Road to Le Mans Starts at Sebring for Corvette Racing
Season-Opening 12-Hour Endurance Race Is First Test for New Cars and New Driver Lineup
SEBRING, Fla. - The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring may be only half as long in duration as the 24
Hours of Le Mans, but it's a more demanding test of teams and machines. With a notoriously punishing track
surface and sultry conditions in central Florida, the season-opening round of the American Le Mans Series
will test the mettle of Corvette Racing's new C6.R race cars and the people who engineer, prepare and
"The cornerstone of the Corvette Racing program is the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and Sebring is the
first step on the long road to France," said GM Road Racing Group manager Steve Wesoloski. "The
ALMS series is the proving ground that has allowed us to hone our skills and develop our technology. There
are 14 entries in the GT1 class at Le Mans, so we have to keep our eyes on the prize."
In the early years of Corvette Racing, Sebring was the team's "Bermuda Triangle" as the track
exacted a heavy toll on the untested cars. The breakthrough came in 2002 when Johnny O'Connell, Ron
Fellows and Oliver Gavin notched Corvette Racing's first Sebring class win. O'Connell and Fellows repeated
the feat in 2003 with Franck Freon and in 2004 with Max Papis. The Corvettes suffered their only loss in
2005 to Aston Martin Racing in Sebring, but took revenge over the green machines with a win in 2006 by
Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen.
"Sebring has always been one of our greatest challenges," said Corvette Racing program
manager Doug Fehan. "From a durability and reliability standpoint, it's as tough a test as we face
anywhere. You only need to look at the great teams and manufacturers who have struggled here in the past
with new race cars to see how difficult it is to run 12 hours here. It is very harsh on people and
What's New for 2007
Chevrolet's factory road racing team is bringing two new cars and a revised driver lineup to this
year's 12-hour enduro. Reigning GT1 champions Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta hope to reprise their
winning run in last year's Sebring race with new teammate Max Papis sharing the No. 4 Compuware Corvette
C6.R. To do that, they'll have to outrun Johnny O'Connell, Jan Magnussen, and Ron Fellows in the No. 3
Compuware Corvette C6.R. O'Connell and Magnussen will contest the entire ALMS series, joined by Fellows
for endurance events.
"Jan will be seeing more seat time over the course of the season, and Ron will be at every race to
provide his guidance and technical input," said Fehan. "This is a natural transition that takes
place in any program that has run continuously for as long as this program has run. We're planning on a
long and promising future for Corvette Racing."
Johnny O'Connell has extra incentive to succeed in Sebring. The redhead from Georgia has a record-tying
six victories at Sebring, including an overall win in 1994 and class wins in 1993, 1995, and 2002-04 - the
last three with Corvette Racing. O'Connell is tied with racing legend Phil Hill for the most Sebring wins.
Hill has three overall victories (1958-59 and 1961) and three class wins (1955, 1962-63). A victory on
Saturday would make O'Connell the only driver with seven Sebring wins on his resume.
"It's an honor just to share the record with a legendary racer like Phil Hill," said
O'Connell. "We certainly have a good shot at a win on Saturday. Our Sebring test in February went
very well, with both cars extremely fast and very close in lap times. Like so many races, it will probably
come down to which car catches the better breaks in traffic and pit stops."
Corvette Racing will have two new C6.R race cars, chassis Nos. 5 and 6, at this event.
"The new cars are virtually identical to last year's chassis, with some minor improvements for
durability, reliability, and serviceability," said Wesoloski. "We've also worked on the engines
to enhance reliability and fuel economy."
"This year we are running 10 percent ethanol under the ALMS regulations, but we've been prepared
to run fuel with ethanol content for some time," he noted. "When we raced at Infineon Raceway in
2004, California regulations required ethanol as an additive, so all of the race cars' fuel lines and
seals were already compatible with gasoline/ethanol fuel. The maximum fuel capacity has been reduced from
100 liters to 90 liters, but we ran several events last year with 90 liters under the performance
balancing regulations, so we're well prepared for that."
Another technical innovation finds the Corvette C6.R race cars equipped with new air conditioning
systems in 2007. The ACO (Le Mans) organizers recommended air conditioning in closed cars after searing
heat at Le Mans in 2005.
"All the credit goes to the GM engineers who develop air conditioning systems for production
vehicles," said Wesoloski. "For several years we used a purpose-built a/c unit to provide cool
air for the drivers to breathe. Now we have a full production-style air conditioner with a compressor and
condenser that cools not only the driver's helmet and seat but also the entire cockpit."
"Under the ACO regulations, running a full air conditioning system allows us to run slightly
larger intake air restrictors to make up for the power that's used to run the system," he explained.
"We're using 31.3 mm diameter restrictors with air conditioning; the restrictor size would be 30.8
mm without it."
The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the first round of the 12-race 2007 American Le Mans Series, is
scheduled to start at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 17, 2007. Portions of the 12-hour race will be
televised live on SPEED Channel from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 to 10:30 p.m. ET.
Release Date: March 13, 2007