Corvette Racing is always keen to show what it's made of, but having a chance to do so in front of the hometown crowd in Detroit really kicks the team members into high gear. The Second Annual Detroit Grand Prix brought relatively good weather and a reasonably fine racing surface (for a street course) on the Belle Isle venue. Roger Penske has taken the lead in assuring that this event goes smoothly, and anything "The Captain" gets involved in is sure to be a success. As it did last year, the Detroit event encompassed a weekend full of racing, with the ALMS groups paired with both IRL and SPEED GT to create a spectator's road-racing overload.
Exercising home-field advantage, the Corvette team brought along anyone and everyone involved with the racing program. The "bigwigs" from GM were well represented, with the likes of Ed Peper, Mark Kent, and Tom Wallace. Emerson Fittipaldi was also there to watch over his adopted ALMS team (Fittipaldi's daughter is married to Max Papis, who pulls driving duties in a C6.R at long-distance events) and to drive the race's Z06 pace car. And seemingly everyone from Pratt & Miller made the drive over from the company's home base in nearby New Hudson. With all the extra foot traffic in the paddock garage, it was a wonder the Vette crews were able to keep on schedule and on task.
The ALMS weekend was scheduled so as to provide minimal exposure to the track. Friday brought a morning warm-up and an afternoon practice, followed later by a qualifying round. The Corvettes hid out for the afternoon practice session as a brief rain shower doused the track. Having experienced significant shunts the last two races, the team had no interest in potentially damaging the freshly repaired C6.Rs.
The afternoon qualifying session did offer relatively dry conditions, allowing Jan Magnussen, in the No. 3 car, to edge out Oliver Gavin's No. 4 for class pole position. Taking advantage of the tight street course, two nimble Porsche GT2 entries squeezed into time slots between the two GT1 team Corvettes. The lone GT1 Aston DBR9, with Terry Borcheller aboard, dutifully filled in the third GT1 class position.
Following a brief warm-up on Saturday, the race got underway early in the afternoon. The start was briefly delayed when the leaders stretched themselves out so much the starter waved them off on the initial try. With the field well bunched and behaving themselves, the green flag was dropped and the racers charged ahead in the shadow of GM's Renaissance Towers.
Before the race, the two Porsche GT2 drivers had advised the Corvette team that they would be watching for Gavin's forward charge and would not hold him up. It took a few laps for the Brit to pull into position behind the No. 3 car, but the maneuver went off uneventfully. The race was to be 2 hours and 45 minutes in length, so two pit stops were planned. During lap 40, both C6.Rs came in for their scheduled service appointments. In an uncharacteristic bungle, Dan Bink's team let the No. 3 car down off of its air jacks before the left rear wheel nut could be sufficiently tightened. This prompted the car to be raised again so the nut could be properly torqued, after which it was dropped once again to finally reenter the fight. The additional time allowed the No. 4 to scoot out ahead of its stablemate and gain the class lead.
Given the tight confines of the Belle Isle street course, catching up to the No. 4 car would prove next to impossible for Magnussen. Both C6.Rs performed flawlessly the rest of the day, and the second pit stop brought no unpleasant surprises for either crew. The race concluded with Gavin and Olivier Beretta taking First place in GT1, while Magnussen and Johnny O'Connell captured Second. The Aston brought up the GT1 rear in Third, fully seven laps down from the Corvettes.