The final round of the '07 American Le Mans Series found the teams heading to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to enjoy a little California hospitality. The 2.2-mile circuit had been repaved before the event in an effort to get the surface as smooth and race-friendly as possible. Track officials did add one tweak in the form of a square, 4-inch-high chunk of solid concrete inside the apex of each turn as a disincentive to cutting corners too deeply. Since no ramp-up was built into these obstacles, hitting one would surely ruin a car's suspension-not to mention the driver's day.
Corvette Racing, meanwhile, had its own issues to contend with. The No. 3 car had been heavily damaged two weeks earlier in an on-track accident at the Petit Le Mans race. Lacking sufficient time to get the car back into racing condition, the team was forced to use a relatively new C6.R in its place. While crew members did a good job of preparing this spare car for Laguna, it was sure to suffer from a comparative lack of on-track chassis and interior tuning. Jan Magnussen, for one, found the seating position in the replacement car to be less than ideal.
Visually, the biggest change for the GM entries was the one-off livery they sported for this season-ending race. Both yellow cars wore huge skull patterns styled after Corvette Racing's unofficial mascot, "Jake the Skull." (We'll have the full story on Jake in an upcoming issue.) The No. 4 Corvette showed off a yellow skull on a black background, while the No. 3 car used a color-reversed version of the same pattern. There was nothing else like either car to be found in the paddock.
The weather cooperated beautifully over the four-day event, with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the 70s. All four race categories posted record qualifying times, a testament to the quality of the new track surface, while Magnussen aced Olivier Beretta for pole-position bragging rights in GT1.
The only other match-up of real concern to Corvette Racing came in the last round of the Klein Tools Pit Stop Competition, which took place at Laguna. The semi-finals pitted the two C6.Rs against the two Porsches from Dyson Racing. Both Pratt & Miller crews had drilled all year for this showdown, and they quickly eliminated the Dyson contingent from the competition.
In the final face-off, Oliver Gavin dived too deeply into the pits, requiring the crew to push the No. 4 car back into the correct spot before performing a tire change. In doing so, they violated a competition rule that forbids touching the car while refueling is underway. While the No. 4 crew breezed through the rest of the stop and blazed out of the pit ahead of their mates, the resulting time penalty handed the championship to the No. 3 team. The Klein Tools competition proved a real boon to the Corvette team this year, as they collected the lion's share of the $100,000 prize money handed out over the course of the season.
Saturday's four-hour race was scheduled for a 2:45 p.m. start, virtually guaranteeing a checkered flag by nightfall. GT1 pole sitter Magnussen took the green flag and quickly scooted ahead to take the class lead. This placement held until the first pit stop, when the No. 4 car team was able to outpace its Corvette Racing counterpart and take the GT1 lead.
While the lack of GT1 competition once again guaranteed a Corvette class victory, there were significant battles going on throughout the rest of the ALMS grid. The P1 and P2 cars were duking it out for overall bragging rights, and the top honors in GT2 were up for grabs as well. This meant that everyone, save for the Corvettes, was pushing to the limit and beyond in an attempt to get ahead. On-track contacts were the none-too-surprising result.