Sebring

Sebring 5-Hour Report: Corvette Running On Top

#3 Corvette C5-R in the lead; #4 Corvette C5-R withdraws after clutch failure

SEBRING, Fla. The General Motors Chevrolet Corvette Racing team leads the GTS class after five hours of racing at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

"We're happy with the speed and pace of the #3 Corvette," said Doug Fehan, GM's program manager for Corvette Racing. "The #4 Corvette suffered a clutch failure and as a result had a very early exit to what appeared to be a successful weekend. But we operate as one team and now we are all focused on maintaining the lead for Ron, Johnny and Max."

The #3 Compuware Corvette C5-R of Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell and Max Papis started Saturday's race from the GTS pole position, 10th overall, after qualifying at a record-setting 1:57.052. The #4 Compuware Corvette C5-R of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen started from the fifth position in class, 40th overall after Gavin's qualifying time of 1:56.858 was disallowed due to rear wing endplates that deviated from the measured standard. It took only four laps for starting driver Gavin to get back up to second in class, and at lap seven he passed Fellows for the lead. The #4 Corvette surrendered position after a stop-and-go penalty for driving over an air hose during a pit stop at lap 27, and from that point the #3 Corvette held the lead. On lap 84, Gavin took over from Magnussen and complained of a soft clutch pedal; the Briton was only able to go halfway around the 3.7-mile circuit before pulling off course, unable to keep the car engaged in gear. The Corvette Racing team withdrew the car as it was unable to come back to the pits under its own power.

"This is a very disappointing day for our team but we are all looking for the #3 Corvette to do very well," said Gavin. "When I got in the car the clutch pedal felt very soft and I felt as I left the pits that I should immediately come back. The car kept slipping out of gear and eventually I had to pull over. When I opened up the rear bodywork it had appeared that the clutch failed."

While the #4 Corvette withdrew, the #3 Corvette continues to pace the class, some seven laps ahead of the next car in GTS.

"We feel bad for the #4 team as they ran a great race today and we wish it was the both of us in the lead," said Johnny O'Connell. "But we've been focused all day on this race and I am very happy with the way our Chevy is running. Ron and Max have been doing a great job and we're trying to stay in the lead."

5-Hour Positions (GTS Class)

Pos.    Car                                           Drivers                                     Lap

1.       #3 Chevrolet Corvette C5-R      Fellows/O'Connell/Papis           137

2.       #63 Saleen S7R                          Borcheller/Mowlem/Brabham     130             

3.       #25 Ferrari 575 GTC                  Bosch/Sullivan/Biagi                  128

4.       #26 Ferrari 575 GTC                  Deletraz/Hezemans/Barde         101

5.       #4 Chevrolet Corvette C5-R      Gavin/Beretta/Magnussen        83

6.       #71 Dodge Viper GTS-R             Weickardt/Belloc/Allen             65