2008 ALMS Mid-Ohio Race - Sibling Rivalry

Lacking Outside Competition, Corvette Racing's Internecine Battle Heats Up At Mid-Ohio

Dr. Greg Johnson Jan 1, 2009 0 Comment(s)
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Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course welcomed the ALMS with 90-degree temperatures and 50 percent humidity-a combination that made for a sweltering, sweat-soaked experience. Corvette Racing ran a brief test session on Thursday, then buckled down for Friday's practice and qualifying chores. The No. 3 car, under Crew Chief Danny Binks' stewardship, was off the trailer and into action without much drama. The No. 4 team, however, seemed to struggle, with the drivers complaining that the car wasn't controllable in the turns.

Through qualifying on Friday, drivers Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta never felt comfort-able behind the wheel. In desperation, Crew Chief Mike West called for a transaxle change. The swap seemed to quell the car's handling problems, setting the stage for yet another "sibling rivalry" in GT1. The category's lone Aston DBR9 was noticeably absent from the grid, having suffered a mishap at Lime Rock that proved too extensive to be rectified in time for the Mid-Ohio race.

Saturday's 2-hour 45-minute race began at 2:10 p.m., just in time to subject the teams to the full brunt of the oppressive weather. Fortunately, the Corvettes are equipped with a very effective air-conditioning system that keeps the drivers relatively comfortable on the track. The crews manning the pit stalls, clothed in three-layer fire suits, weren't so lucky.

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Another challenge posed by Mid-Ohio came in the form of a new 42-inch-high wall in the pit lane. The taller wall requires crewmembers to crawl-rather than jump-over, slowing their progress considerably. Fortunately, the short race requires just two pit stops-provided nothing goes wrong on track.

For the first two hours of the race, the yellow Corvettes kept up a steady, quick pace around the circuit. With Le Mans over, the pressure to preserve the cars was diminished, giving rise to some especially intense jousting between the two GM entries. As the C6.Rs entered pit lane, nose to tail, for the final service, the No. 4 crew was keen to get its car out in front and take over the GT1 lead.

West and company managed an impressive driver-fuel-tire change, completing their routine just ahead of their No. 3 car counterparts. When Beretta and No. 3 pilot Johnny O'Connell dropped the hammer almost simultaneously, the two cars became locked in an all-out drag race for the pit-out line. Some traded paint between the two cars was the inevitable result, with Beretta just making it past O'Connell to grab the class lead.

The only problem was that race officials had shown a red flag at pit-out. This signal requires that all affected drivers stop their cars and proceed onto the track only when directed to do so. As a result of the infraction, both cars were called in to serve a 2-minute, 40-second stint in the penalty box at the end of pit lane. Their time served, the C6.Rs rocketed back onto the track to rejoin the battle.

When Beretta was forced to slow under pressure from prototype traffic, O'Connell was able to recapture the class lead. But when ALMS officials decided to levy additional penalties for the earlier infraction, the cars were ordered back into the penalty box for an another five minutes. When they were finally released, O'Connell managed to hold on to the lead through the end of the race. It wasn't exactly Le Mans, but for fans accustomed to predictable showings in GT1, the fighting spirit evinced by both C6.R drivers made the Mid-Ohio race one of the season's hottest.

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