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LE MANS, France, June 17, 2012 – The Corvettes were in control of the GTE Pro class, running first and third after 10 hours of racing when the class-leading No. 74 Corvette C6.R suffered a sudden reversal of fortune. The No. 74 Corvette had taken the lead in the fifth hour, but after a routine pit stop and driver change, the No. 74 lost its left-rear tire. Driver Richard Westbrook nursed the car back to the pits, and the crews from both cars descended on the damaged machine. Ten minutes later it was back on track, having fallen from first to sixth in the standings. But the misfortune continued when Westbrook had to take evasive action in the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight to avoid a car and eased into a tire barrier, damaging the nose and requiring another extended stay in the garage.
“Driving around with the left-rear wheel missing damaged the diffuser, so that was the major repair,” said team manager Gary Pratt. “We also changed the brakes, since that was scheduled to be done soon. We don’t know why the wheel came off – obviously the nut wasn’t tightened completely, but we don’t yet understand why that happened.
“Then as Richard came up on a car in the first chicane, the other driver checked up and Richard had to swerve to miss him and ended up in the tire barrier,” Pratt explained. “We changed the nose, and then saw that the previous incident had damaged the gearbox, so we changed that as well.”
The No. 73 Corvette C6.R moved up from fifth to third as Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, and Jordan Taylor cycled through their stints.
When the first safety car period ended at the 6:14 mark, both Corvettes came to the pits for fuel, tires, and driver changes. Antonio Garcia went into the No. 73 Corvette and Oliver Gavin into the No. 74 Corvette. Gavin retained the lead over the No. 51 Ferrari, and Garcia emerged in fifth. In the next hour, Garcia moved up to third, while Gavin continued to lead. Shortly after eight hours of racing, Garcia committed to a third stint, pitting for fuel only. Gavin pitted after his double stint and handed over the No. 74 Corvette to Tommy Milner, who extended the gap to the No. 51 Ferrari in second place to more than 50 seconds before the fateful pit stop.
Antonio Garcia, No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R: “That was long – three hours! But it was a lot of fun as I was on the track together with Olly for most of the time. By also triple-stinting the tires we managed to gain some 16 seconds at each pit stop, while I only lost three seconds or so over an entire stint against the guys who’d put on new ones. Now I need some rest!”
Jordan Taylor, No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R: “It was tough out there. The first couple of laps of my second stint I had to adapt to the full tank again. I followed a couple of quicker guys around the track so I could learn more myself. The car is quick, but I don’t think we need all the speed it has just now as there are guys going off everywhere. We’re still only halfway.”
Oliver Gavin, No. 74 Compuware Corvette C6.R: “I was out in the car at good time, with the sun going down and the track cooling down a bit. The Michelin tires were working well, and I had a great battle with Melo in the Ferrari and also Antonio in our sister car. It was hard racing, hairy at times, measuring the risk versus reward trying to put them a lap down. After Melo got by me the second time, I decided to follow him and try to push him into making a mistake. We managed to get by him on the pit stop and then pull away on the second stint.”
24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Pro at 12 Hours:
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