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Corvette Hoping To Forget Le Mans At The Glen

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 2 2016
Corvette C7.Rs dominated Daytona and Sebring this year but were tripped up at Le Mans. (File photo by Richard Prince for Chevy Racing)

Corvette C7.Rs dominated Daytona and Sebring this year but were tripped up at Le Mans. (File photo by Richard Prince for Chevy Racing)

Sometimes the best part of exotic travel is the coming home part. You can bet that the folks at Corvette Racing are feeling that way this week as they prepare for the six-hour race at New York state’s historic Watkins Glen road course.

buganalysisThey are home after a politically and competitively frustrating trip to the French countryside and don’t it feel good.

“We’re looking forward to getting back in North America, continuing with the championship and seeing what the next few races bring us,” driver Oliver Gavin said.

The big hope is that the Corvettes will secure better results than they did Le Mans, where Ford GTs and Ferrari 488s stole the show in an event which Corvettes had won 16 times in the past.

Things were going as planned for Corvette Racing as test day at Le Mans wound to a close early last month. Its two C7.Rs were among the five fastest in the test annual test for the 24-hour classic
and the No. 63 C7.R, with Antonio Garcia at the wheel, had laid down the fast lap in GTE Pro during the session.

Then, politics went to work.

Race officials made a series of Balance of Performance changes – rules, some call shady, designed

Ford GTs took Le Mans by storm last month. Some say that was because of a late BoP ruling. (Ford photo by Drew Gibson)

Ford GTs took Le Mans by storm last month. Some say that was because of a late BoP ruling.
(Ford photo by Drew Gibson)

to keep cars in the respective categories competitive to each other – in in the GTE Pro class. The result was that the C7.Rs lost almost 5 seconds a lap while the Fords and Ferrari 488s got quicker.

In the paddocks, the theory that Le Mans officials wanted this year’s race to turn into a ratings-generating rematch of the 1966 Ford vs. Ferrari competition, began to circulate.

Whether the theorists were correct or not, at the end of the 24 hours, the Ford GTs dominated with only Ferrari able to keep up.

This week, with action at the Glen heating up, Corvette driver Jan Magnussen was asked if he was happy with the way the BoP changes worked out at Le Mans.

“Obviously,” he said, “the difference in speed between the cars this year was quite big especially with Ford and Ferrari and then everybody else. That was disappointing. I think everybody in the GTLM class expects to go to Le Mans with a chance of winning because of the BoP, but this year … I don’t know how it came to be as it was … it certainly didn’t feel like a fair fight between those two and the rest of the field.”

Magnussen and his C7.R co-drivers finished seventh. A clean seventh. A too-clean seventh.

“It’s a bit frustrating,” he said. “We ran a really good race, no mistakes, not a scratch on the car. The only time the car went in the garage was for a scheduled brake change. And usually when we do that at Le Mans we come away with a good result. So P7 after having done that is absolutely disappointing. We’ll have to go home and figure out how to do better.”

The Glen gives Corvette Racing the change to wash the bitter taste of Le Mans back out team members mouths.

“When I was growing up,” Tommy Milner, co-driver of the No. 4 C7.R, said, “the three tracks I remember were Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen. It’s one of the ones where I haven’t won. We’ve had great run so far this year with our Corvette in the endurance events with the wins at Daytona and Sebring. So we are in a good position. It’s super-fun to drive and really quick. I’m excited to get there and see what the track is like with the new surface. We have a championship to be concerned about, so a win would be great. Le Mans is always such a big draw, and a lot of energy and effort goes into that. But now that it’s over, all the focus goes back to the U.S., and our main job there.”

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IMSA NOTES:

Ford officials announced Saturday that its factory-supported Ford GT race program will run for a minimum of three more years in both IMSA and FIA World Endurance Championship competition.

“We wanted to make sure everyone knows that we are committed to sports car racing globally with WEC and IMSA,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president and chief technical officer.  “The stated goal of our Ford GT program was to win Le Mans, and we’re very proud that we were able to do that in our first year. To commit to a full, four-year assault on both the IMSA and WEC championships shows how serious we are about taking Ford GT racing around the world.

“We are in motorsport to win races and championships, but just as importantly we are using it to develop our engineering expertise and help develop advancements for production vehicles like EcoBoost engines, advanced aerodynamics and lightweight materials that consumers can use in Ford production vehicles going forward.”

“We’re excited and feel the extension of this Ford GT race program sends an important message to the industry and to enthusiasts that we are committed to global racing at Ford,” said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance.

“But we remain committed to doing racing the right way. And the Ford GT program is a perfect example of how we are using our racing efforts to help improve the products that Ford consumers can drive every day. Developing the GT production car and the race car at the same time has been a challenging task for everyone, but it has also showed how the production vehicle side and racing side of Ford Performance can work together to benefit everyone.”

The first-year program currently consists of two Ford GT race cars in IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship competition, and two Ford GT race cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The program scored a 1-3-4 GTE Pro class finish at Le Mans on June 19, with France’s Sébastien Bourdais, USA’s Joey Hand and Germany’s Dirk Müller driving the winning No. 68 Ford GT effort.

The IMSA program also scored Ford GT’s first victory in May at Laguna Seca with Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe taking the victory, while the WEC program scored its first podium with a second-place finish at Spa-Francorchamps, with Marino Franchitti, Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell driving.

Ford GT drivers Billy Johnson, Olivier Pla and Stephan Mücke also currently lead the WEC GT Drivers’ Cup standings.

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In Friday practice at the Glen:

Olivier Pla posted the fastest time of the day, running 1:36.155 (127.2 mph) in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Curb Records/AERO Honda Ligier JS P2. Co-driver Ozz Negri led the opening session with a lap of 1:36.705 (126.5 mph). John Pew will complete the team’s driver lineup. Both laps bettered the WeatherTech Championship record of 1:37.902 (125.023 mph), set in 2014 in a Nissan Morgan.

“As soon as I did the track walk with John and Ozz yesterday, I knew I was going to love the track,” Pla said. “It’s a really fast track, and I love tracks with fast corners. You can really feel the G forces in your neck. It makes it fun to drive. We’ll just keep pushing hard. The race will be very tough so we’ll have to be good on strategy and stay out of trouble and if we do that, I think we’ll be good.”

Joey Hand, recent GTE Pro class winner in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, was fastest in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class with a lap of 1:43.309 (118.4 mph) in the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT co-driven by Dirk Mueller. Second was teammate Richard Westbrook, 1:43.377 (118.4 mph) in the No. 67 Ford GT co-driven by Ryan Briscoe.

Defending Sahlen’s Six Hour Prototype Challenge (PC) winner Renger van de Zande led his class with a lap of 1:38.582 (124.1 mph) in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM09 co-driven by Alex Popow. Colin Braun was second in the No. 54 CORE autosport Flex Box/Composite Resources ORECA co-driven by Jon Bennett and Mark Wilkins, 1:38.619 (124.1 mph).

Stevenson Motorsports Audis ran 1-2 in GT Daytona (GTD). Robin Liddell clocked the best lap of the day in the opening session, 1:46.147 (115.3 mph) in the No. 6 Stevenson Auto Group Audi R8 LMS GT3 co-driven by Andrew Davis. Lawson Aschenbach led the afternoon session in the team’s No. 9 entry co-driven by Matt Bell, running 1:46.259 (115.1 mph).

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 2 2016
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