2007 Petit Le Mans Race - Atlanta Braved

Fresh Competition And An On-Track Dustup Can't Stop Corvette Racing At The 10th Annual Petit Le Mans

Dr. Greg Johnson Mar 1, 2008 0 Comment(s)
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When the green flag dropped, the Corvettes quickly picked off the Maserati, putting their only GT1 competitor in seven months well behind them. The No. 3 car, with Jan Magnussen driving, was running first in class with Oliver Gavin following in the No. 4 Vette. This is a long race, and it behooves everyone to settle into a groove for the duration. However, the P2 class is full of anxious young men hoping to establish a presence on the racing scene.

Magnussen got caught up in the fray as he crested the hill above Road Atlanta's famous esse complex and picked up speed entering the quick, right-left-right-left sequence. There is hardly room for one car here, let alone two, but Bryan Herta, in the No. 26 Team Andretti Green P2 Acura, pushed the issue and tried to pass Magnussen anyway. Contact was certain, sending the Corvette off course. It hit the wall on the left, was tossed into the air sideways, and came down hard against the safety barriers. It was a major hit, crushing in the left-front corner of the C6.R and tearing off the front bodywork. Magnussen was able to climb out and walk away without injury, but the car was done for the race.

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Herta was black-flagged and assessed a 30-second penalty in the pit lane for avoidable contact, but this was of little consolation to the dejected No. 3 car crew. The premature exit was particularly tough on O'Connell, whose streak of 58 consecutive starts came to an end in Atlanta.

The next two hours saw a succession of yellow flags. As soon as the course marshals could clear the track and restart the race, another full-course yellow was thrown in response to yet another accident. (The race ultimately experienced a total of eight full-course cautions.) This levied a toll on equipment and ended speculation that the event would finish in record time. The No. 4 C6.R continued to pace GT1, with the Maserati struggling to stay seven to nine laps behind the Vette.

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At about one hour from the end, the Maser, with Andrea Bertolini driving, veered off the track and slid helplessly along the concrete front-straight wall, ending its day. (With over 70 percent of the race completed, the team held on to an official Second Place finish.) The No. 4 Vette cruised home under an 8:35 p.m. checkered flag, taking a very lonely First in the GT1 class. The win secured the series class championship for the No. 4 driving duo of Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta.

In contrast, the R10 Audi of Dindo Capello and the Porsche Spyder of Roman Dumas staged a down-to-the-wire duel reminiscent of their clash at Detroit just three weeks earlier. Traffic posed a greater problem for the Porsche driver this time, and he was never able to overtake his Teutonic rival. The Audi team prevailed, and the two cars finished First and Second overall.

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