Corvette were left ruing what could of been after a collision in the pit lane in the early hours of the race cost them time and places at the 12 hours of Sebring.
The race had started well for the two Corvettes with Jan Magnussen running a comfortable fourth followed by Oliver Gavin in the opening half hour, minutes later the two had moved to second and third, unfortunately from there on things started to go wrong.
The #3 Corvette had to pit to repair a power steering hose problem just short of the 2 hour mark, leaving them eight laps down from the leader, just as the team though things couldn’t get any worse Magnussen pitted just past 3 hours, Magnussen jumped back in the Corvette after a stint from Johnny O’Connell, the pit stop seemed to go fine. It was then things hit a low point, Magnussen was released from his pit box just as the #4 Corvette came down the pit lane, Emmanuel Collard couldn’t stop in time smashing in to the front of the exiting car of Magnussen.
The #3 headed back out on track but suffered a front left puncture as a result of rubbing bodywork leaving Magnussen to nurse the car back to the pits on three wheels as the tyre shredded itself under the wheel arch. #4 was taken around to the transporters where they replaced the front stabilizer bar and bodywork.
“I can't tell you all the things that had to line up for that to happen right there, but it was super unfortunate and everyone is feeling bad about it,” Magnussen said. “I feel so sorry for the #4 Corvette – we were out of contention because we had a long pit stop, but the #4 car was in with a good shot, it was fast. I can guarantee that things will be done so that never happens again.”
“It was a misunderstanding because normally I should pit one lap later, but I had a low fuel alarm on the back straight,” Collard explained. “I put the reserve on and they asked me come to the pits.”
“An incident like this has never happened before at Corvette Racing,” said program manager Doug Fehan. “A perfect storm of events that certainly we can’t attribute to any one thing caused the two cars to come together in pit lane. We'll go back and look at what took place, establish procedures to ensure that it never happens again, and come back stronger for the next event. Even when our guys were laps down to the leaders, they ran just as hard after that incident as they did before. That tells you what Corvette Racing is about.”
During the eighth hour the #4 Corvette was hit by a errant tyre on the course, thankfully a glancing blow in a situation that could of been a lot worse. As darkness fell Gavin reported that his headlights weren’t working properly leading to another long pit stop to replace the nose, headlight and harness assembly.
“I don’t know which of the racing gods I’ve offended, but I’d certainly like to apologize,” Gavin quipped. “It's been an extraordinary day, the most eventful ever for this team. We had a car capable of challenging anyone, but somehow it all went wrong. So now it's on to Long Beach.”
The remaining 4 hours passed without incident as O’Connell and Berretta tool the chequered flag for the team.
“Racing is hard stuff, and no matter how hard you try and how hard you prepare, sometimes things go wrong,” O’Connell said. “You can either beat yourself up or be encouraged by how well the crew performed to get both cars back in the race. The guys were awesome. We got a lot of positives out of this event: We made good progress on our engine development and we got a gauge to measure where we stand versus the competition. The mark of a champion is overcoming adversity and finding ways to win, and I know this team can do that.”
Corvette will be looking forward to putting the 12 hour classic race behind them as they prepare for the next round as ALMS moves to Long Beach for the shorter sprint race on April 17.
Below is a video of the pit lane incident…