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LE MANS, France, June 13, 2012 – Preparations for this weekend’s 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans began today with four hours of free practice followed by the first of three two-hour qualifying sessions. Oliver Gavin qualified the No. 74 Corvette C6.R on the provisional pole in GTE Pro with a lap at 3:55.910 in the opening minutes of the qualifying session. Jan Magnussen provisionally qualified the No. 73 Corvette C6.R third at 3:57.181.
“I never thought we would get down to such quick lap times in a GT car,” Gavin said. “It’s amazing to run 3.55s with the regulations in this class. It shows what Corvette Racing can do. The car was really fantastic, one of the best I’ve ever driven at Le Mans.”
Gavin’s time was quicker than his class-leading lap in the second session on Test Day, and quicker than last year’s pole-winning time in GTE Pro.
“I was helped hugely on the lap by Jan,” Gavin explained. “He was just in front of me on the Mulsanne Straight. I started to tow up behind him, and as we came out of the second chicane he let me by – it was just perfect. I know that I left something on the table on that lap. I might have gone quicker on the next one, but a Prototype passed me in the Porsche Curves and held me up just that little bit. Who knows?”
Corvette Racing’s twin Compuware Corvette C6.Rs were third and eighth in the opening practice session. Then after a two-hour break, the initial qualifying session ran from 10 p.m. to midnight on the imposing 8.5-mile circuit.
“My qualifying lap was quite decent,” Magnussen said. “The balance of the car has improved a lot since this afternoon’s free practice session. Straight after I set my time the car developed a power steering problem which the team resolved so Jordan could get in his night laps.”
Jordan Taylor was back on track in the No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R after an encounter with a tire wall during the Test Day on June 3. The 21-year-old Le Mans rookie was quickly up to speed.
“I just wanted to get used to the car again and gain confidence,” Taylor said. “It was a little intimidating going back out there after the test, but I was happy to get in some laps and I’m looking forward to doing more laps to gain experience. The track is a little greener and a little cooler than it was during the test, but it’s always changing here on the public roads.”
Richard Westbrook was unable to participate in the Test Day due to a schedule conflict, so the third driver of the No. 74 Corvette C6.R was eager to get reacquainted with the car that he last raced in March in Sebring, Fla.
“It’s always nice driving a C6.R here at Le Mans,” Westbrook said. “We were expecting the track to have changed quite a bit from the test, but it doesn’t seem to have done that. We have a good baseline and we’re feeling confident.”
Antonio Garcia turned his quickest time in the No. 73 Corvette C6.R in the four-hour practice at 3:59.480. “The car feels good, and we were just getting reacquainted with the track so we ran the entire session on old tires” said the Spaniard. “We know we can go a long distance on the same set of tires, so that’s good news. We also know we’ll be right there once we put on a set of new tires. The track is slowly improving as the competitors are putting in more laps in longer runs, so they’re putting down more rubber.”
Qualifying will continue on Thursday with a second session from 7 to 9 p.m., and conclude with the final session from 10 p.m. to midnight. With the possibility of rain tomorrow, the team has already posted competitive qualifying times with both Corvettes and four of the six drivers have completed their required laps in darkness.
Corvette Racing’s next event is the 24 Hours of Le Mans in Le Mans, France, on June 16-17. Practice and qualifying continues on Thursday, June 14 with two two-hour sessions. The race will start Saturday at 3 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET). SPEED and SPEED.com will provide continuous coverage starting at 8:30 a.m. ET on June 16; see local listings for program times.
24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Pro Provisional Qualifying Times
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