Chevy Corvette C6Rs - Rain-Blitzed Work In Braselton

Weather Deals The Vettes A Short Hand At Petit

Dr. Greg P. Johnson Mar 3, 2010 0 Comment(s)
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With the exception of a little rain on Thursday afternoon, conditions remained fairly dry until Saturday morning. It was then that the heavens opened up and delivered such a major downpour that few believed any racing would take place that day. The 8:15 a.m. morning practice was cancelled, but the precipitation did eventually abate enough to permit a quick half-hour practice run starting at 10. Pre-grid ceremonies and the race remained scheduled to start at 11:15 a.m. and run for 10 hours or 1,000 miles distance, whichever came first.

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Johnny O'Connell, partnered with Jan Mag-nussen and Antonio Garcia, started for the No. 3 team, while Oliver Gavin, combining with Beretta and Marcel Fassler, piloted the No. 4 car under the green flag. O'Connell found his car set up perfectly from the start and, with the other drivers tentative in the wet conditions, managed to grab first position in GT2 within a mere three laps. Asked later how he managed such a feat, O'Connell simply said, "The car was great right from the start, and I just drove the heck out of it."

The No. 3 car did run into a pit-stop problem when the trap door to the refuel opening became stuck and didn't allow gas into the fuel cell. This resulted in the car being sent out without a full fuel load, necessitating an unplanned return visit to the pits. Since the car was already dropping track position, the crew elected to change tires as well. Not long after, No. 4 experienced a pit-stop delay of its own and also slipped down the GT2 order. Given how well the C6.Rs were running, there appeared to be plenty of time for the two cars to make up that lost ground.

Though the rain had dissipated, there was a constant drizzle throughout the first five hours of racing. The result was a spate of off-course mishaps and full-course double yellows. This made for some interesting decisions up and down pit lane. Would teams pit early and refuel? Would they stop for tires, and, if so, which type and tread compound? The Risi Competizione Ferrari team decided to switch to rain tires early, in anticipation of what it perceived to be an imminent downpour. The rest of the GT2 field, meanwhile, decided to hold out a little longer. That decision would end up deciding the outcome of the whole race.

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At around the 5-hour mark, the skies opened up and dumped everything they had on the North Georgia landscape. Every car in the field headed for pit lane to put on rain shoes, save for the GT2 Ferrari, which was already so equipped. The wet conditions soon became completely untenable, however, with rivers of water and red clay running across the track. IMSA officials were forced to reluctantly shut down competition. The cars were forced off the track and parked single file at pit-out in the hot-pit lane to await clearing conditions. The teams weren't allowed to touch the cars, aside from putting rain covers on the bodywork. Risi Competizione, having stopped early for rain tires was now in first place for GT2. This was a big deal for the Ferrari bunch, as it was playing catch up to the Porsche contingent in their fight for the season's constructor championship. O'Connell, meanwhile, had experienced a major "off" under yellow just before the race was halted and had to be extricated from a gravel trap. This put the No. 3 car even further down in the running order, leaving Corvette Racing in fourth and sixth positions.

IMSA officials promised a ruling on the race's status at 7 p.m., but that was pushed back to 7:30, then 8:00, and still there was no decision as to when the racing would continue. All the while, the time clock on the race continued to run, even though the cars were parked in pit lane. Finally, after four hours of steady rain, the precipitation began to let up. The damage had been done, however: runoff was continuous, and the clay/water mixture pouring onto the track surface meant safe racing conditions could not be reestablished. The official word came at 9:30: the race was over, with the final results to mirror the order in which the cars were lined up in pit lane. As a result, Corvette Racing's entries finished Fourth and Sixth in GT2-a pretty disappointing result given the pace at which the cars had been running. It was a sentiment shared by most of the field, whose members had been geared up for a full, 10-hour enduro. No one, with the possible exception of the Ferrari team, wanted to see the race cut in half.

The next race would take place at Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, and would be the last call for ALMS competition this season. After the soggy finish at Road Atlanta, everyone was left hoping that the promise of golden California sunshine would prove more than just a wishful advertising slogan.


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