Corvette Racing finished the Le Mans Test Day in first and fourth in the GTE Pro class after Oliver Gavin managed to put his #74 Compuware Corvette C6.R on top of the time sheets with a 3:58.971.
His rookie teammate Jordan Taylor managed to place fourth, despite an encounter with the tyre wall at the Porsche Curves.
The pace was encouraging for the Corvette team, with Gavin’s lap more than a half a second quicker than the qualifying pace last year at the 8.5-mile circuit.
“We made some changes to the suspension and gearbox, and the track was coming in,” said Gavin. “The balance of the car was good. We didn’t get a run on new tires because of rain and yellow flags, but the tires were reasonably fresh and I wanted to see what we could do. I think the chassis is very close and the engine department is making big steps forward. I’m with the best team in the pit lane and the crew has done a stellar job of preparing the cars.”
Teammate Taylor only arrived at the French circuit minutes before the session, after he took an overnight flight from the Chevrolet Grand-Am Detroit 200 on Saturday, in which he co-drove the class-winning Camero GT.R. Taylor’s Le Mans debut started well before an abrupt end when he hit the tyre wal at the Porsche Curves. Taylor was uninjured, but the #73 Corvette sustained enough damage to end his afternoon.
“Racing takes you from the highest highs to the lowest lows,” Taylor said. “I was living the dream, driving at Le Mans, and the dream just ends when you lose it like that. I know the crew can put the car back together, but it shouldn’t have happened.”
“I was only supposed to get my 10 laps in and I guess I got a bit greedy trying to learn the track and get up to speed quicker,” he explained. “My times were coming down every lap, but I went for it in the Porsche Curves and it caught me out. The hit felt bigger than it was, so I’m glad about that, but I feel terrible for everyone.”
Before Taylor’s off, co-drivers Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia put the #73 Corvette near the 4-minute mark on a day of mixed conditions.
“All’s good,” Garcia said. “We have been trying different things today, getting the 2012-spec car dialed in to this track. At Le Mans, every lap always counts, even if it rains for a while. You never know what the weather and track conditions will be in qualifying and the race, so you try to get as much information today to work with next week when it matters. Compared to last year, the new car is a major improvement.”
Richard Westbrook, who will partner Gavin and Tommy Milner in the #74 Corvette, was unable to attend the test day. However, Milner is confident this wont be too much of an issue.
“It’s always good when your car number is on the top of the timing screen,” Milner said. “Compared to last year, the driveability of the car is better and the speed is there. This team is working very well together – the engineers, the crew, and the drivers are all in tune and have the same mindset. When race week arrives, we can focus on getting into a rhythm, getting Richard comfortable in the car, and go on from there.”
Corvette Racing’s team manager Gary Pratt believes his cars and drivers are ready for the race.
“All of the drivers are really comfortable with the cars,” Pratt noted. “They feel they can be aggressive and attack the course. That’s a great way to have a car to start the race. We may sacrifice a little on the straightaway to have the cars good in the corners, and I think that’s better for the race.”