was going to miss his dinner reservation for Saturday night.
As it turned out Doug probably wasn’t going to enjoy his later dinner after Saturdays Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta as Corvette Racing won precisely nothing. The coveted manufacturers title went to Porsche thanks to a 1-2 finish in the GTLM Class, the win going to the independent Falken Tires Porsche of Brian Sellers and Wolf Henzler. The drivers title went to Kuno Wittmer after SRT Viper decided to double their chances of winning by splitting their leading driver team between the two cars. I feel very sorry for Jonathan Bomarito who did at least as much over the season to earn the title but missed out as Kuno’s car came home in 3rd place.
Corvette won Petit Le Mans overall so why am I not celebrating? Well it’s not really a Corvette is it? Its a Dallara chassis, with Pratt & Miller bodywork (with a Corvette badge on it) and a 5.5L Chevy race engine built by a Earnhardt Childress Racing (ECR) Technologies. Action Express Racing won the Team title with their #5 Corvette DP (Coyote chassis, P&M bodywork (with a Corvette badge on it) and another ECR 5.5L Chevy motor), they also won the drivers title for Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi. Chevrolet won the manufacturers title although I am not really sure why given the breakdown of the cars above, but who am I to reason why?
Antonio Garcia drove a blindingly fast first stint at Petit Le Mans, he started from sixth and thanks to great driving and fantastic pit work took the lead of the class only for it all to go wrong at about 2 1/2 hours into the race. Antonio pitted along with everyone else in the GTLM Class and handed over the #3 C7R Corvette to Jan Magnussen who managed to crash it within about 2 seconds of taking over the car (surely some kind of record).
To be fair to Jan it wasn’t really his fault, the #62 Ferrari got out of it pit box first followed by the #911 Porsche and Jan was 3rd / 4th alongside the other factory Porsche the #912 as all the cars raced – on the pit lane speed limit – to pit exit where suddenly the red light was shown so the Ferrari not wishing to run the red light, which would have meant a penalty, slammed on the brakes.
The #911 Porsche ran into the back of Ferrari and then the #3 Corvette piled into the back of the Porsche. This was the end of the race for the Ferrari and Antonio Garcia’s slim chance of the drivers title evaporated completely as the #3 did one lap before returning to its pit for extensive repairs dropping the #3 back a couple of laps on the GTLM field. The #3 mis-fortune propelled the #4 C7R Corvette forward in the class and this was further helped when the #56 Black BMW expired at the top of the hill during another of the caution periods during the race.
The #4 C7R Corvette of Olly Gavin and Tommy Milner could and should have won the NAEC ($100,000 worth of dinner tokens) as the #4 was leading going into Petit Le Mans – a ridiculous contact call at Watkins Glen when leading the race cost them the win and would have given them a bigger lead in the NAEC. The #4 was leading Petit at 3 hours and 55 minutes but sadly the first points were handed out at 4 hours so they could only manage 5th place at the 4 hour mark. The second set of points were awarded at 8 hours and the final points at the end of the 10 hours. Finishing in 4th place for the #4 was just too far back compared with the #912 Porsche which won but again going back to Sebring and the IMSA mistake shouldn’t have been close to the #4 in the NAEC. The #3 C7R finished back in 8th place in GTLM after their trials in the pits.
2014 was the first season for the new C7R so maybe we of the Corvette Nation are being greedy expecting the Corvettes to win everything first season out. My fear is NASCAR will play games again in 2015 to manipulate the results and to be honest that is not what we the fans want. What we want is pure racing, where the best win and the rest have to raise their game. A postscript to this is that SRT Viper announced Monday that they were cancelling their GTLM Class Viper program with immediate effect.
As a final more positive footnote to 2014 I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the official charity of the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship, The Austin Hatcher Foundation for pediatric cancer. I just ask all to read this link, if it doesn’t bring tears to your eyes then you are stronger than me.