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Posted: 10/15/12 06:43 AM
Corvette Racing at Road Atlanta: Finish with a Flourish
With GT Championships Clinched, Corvette Racing Still Has Unfinished Business at Petit Le Mans Season Finale
BRASELTON, Ga., Oct. 12, 2012 – Petit Le Mans, the finale of the 2012 American Le Mans Series, will crown a season that has seen Corvette Racing score four victories in nine ALMS races and sweep the GT driver, team, and manufacturer championships. The pressure to win the class titles may be off, but the Corvette team has unfinished business in the 10-hour/1,000-mile endurance contest in the red clay hills of northern Georgia on Saturday, Oct. 20.
Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner wrapped up the GT championships with a victory in the preceding round at Virginia International Raceway in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R, but teammates Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen are fighting for second in the final standings in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R. Despite a run of misfortune in the last two races, Garcia and Magnussen hold a two-point margin over their four closest rivals on the strength of four runner-up finishes. It's indicative of the heated competition in the GT category that 10 drivers are still in contention for the second spot. Magnussen's record streak of at least one victory in every ALMS season since the series' inception in 1999 is also on the line at Petit Le Mans.
"The race will be tough, dealing with traffic, dealing with conditions, dealing with darkness as well," said Magnussen. "Nevertheless I always look forward to Petit Le Mans, it's one of my favorite races of the year. The atmosphere is fantastic, and when I first came to the States to race with Panoz, Road Atlanta was my home track. I'd like to finish off the year there in style."
"Petit is always a big event," said Garcia. "The race has been part of my schedule for the last three years, so I know the track and what to expect. Road Atlanta was where we first tested the wide-body Corvette C6.R last year, and we knew right away that the new bodywork was a big improvement. Now with a year of development, it should be even better. The competition will be really strong as always, but I think we are in a good position to fight for the win. That would be the best way to finish the season."
Corvette Racing's driver roster will be bolstered at Petit Le Mans by the return of third drivers Jordan Taylor in the No. 3 Corvette and Richard Westbrook in the No. 4 Corvette. Taylor and Westbrook drove for the team in the Sebring 12-hour and Le Mans 24-hour races this season.
Corvette Racing has won Petit Le Mans eight times, including two dramatic come-from-behind victories. In 2000, Andy Pilgrim passed the race-leading Viper in the closing minutes to score the team's first win in a major endurance race. Then in 2010, Oliver Gavin passed the class-leading Ferrari for the victory on the final lap as the Ferrari's fuel tank ran dry.
"The 2010 victory was certainly the most extraordinary win of my career, an extraordinary turn of events," Gavin recalled. "I still find the Road Atlanta circuit a great challenge even though we have done so many races and thousands of laps of testing there. It's a grueling race, a tough race, and as we found a couple of years ago, you cannot give up. You have to keep pushing to the very last lap because you never know what is going to happen with the guys in front and behind you.
"It's a place that you must always be 100 percent focused because there are some areas if you get it wrong, you are going to have a big accident," the Englishman noted. "You have to use controlled aggression, be mindful of where you need to place the car on the track. Going down the hill through the Esses, you must be absolutely inch-perfect. With the race later in the year, we'll have more time in darkness, which will add to the challenge."
Gavin's championship-winning co-driver agreed: "Petit is tough," Milner said. "It's a great event, a great race track for our cars, and a great way to end the season. I wouldn't be surprised to see six or seven GT cars racing nose-to-tail for nine hours.
"We saw in testing last year that the wider C6.R is better," he reported. "We have improved our Corvette throughout the year, so I'm looking forward to going back to Road Atlanta and seeing just how much the car has progressed since our first test there. The wider car produces more downforce, which helps you everywhere on that track."
Petit Le Mans will run for 1,000 miles or 10 hours, whichever comes first. The season finale of the 10-race 2012 American Le Mans Series will start at 11:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 20. The race can be viewed live on ESPN3.com starting at 11:15 a.m. ET. ABC will televise the race at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 21.