08-20-2006: Fellows and O'Connell Lead 1-2 Finish for Corvette Racing at Road America
Source: GM Media
Gavin and Beretta Maintain Championship Lead with Runner-Up Finish
ELKHART LAKE, WI – Savvy driving, smart race strategy and spot-on execution propelled Corvette Racing to a 1-2 finish today in the GT1 class in the American Le Mans Series Generac 500 at Road America. Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell scored a popular victory in their No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R with a one-lap margin over the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R of Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta.
Today's win was the 25th career ALMS victory for both O'Connell and Fellows. The pair broke a yearlong drought with their first ALMS win since July 2005 and their first victory at Road America.
"I first raced here since 1986, and I've had more second place finishes than they have bratwursts," O'Connell laughed. "It's been a long time for us, and it's great to be back on the top step of the podium. Since our last win together, there have been many races that could have gone our way but didn’t. We had a beautiful race car today and a lot of good competition."
Fellows agreed: "It was great fun," said the Canadian ace. "I hated to get out of the car; the longer we ran, the better it got. We've been in position to win and then got unlucky with track position and cautions. This time a caution went our way. The guys never gave up, and Johnny did a fantastic job as always."
The race was essentially decided at 2 hours and 16 minutes when the third full-course caution period of the race began. The two Corvettes had adopted different pit strategies, with the No. 3 car making its second pit stop at 1:12 and the No. 4 pitting at 1:41. When the pace car came out for the final caution, the No. 3 Corvette C6.R had a one-lap lead on its sister car and the No. 007 Aston Martin. O'Connell then pitted under caution and completed his run to the checkered flag in the final half-hour without pressure. Beretta conserved fuel and ran his final one-hour, three-minute stint without a stop.
"When the No. 009 Aston Martin went into a gravel trap early, we were essentially in a situation with two cars versus one," explained Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "We had an opportunity to put our cars on different strategies in case there was an inopportune yellow flag or one car got caught behind the pace car. We covered our bets, and it worked out well for us today.
"I suggested after qualifying that this race would depend on good strategy, smart driving, great pit stops and perfect execution," Fehan noted. "That's about the way it turned out."
"The engineers did a great job with the strategy, and with the luck of the caution it could have gone either way for either car," said team manager Gary Pratt. "We don't care which car wins as long as it's a 1-2 Corvette finish. The Astons fought hard, and it was tough for us here with the extra weight our cars are carrying. Our tires held up perfectly, the engines ran flawlessly, and all of the drivers did a fantastic job."
Defending GT1 champions Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta continue to lead the standings with 122 points. Fellows and O'Connell are second with 110 points, and Aston Martin drivers Tomas Enge and Darren Turner are third with 107.
"At the end of the day a Corvette won," said Beretta. "It's good for the No. 3 car to get their first victory of the year. We are all family; we always want to win, that is what fuels competition, but I am happy for them. It's important that the Corvettes finished first and second considering the performance handicaps we have."
"It was messy at the start with cars everywhere, but then it settled into a game of cat and mouse with the Astons because they were very fast on the straights and we're better in the braking zones and through the corners," Gavin reported. "It seemed that their drivers were struggling with the balance a bit, so we were sitting and waiting. I had a really good battle with Darren Turner, and sneaked through on the inside of Turn 14."
Corvette Racing’s next event is the Labour Day Weekend Grand Prix of Mosport at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ont., on Sunday, Sept. 3. The eighth round of the 10-race ALMS series will be televised live on the SPEED Channel starting at 3 p.m. EDT.