Jan Magnussen passes BMW driver...
Jan Magnussen passes BMW driver Bill Auberlen to take over second place with only minutes to go.
With the fall of the green flag, the class-leading cars rushed into Long Beach's unforgiving, 90-degree Turn 1. The first two positions in GT became an all-out struggle between the Falken Tire Porsche and the Risi Ferrari, with O'Connell and the No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche RSR of Jorg Bergmeister slightly behind.
At 57 minutes into the 100-minute competition, the No. 3 C6.R came in for its first and only service appointment. O'Connell arrived in third position and relinquished his seat to Magnussen, who rejoined the fray in sixth. The refueling was quick, requiring only 10 gallons of cellulosic E85, but the driver change was a bit protracted and resulted in the car being slightly delayed for pit-out.
Despite the lovely weather, a metaphorical black cloud hung over the No. 4 C6.R all day. About 30 minutes after the green flag fell, an abruptly braking Porsche forced Beretta into a tire barrier. While the shunt resulted in significant injury to the side, rear, and front of the C6.R, Beretta was able to soldier on. Unfortunately the damage would force subsequent driver Oliver Gavin to make two additional pit stops before the day was done, providing ample opportunity for the crew to apply tenacious yellow BearBond to the nose of the car.
Meanwhile, Magnussen had moved up to fifth and was in the process of chasing down the remaining competition. With less than 30 minutes to go, the task looked insurmountable. The two BMW M3s had elected not to install fresh rubber during their pit stops, since team tire supplier Dunlop had insisted that the cars could expect a full race out of one set. The strategy paid off initially, pushing the cars up to first and second in class after the pit cycle. However, their rapidly deteriorating rubber would let them down in the long run, allowing Patrick Long in the freshly shod No. 45 Porsche to put both BMW entries behind him. With only minutes left, Magnussen passed the Risi Ferrari and the two BMWs to capture second, a position he would hold through the end of the race. It was a spectacular performance, and real testament to the Dane's driving skills on a very difficult and tight circuit.
The No. 4 car came in a disappointing Ninth in class but did manage to finish the race despite the earlier damage and delay. The Auberlen/Milner BMW M3 took Third. Highcroft Patron Racing's nimble LMP2 prototype battled all race long for dominance before finally executing a last-lap pass of the Aston Martin LMP1 entry to take the overall win.
Corvette Racing immediately turned its attention to the six-hour Laguna Seca enduro, a final tune-up in preparation for the Le Mans 24-hour in June. The race at La Sarthe would be Corvette Racing's first foray into GT2 competition at the historic French track, and with the battle for class supremacy at a fever pitch, expectations are of a knock-down, drag-out fight.
In Detail: Driver's Traffic Alert System
With 36 cars on the track at one time, and more than a dozen cars in the GT class alone, it can be difficult for a driver to keep tabs on where he is in relationship to his competitors and the traffic around them. Corvette Racing has given its drivers an advantage in the form of a small video monitor mounted on the top left side of the dash. The monitor lets the driver know in real time exactly which cars are ahead of and behind him. With four classes of cars on the track at one time, all with significant speed and handling differences, it's an important piece of information to have. The prototype cars can be upon the driver in a flash-one moment there's nothing in the rearview camera, and a split second later, a car is flashing by at warp speed. It's a situation that can easily create an accident and put both cars out of the race. With the traffic alert system running, the C6.R drivers always know what to expect. This is just one more way in which the GM team gives its entries an extra technological advantage.