Corvette Racing Reigns with 1-2 Finish at Rainy Mid-Ohio
Fellows and O'Connell Win Again in Wet and Wild Race
LEXINGTON, Ohio, May 22, 2005 – Corvette Racing drivers Ron Fellows and Johnny O’Connell scored their second consecutive victory with the new Corvette C6.R in today’s American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio, but the win was anything but routine.
Fellows’ No. 3 Compuware Corvette was second in the GT1 class at the finish, but a 20-second penalty levied on the leading No. 4 Compuware Corvette driven by Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta elevated Fellows and O’Connell to the top step of the podium. O’Connell and Fellows tallied their 23rd ALMS victories, setting the series record for career wins. Today’s result was the 24th 1-2 finish for Corvette Racing.
The race began under cloudy skies, and weather radar showed that rain was imminent at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Sprinkles began with 45 minutes remaining in the 2-hour, 45-minute race, and the final 10 minutes were run under wet conditions.
"It was very difficult with the conditions today and driving required total concentration," said Fellows, who drove the final stint in the race-winning Corvette on slick tires. "Both Corvettes had a solid lead over the GT1 field, so we just had to keep it on the road when it started to rain."
The decisive moment came with five minutes remaining in the race. The twin Corvettes pitted together for a splash of fuel that would take them to the finish. Fellows was first into the pits, but Beretta was first out.
"Both cars were running very close and needed a couple of gallons of fuel," explained Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "The No. 3 car came in first but didn’t stop quite short enough; when the No. 4 pulled into its pit, the No. 3 couldn’t get out. The No. 4 Corvette took the lead, but was penalized 20 seconds because one of the crewmen didn’t have his goggles in place during refueling. That penalty moved them to second.
"All in all, it was a exciting race with an unexpected finish," said Fehan. "We never come away from an event without learning something. Most important, both cars are in perfect shape and ready to go to Le Mans."
Beretta was disappointed by the sudden turn of events, but celebrated another strong finish by Corvette Racing in the final warm-up for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
"Someday I hope the good luck will be with me, but we finished 1-2, and that is the goal," said Beretta. "Both cars are in perfect condition, so we are ready to go to Le Mans."
Gavin drove the first segment in the No. 4 Corvette, leading the GT1 class for 17 laps until the first fuel stop under caution. The Saleen S7R of Johnny Mowlem stayed out and gained track position under the yellow flag, but Gavin retook the lead shortly after the one-hour mark. O’Connell then passed the Saleen, and the yellow Corvettes ran nose-to-tail to the finish.
"Corvette Racing team is a fantastic team, and everyone is pushing to the maximum," Gavin observed. "Sometimes little things can make or break the race. I had a great race with Johnny – he was pushing me really hard. It was all-out for both of us, and huge fun."
Traffic was heavy on the 2.25-mile Mid-Ohio circuit, and the race was slowed by three caution periods following incidents. O’Connell narrowly avoided disaster when three cars tangled in front of him in Turn 11.
"I must have made it through there with less than a inch to spare," O’Connell recalled. "There were cars spinning and braking, and somehow I came through without a scratch. There was so much debris that I was worried about a puncture, but everything was good.
"Ron did an amazing job in extremely difficult conditions," O’Connell noted. "It’s one of the most difficult things in the world to be out there on slicks when it’s raining. Today’s result was a great effort by everyone at Corvette Racing on both cars."
It was also an emotional win for the team. Fellows and crewman Mike West both lost their fathers in recent accidents.
"It’s been tough emotionally the last couple of weeks," said Fellows. "This race is dedicated to the memory of my Dad and Mike’s father. It looks like we had a little help from above."
Corvette Racing’s next event is the 24 Hours of Le Mans in Le Mans, France, on June 18-19. The race will be televised on SPEED Channel.
American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio GT1 Results
1. Fellows, O’Connell/Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 112 laps
2. Beretta, Gavin/Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 112
3. Borcheller, Mowlem/Saleen S7R, 112
4. Figge, Dalziel/Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, 110
5. Bertolini, DeSimone/Maserati MC12, 109
6. Weickard, Rugolo/Dodge Viper, 96
June 18-19, 24 Hours of Le Mans, Le Mans, France
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