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Vette Fans Can Ride Along At Le Mans

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 11 2011

A Corvette heads up track at Le Mans. (Photo courtesy of Chevrolet)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Endurance racing fans will have an all-access view of this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, with exclusive features that include “riding along” with Corvette Racing for the entire event.

SPEED will televise 17 hours of live coverage beginning Saturday at 3 p.m. locally (9 a.m., EDT). And via a partnership with Corvette Racing, fans can go to www.speedtv.com/corvette to view the hours not televised. Online coverage will include a special live video stream providing a constant look from inside one of two Compuware Corvette C6.Rs that will be seeking a seventh class win in the French classic.

“The 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of the most prestigious and demanding events in all of racing,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president for performance vehicles and motorsports. “We jumped at the opportunity to work with SPEED to provide fans expanded coverage from Le Mans, with an inside view of how Corvette will battle its peers, the world’s best sports cars.”

The live streaming video feed will be from the cockpit of the No. 73 Corvette C6.R piloted by Olivier Beretta, Tommy Milner and Antonio Garcia. The special web coverage also will include links to an in-depth video tour of the legendary Le Mans circuit in the No. 74 Corvette C6.R with commentary from Oliver Gavin, who will be seeking his fifth class win at Le Mans.

“It’s not often you can work with a partner that has the ability to also create and offer a better viewing experience for our audience,” said Bobby Akin, SPEED vice president of advertising sales. “SPEED and Chevrolet have been working together on Le Mans on-air and online enhancements for many years, and to actually be able to reach out to our audience through a multi-platform online package is amazing.”

Corvette is competing in the renamed GTE Pro (formerly GT2) class this year, facing fierce competition from entries representing Ferrari, BMW, Porsche, Lotus, and Aston Martin.

The No. 73 Corvette C6.R of Beretta, Milner and Garcia, which finished third in the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, qualified sixth in class with a lap at 3:59.633 around the famed 8.5-mile layout. Gavin is teamed with Jan Magnussen in the No. 74 Corvette C6.R while Richard Westbrook will be the third driver in a car that was qualified fourth in class at 3:59.519.

Starting in 2001, Corvette Racing won six times in the GTS/GT1 class at Le Mans. In 2010 the team moved to the GT2 category, where it set the performance pace before accidents and mechanical problems sidelined both cars by the 18-hour mark. There is a sense of unfinished business as the team prepares for its 12th appearance at La Sarthe.

“Last year we had a great car that could compete with anybody,” said Gavin, pole-winner in the GT2 category last June. “We were the pace-setting team, and we hope to continue that this year. Le Mans is such a special race, a race that everyone wants to win. You build your whole year on it, there’s so much expectation and anticipation. The accident that we had showed the real mettle of the Corvette Racing team, how the crew fixed the car and got us back out quickly.”

Gavin and Magnussen is a pairing that won the GT1 title three consecutive years (2004-06). “I’ve won every time I’ve been to Le Mans with Oliver,” Magnussen said. “That’s a big plus. Richard did a great job in testing and at Sebring, he’s easy to get along with and very fast. We’re all going there with high hopes.

“The approach has to be same as last year. We have to push as hard as we can. Going with a team like Corvette Racing, with all of the preparation and planning, you can feel the team’s energy all week long. But Le Mans is Le Mans, and anything can happen_ and probably will happen.”

The trio of Beretta, Milner and Garcia was third in the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

“I have raced in Le Mans since 1995, and every year I go there to achieve what every driver wants – to win,” Beretta said. “Before you can think about the victory, you have to go through the week and make everything ready. I have won three years in a row, and I have lost three years in a row. Now I am looking for my sixth victory, and I hope 2011 will be the one.”

The driver from Monaco has a deep reverence for the world’s oldest and most prestigious endurance race. “People who have never been to Le Mans cannot understand what we are saying when we talk about it,” Beretta said. “You have to be there to understand what Le Mans means. When you have the opportunity to go with a great car and you know everything is being done to win, that can give you even more motivation.”

Beretta will be joined by American Le Mans Series co-driver Milner for the first time at Le Mans. This year marks Milner’s third journey to La Sarthe; his first two races ended in disappointing DNFs with the Panoz Racing team.

“Le Mans is magical,” said Milner, a 25-year-old resident of Lake Mary, Fla. “You can feel the history, the legendary drivers who have raced here, and the success of Corvette Racing. There is definitely something special about driving onto the Mulsanne Straight the first time. At the same time, we have to treat Le Mans like any other race and we have to stick to the plan we use at every event. When I’m in the car, I won’t be thinking about Le Mans. I’ll be thinking about how to make the car faster.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 11 2011
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