Corvette Racing lead the GTE class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a quarter of the race completed. The No. 74 took the class lead in the opening stages, and remained there at the six hour mark. The No. 73 holds fourth place in the class.
Oliver Gavin started the No. 74 from fourth in class, taking two places on the opening lap. He made an early pitstop which allowed him to take the lead of the class during a lengthy safety car period which lasted more than an hour after the heavy crash of Allan McNish. The two safety cars used at Le Mans allowed Gavin to build up an advantage of more than a minute and a half over the rest of the class. Olivier Beretta was second, behind the second of the two safety cars.
“I was behind Priaulx’s BMW at the start, and as we came out of Tertre Rouge I could see him struggling,” said Gavin. “I went wide on the Mulsanne Straight, got a tow from the three cars ahead of me, and went around both BMWs.
“I was right behind the leading Ferrari, but backed off a little to settle into a rhythm. I needed to pit, and then we got a lucky break with the pace car. I was really happy after all the times the safety car has gone against us in the past. We can still make the car a little better, but we’re not far off.”
Gavin handed over to Jan Magnussen after two and a half hours, with Richard Westbrook then taking the wheel around two hours later.
“There was a lot of traffic in my first stint, which meant I couldn't make the best of my tires when they were new,” Magnussen said. “The second stint was very difficult, so we'll have to make some changes over the next few pit stops to compensate for that.”
Beretta moved from sixth to fourth at the start. Like Gavin, he benefited from stopping earlier to move up to second under the safety car.
“It was just a regular double stint like we had planned, only a bit longer because of the lengthy safety car period which meant we could stretch our fuel dollar by 50 percent,” said Beretta. “I tried to stay with the sister Corvette for as long as I could, but the safety car cut in between us so I lost a third of a lap. So far everything is going okay.”
Tommy Milner took over from Beretta, completing his first stint at Le Mans in the Corvette. “This track is more mentally tough than it is physically tough,” said the American. “I feel good out there, the most comfortable I’ve been since we arrived, and obviously early in the race is a good time for that to happen. Now we just have to run laps and be there in the end. I’ve seen a lot of guys racing in traffic and there’s no point in that – one little mistake and you’re in the garage. We can push at the finish if we need to.”
Antonio Garcia replaced Milner, holding third at the start of the fifth hour. However, a puncture brought him back in to the pits, dropping the car to sixth. He was able to make up two places before the six hour mark.