Bergmeister got the result he was looking for, and the Porsche squirted onto the front straight ahead of the Corvette. Magnussen gathered the C6.R up and got it rotated and back to throttle very quickly. It was now a drag race to the finish. Bergmeister deduced in mid-corner that his ploy was not going to be enough and immediately angled his car left toward the inside wall with Magnussen between him and the concrete barrier. The left wall defining the front straight at Laguna Seca pinches in to the right as you transition to the start/finish line. The fastest line out of Turn 11 is to stay mid-track and aim for just right of the inside wall on the left as it passes under the bridge where the finish line is. Bergmeister, however, took a driving line that forced the Corvette directly into the wall to the left. The German hoped he could stay ahead enough to force Magnussen to back off and concede the race.
This did not happen. The Corvette quickly moved past the Porsche and started to pull away. However, the Porsche driver had already committed himself to pinching the Corvette and carried the maneuver to the end. With the wall on the left and no room to angle away from the Porsche, Magnussen had nowhere to go. Bergmeister drove his left front wheel into the right rear quarter panel of the leading Corvette. This resulted in a perfect, police-style "pit maneuver," causing the Corvette to snap sideways to the right, shoot across the track on the opposite side, and crash head-on into the concrete barrier. It was a huge hit at 130 mph, with the car careening off of the wall and sliding up track for another 100 yards. Safety crews were immediately dispatched. Horrified Corvette Racing team members dropped everything and rushed down pit lane to see what they could do.
The race ended with the Porsche awarded First place, the No. 3 C6.R trashed, and Magnussen in the medical center. He had the wind knocked out of him and was pretty banged up, but thanks to the phenomenal safety characteristics built into the C6.R, he didn't suffer any serious injuries. The IMSA officials would eventually uphold the Porsche victory, securing the season championship for the Lizard team. However, they also handed out a two-race probation to both Magnussen and Bergmeister for aggressive driving, to be exacted starting with the 2010 season.
This was not how the Corvette team wanted to end the season, but such are the wages of racing. In this reporter's mind the crash could have-and should have-been avoided. The Porsche driver was beaten, and he knew it; he just took things too far. (For historic perspective, Bergmeister had been the victim of a similar incident at Sebring in 2007. Perhaps that experience colored his judgment as he entered the final straight at Laguna.)
The 2009 season is over, and the Corvette GT2 development program is completed, but more work remains to be done over the winter break. Corvette Racing will be back for 2010 to take on the extremely competitive GT2 field. I, for one, can't wait.
ALMS Honors Corvette Racing
All of the ALMS teams met the day following the season-closing race, to celebrate the conclusion of a very challenging year. The annual awards banquet honored the championship teams of Patrón Highcroft Racing in LMP1, Lowe's Fernandez Racing in LMP2, and Flying Lizard in GT2. The ALMS discontinued any awards in the GT1 class after Corvette Racing's last race in that category at Long Beach last April. The Corvette team participated in only the last five races of the season in GT2, so it wasn't eligible for top awards in that category. Doug Fehan did, however, carry the GM banner in receiving the "From the Fans" award.
The ALMS also took the opportunity to congratulate Corvette Racing on a decade of consistently successful competition in the USA's premiere sports-car racing series. A compilation video of the team's 10 years of GT1 racing was shown, and a champagne toast was made as team members collected on stage for the tribute. Closure of the GT1 door opens a new door in GT2-and a fresh world of challenges, expectations, and competition.