In their first year of competing in Callaway Competition’s C7 GT3-R Corvette the team has dominated the first half of the series. The Valvoline/Roller sponsored No. 77 Corvette driven by Daniel Keilwitz and Jules Gounon have three victories to their credit. The new C7 GT3 Corvette surprised its competitors with its pace and caused a lot of hand wringing with the organizers.
The ADAC wanted to tighten the championship battle and to keep one brand from dominating the series. The best way to do this is to add and take away weight from the various competitors. The ADAC kept applying a Balance of Performance (BOP) weight increase to the Corvettes to slow them down. When the Corvette’s qualified at the Red Bull ring they were carrying 50 kilos (110 lbs.) of weight. That did not slow the Keilwitz/Gounon team down, they finished 3rd and 1st and extended their championship lead. For the next race at the Nürburgring the rules makers added another 15 kilos (33 lbs.) to the Corvettes for a total of 65 kilos (143 lbs.). This put smiles on the organizers faces as well as their competitors. The pesky American Corvette would surely slow the Corvettes down! The Audi fans were drooling. The tipping point had been reached and the Corvettes performance was drastically altered. Keilwitz squeaked out a 5th place finish for Race 1 at the Ring and slid off the track and did not finish Race 2.
Several weekends past the championship came to the seaside Zandvoort circuit in Holland. The track is narrow and many of the corners have no runoff areas. Many of the corners are lined with unforgiving concrete walls. The added weight was really impacting the Corvettes. Jules managed a 1:38.507 qualifying lap that was good for 12th starting position. The No. 29 Audi captured the pole with a time of 1:37.647 and if it won would overtake the Corvette for the championship lead. Fortunately, a Porsche snatched the victory from the Audi, which finished in 2nd position. Keilwitz/Gounon finished a distant eighth, fighting overheated tires. The Audi was inching closer to the Corvette in the championship battle thanks to the ADAC reducing its BOP weight.
The Assenheimer/Schwager No. 69 Corvette got a rock lodged in its accelerator pedal, went off course and did not finish. The Whelen Corvette lost its clutch trying to get back into the race after a spin and did not finish. One bright spot was drivers Remo Lips and Sven Barth in last year’s Callaway Competition Z06.R GT3 Corvette. They finished first overall in the Masters Trophy category and now lead that championship.
It looked bleak for the No.77 Callaway Competition Corvette before Race 2. The dreaded Audi qualified 2nd with a time of 1:50.627 and Keilwitz was 10th, almost 2 seconds slower with a 1:52.603! The No. 69 Corvette was 13th and Eric Curran qualified the Whelen Corvette in 21st position. At the green flag, Keilwitz shouldered his way up to 7th place. On lap eight rain started pelting the track and the Callaway team called their cars into the pits for rain tires. Some other competitors did the same, but the leader stayed on slicks, which cost him the victory when he slid off the track. Keilwitz returned to the track on lap 9 in 15th position after the tire change. By the next lap he was 8th and on the 13th lap he was 3rd overall? That is how effective the rain tires were in the wet conditions, but the rain stopped and the track dried. When the pit stop window opened on lap 15, the Callaway Competition team switched their cars back to slick tires. After the stops were completed No. 77 driver Jules Gounon was 6th with the dreaded championship contending Audi 4th. Five laps from the end the 5th place Audi went off the track allowing Jules to pick up 5th position, which he kept until the checkered flag. The de Phillippi/Mies No.29 Audi is now leading the championship with 146 points and Keilwitz/Gounon are second with 144 points.
After the race the drivers said this to say: Jules Gounon, "That was a tough race but lots of fun. It's what I really enjoy. We extracted the maximum. More is not possible at the moment." Daniel Keilwitz, "That was damage limitation for us. The conditions played into our hands. We're now looking ahead to the future and can't wait for the finale at Hockenheim." The final two races will be held at that Circuit in Germany. Team Vette will be on hand to see what the Callaway Competition team can do to give Corvette another championship. Stay tuned.