Bowtie Bullet Points: Chevy Notes for Portland

Chevrolet undefeated at the halfway mark in 2004

PORTLAND - The General Motors Chevrolet Corvette Racing team will compete at Portland International Raceway this weekend with hopes of continuing a remarkable winning streak in the 2004 season. The defending champions hold a five-race winning streak and have a commanding lead in the ALMS manufacturers' championship while Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell cling to a 33-point lead in the drivers' title

Return to Portland

After an absence of two years, the American Le Mans Series returns to Portland International Raceway, one of North America's classic road racing venues. Located in a city park in Northwest Portland, the 1.944-mile, 12-turn raceway was one of the original venues on the ALMS schedule when the series was founded in 1999. The track also hosted events in 2000 and 2001. The track surface consists of mostly asphalt, with concrete for the "festival turn" section, with no banked corners and only five feet of elevation changes.

The raceway complex, which also includes a drag strip, is used nearly every day of the year for amateur and club racing events, testing, driving schools, etc. The long history of the raceway includes IMSA-sanctioned events in the former Camel GT Series in the early 1990s.

The site sits on the former location of the World War II city of Vanport, which was wiped out by a flood in 1948. The Army Corps of Engineers sold the site to the City of Portland in 1960 and in 1961 the first Rose Cup races were held. Most recently, ALMS fans will recall that Olivier Beretta won the GTS class at Portland in 1999 and 2000 behind the wheel of a Dodge Viper. The Chevrolet driver will attempt to win his third this weekend along with co-driver Oliver Gavin.

Engineering the Corvettes for Portland

With temperatures approaching-and in some cases, exceeding-100 degrees Fahrenheit, Corvette engineers have the responsibility of tuning the cars for the unique track conditions. "Portland is a change from the last three tracks in that there are no elevation changes and the two straights comprise a much bigger percentage of a lap," said Doug Louth, engineering manager for the Corvette Racing team. "Many initial chassis parameters, including ride heights and spring and damper packages have all changed accordingly. Tire and brake duty cycles are quite different as well which will affect tire pressure and temperature management, especially on Friday and Saturday with temperatures near 100 degrees."

The New "Old" Qualifying Format

This weekend will return to the "old" style of qualifying for the American Le Mans Series teams. Cars can run as many laps as possible during the 20 minutes with the fastest counting as a qualifying time. Last weekend at Sonoma, the series introduced a new form of "single-car" qualifying, which was in a one-race trial. The format was designed to increase the drama of competition by giving drivers more of an opportunity to post their best lap times on a track clear of traffic. Unlike single-car qualifying formats used in many other forms of racing, the format for the ALMS had multiple cars on the track at the same time, dispatched individually at specific intervals timed to maximize the opportunity for each car to have clear track. The cars lined up for qualifying in reverse order of the fastest lap achieved by each car in the practice session immediately prior to qualifying. The fastest cars were therefore placed at the end of the line, building drama during the qualifying session while drivers competed for the overall pole as well as individual class poles. Each car received a total of four laps on the track during the qualifying session, including an out lap, two flying laps and an in-lap. Oliver Gavin, driver of the #4 Corvette C5-R, set the fastest GTS lap in the new format.

Corvette Drivers Lead Points Race

Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell are on pace to claim a second consecutive drivers' title in the GTS class of the ALMS; Fellows would be winning his third. The duo holds the leads with 82 points, followed by Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta with 49. Chevrolet holds a commanding lead in the manufacturers' championship with 86 points, followed by Saleen with 45 points and Lamborghini with 26. While the team's current winning steak is impressive at five victories, the team's all-time best winning streak stands at nine, when the Chevrolets won every single race between Petit Le Mans 2001 through the Mosport race of 2002.

Corvettes Fastest In Friday Practice

The two factory Corvettes set the fastest times in the GTS class during practice on Friday afternoon. The Corvettes eclipsed the previous qualifying record of 1:11.913, set by Tommy Archer in 1999.

The Corvette Racing team will qualify on Saturday at 3:05 p.m. Sunday's television coverage begins at 4:00 p.m. EDT on Speed TV.

Friday Practice Results - GTS Class
Pos. No. Car Drivers Best Time
1 #3 Corvette C5-R Fellows, O'Connell 1:10.974
2 #4 Corvette C5-R Gavin, Beretta 1:11.134
3 #63 Saleen S7R Borcheller, Mowlem 1:11.338
4 #5 Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT Brabham, Kox 1:12.994
5 #71 Dodge Viper GTS-R Weickardt, Belloc 1:14.679
6 #6 Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT Krohn, McEntee 1:21.768