The final round of the 2009 ALMS season was held at California's beautiful Laguna Seca circuit-2.238 miles of twisting, elevation-changing, glass-smooth pavement. Many of the teams arrived at Laguna with their championship hopes still in place. LMP1's Highcroft's Acura team had been scrambling to make enough points to keep its lead in the prototype category. In GT2 the Risi Ferrari team finished well in the rain-soaked Petit race and was right on the Porsche Flying Lizard team's coattails. The Corvette Racing program was finishing out a five-race development program in GT2 and was not in the championship hunt. However, the Corvette team had progressed well, with podium finishes at almost every race, including its first win at Mosport.
The ALMS Laguna schedule is short and sweet: a test/practice day Thursday afternoon, additional practice and qualifying on Friday, and the race Saturday. This gave the Corvette engineers development time to work out suspension setups that would satisfy the drivers while delivering optimum performance. The Thursday practice was fairly uneventful, but Friday's session was pretty foggy, and the road surface a little more slippery than usual. The Corvettes had their problems with the conditions. Both cars suffered off-road excursions, with the No. 4 car needing a front-end rebuild due to damage. On top of that, the drivers were asking for changes in Fifth and Sixth gears, which meant pulling the gearbox and re-spec'ing the transaxle ratios as well. It made for a busy day, with only 41/2 hours until the start of practice/qualifying in the afternoon.
The repairs and adjustments were made, and the Team Corvette C6.Rs were on pit lane to start the afternoon sessions on time. Jan Magnussen surprised everyone with a great time, grabbing pole position for the GT2 class. The Risi F430 Ferrari, piloted by Jamie Melo, slotted in Second, and Oliver Gavin brought the Corvette No. 4 car home in Third.
Race day offered morning fog but clear skies for the 2 p.m. race start. The green flag flew for the four-hour race, and the sun finally took over to burn off any residual gloom. The Corvettes immediately took control, with Magnussen in the No. 3 car leading the GT2 pack, and Gavin quickly passing the red Ferrari to take up second. The C6.Rs continued the 1-2 class lead through the first hour of competition. The pair pitted for tires and fuel only, and left with Gavin ahead in the No. 4 car, due to a prolonged fueling time for No. 3.
This pit service was soon followed by a full-course yellow, and the subsequent restart spelled trouble for Gavin. He was under a full head of steam through the start/finish, came roaring down the hill on the inside through Turn 1, and ran out of room to brake for the tight-hairpin Turn 2. At that point Olly was "bowling for dollars," as he carried two other cars with him into the sand trap outside of Turn 2 while also damaging the Highcroft prototype. It was a big "off," and it forced the course marshals to declare another yellow-flag condition. Laguna's sand traps are built to stop very light FIA motorbikes, so cars that enter them sink immediately up to their hubs and require a time-consuming extrication.
The No. 4 car was somehow able to get back on track under its own power and was directed by crew chief Mike West to head straight to the garage for repair. In Corvette Racing style, the car was rebuilt with a combination of new parts and plenty of yellow-impregnated Bear Bond, and was back on track for competition in 15 minutes. Gavin's partner, Olivier Beretta, would finish the race for the No. 4 car, but not before a flat front tire forced him into another time-consuming pit stop. It simply wasn't the No. 4 car's day, and it would finish several laps down to the leader in GT2.