The Corvette team had already sent its race cars to France with the same engines they used for the Sebring and Long Beach races, as well as for a number of test days. The team had planned to practice with these engines on Wednesday, then swap them out before qualifying. The new regs forced the crews to trade out the engines on Tuesday before practice, giving them a choice of two fresh engines for the race. Team engine builder Katech responded with four new block castings, which were fitted with special electronic transducers provided by the ACO. These allowed officials to simply approach each car and wave an electronic wand over the engine to verify that it hadn't been tampered with.
The crews spent all day Wednesday preparing for a rain-soaked evening practice. There was a slight chance of precipitation during the race, so the engineers had an opportunity to evaluate various wet-setup scenarios. The night proved to be a tough one, as it rained for most of the session. This meant the cars were caked in wet residue from tires, exhausts, and the track surface. Of primary importance was that each driver complete three laps between the hours of 10 p.m. and midnight in order to be officially certified for the race. The No. 63 team-with pilots Johnny O'Connell, Jan Magnussen, and Antonio Garcia-completed its assigned duties, recording the fastest lap time with Magnussen at the controls. Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta, and Marcel Fassler were just a hair slower in No. 64.
Thursday was a busy day, as the engineering squad had developed a new gearbox-ratio setup it felt would make the C6.Rs faster. Crew chief Danny Binks ordered the No. 63 crew to swap in the transaxle for evaluation during that night's practice/qualifying session. The night's cold temperatures and intermittent rain meant constantly changing conditions for the drivers. Magnussen took advantage of the gear change to take the class pole position. Beretta's next-best time in class placed the two Corvette Racing entries side-by-side on the starting grid.
Friday was purely a preparation day, with no on-track activities planned. The only item on the calendar was the traditional Pilotes (drivers) parade, held away from the racing circuit in downtown Le Mans. The Corvette team was extremely busy cleaning up the cars after a pair of off-track excursions in practice. With that task completed, it changed out the engines and installed new gearboxes with the recently reformulated ratios. The day was also an opportunity for Corvette Racing's Mike West to display his electric guitar talents in what has become a Le Mans favorite. The No. 64 car crew chief put on a rocking rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," a la Jimi Hendrix, drawing every available spectator into the area in front of the Corvette garages for the show.
Supremacy... and Surprises
Saturday's race began with a 45-minute warm-up at 8:30 a.m., which went off without a hitch for the factory Corvettes. The morning was clear as the competitors lined up on the pit straight for the traditional starting festivities. First, however, there was the traditional prerace hubbub involving air horns, screaming fans, musical instruments, half-naked girls, and race cars-an interesting combination enjoyed in a way only the French can manage. As usual, this all went on for two hours before the scheduled 3 p.m. starting time.