After leading the class since the first hour of the race the no.74 Corvette Racing entry has been forced to retire from the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans after an accident approaching the Ford Chicane.
Jan Magnussen was aboard the class leader and was trying to pass the slower GTEAm Porsche of Proton Competition on the inside of the left handed kink that points the cars back towards the main grandstands that flank the start line of the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Magnussen, he says, tried to avoid the Porsche by taking to the grass and kerb but the Corvette speared right, into the side of the Porsche sending both cars pin-balling across the track to hit both barriers heavily. The second impact destroyed the rear or the Corvette. Horst Felbermayr Sr., driving the Proton Competition car was tended to by medical crews, and was taken away in a neck brace. His hands were moving, but there is no confirmed news of his condition.
“I’m OK, but the car is not,” said the Dane. “It had lots of damage, there was no steering input, and I couldn’t drive it back. I’m so sorry for all the guys.”
The Corvette, which Magnussen shares with Oliver Gavin and Richard Westbrook had led the GTEPro class comfortably since the opening hour, when the car was able to gain an advantage having pitted just before the safety car came out after Allan McNish's accident at the Dunlop Curves.
“It seems when it gets around 8 o’clock, something happens, whether it’s an issue with the car or a crash like today,” said Gavin. “It’s just devastating when you work all year toward this race. The crew has worked so hard, they’ve done everything right. We didn’t have the easiest car to drive but it was fast when we got it dialed in. We led from the first safety car period and that’s what makes it so hard – we keep leading for so long and then something happens. That’s what makes Le Mans so cruel and so great to win when you overcome all that and succeed. This is the hardest race in the world to win.”
The second Corvette has moved up to second place with its teammate's retirement, Olivier Beretta having survived nosing into the tyres barriers at Arnage shortly before the safety car came out to help recover and tend to the two stricken cars near pit entrance