2008 Detroit Grand Prix - Corvettes Invade The Island

Corvette Fever Takes A Closer Look At The '08 Detroit Grand Prix

John M. Banach Feb 22, 2009 0 Comment(s)
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This is the start of the race.

Friday's afternoon practice session began with the threat of more rain. Early on, Corvette No. 4, piloted by Olivier Beretta, recorded fastest lap time in GT1 with a 1:30.617. Two minutes later, the skies opened up with more rain. At the time of the downpour, all cars on the circuit were running slick, dry-weather tires. This contributed to an incident involving the No. 40 Ford GT-R. The Ford hit and moved a portion of the wall just after Turn 14 entering into the front straight. Out came the red flags, allowing the track workers to quickly move the wall back into place. Within seven minutes of the incident, the course was back to green. The rain continued for another 14 minutes, at which time clear skies prevailed for the rest of the weekend. When the checkered flag dropped at the end of the final practice session, it was Olivier Beretta in Corvette No. 4 on top with a 5.061-second advantage over Corvette No. 3, driven by Jan Magnussen. The Aston Martin DB9R was 13.243 seconds behind the lead Corvette.

The stage was set for the 20-minute qualifying session on Friday afternoon. Now under sunny skies, the track surface was quickly improving. There were still a few remaining water puddles when the green flag dropped to begin the competition for pole position. Times gradually increased as the track dried and more rubber accumulated on the race line. During the session, pole position switched three times between Beretta and Magnussen. On his fifth and last qualifying lap, it was Jan Magnussen in Corvette No. 3, edging out Beretta in the No. 4 car by 1.024 seconds.

The Danish driver spoke of his accomplishment of taking pole position at Belle Isle for the second year in a row: "The first dry lap I had all day was the first lap of qualifying. The track was getting better and better, and we needed a few laps to get the Michelins up to operating temperature. The C6R worked very well under the circumstances. It was very, very tough. It was a matter of thinking about how I drove the track last year, remembering my braking points and so on. Everybody was trying to find the right line. I didn't get a clear lap, but I don't think anyone did. I'm happy with the result; this makes the race a little easier."

Corvette Racing Team Manager Gary Pratt discussed his team's qualifying strategy: "The track was drying and it wasn't as good in the beginning of the session as it was at the end. We sent the drivers out to get a time and then brought them back in. If the drivers don't get a qualifying time and the session ends early because of a red flag, the cars would start at the back of the grid. Our strategy was to put a time down, let the track dry out, and then run when the conditions were better." The stage was now set for the actual race.

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Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan

Saturday elevated the anticipation and excitement of the upcoming race to a fever pitch. The Corvette Racing paddock was a flurry of activity. Last-minute checks and adjustments were made to the cars. Emerson Fittipaldi stopped by to wish the teams luck before strapping into the E85 Concept Z06 Corvette Pace Car. Corvette race fans were in for a treat.

The start of the race saw Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette in pole position. Separated by three GT2 cars, behind Magnussen was Olivier Beretta in the No. 4 car. It took 10 laps for Beretta to clear the pack and position the No. 4 car behind Magnussen. The two Corvettes were now in a dogfight. Corvette No. 3 co-driver Johnny O'Connell shared his thoughts before the start of the race: "Speed is how close you are to crashing, and we're awfully close to crashing here in Detroit." During the heat of the battle, 40 minutes into the race, the yellow caution flags came out. A car hit and damaged the tire barrier in Turn 13. The track-repair crew was sent out to make the required repairs.

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