CORVETTE C6.R SIGNS OFF ON TOP
& JAN MAGNUSSEN
AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES GT
he dogfight for the final American
Le Mans Series GT title pitted the
supremely universal attributes of a
gracefully ageing Corvette C6.R against
the incredibly specific traits of the
brand-new BMW Z4, making for a
fascinating 10-round see-saw battle
between differing philosophies.
Fittingly, the last hurrah before U.S.
sports car racing’s unification in 2014
became a duel of old age and treachery
vs. youth and enthusiasm. And even when
the scales tipped in the venerable ’Vette’s
favor, the raucous V8-powered Z4 was
always looking to start a ruckus.
If a track favored high downforce and
modest top speeds, the Rahal Letterman
Lanigan Racing-led factory BMW program
unloaded as the favorite. In anything
other than those unique conditions,
GM’s Corvette Racing arm was always
threatening to win, partly thanks to
prodigious top speed, but mostly down to
the collective experience and skill of a
program that knows how to win smart.
“I think if you look at the data and
you watched the races, it’s clear what our
advantage was,” says Corvette Racing
program manager Doug Fehan. “Our
advantage was not so much in the vehicle:
it was in our driver skill, race strategy and
good execution, because in two of the five
victories that we had, we were one lap
away from not winning. We were lucky to
hold on at COTA and at Mosport. In the
Tend, it was just that dedication to mission,
race strategy, driver execution and the
work of our guys in the pits.
“We weren’t the guys on pole position
all year, and with some of those victories,
we were one of the slowest cars on the
race track, but we ended up winning. And
that pretty much tells the story. If you’re
not doing it with your vehicle, you’re
doing it with your personnel. It becomes a
people business. And in reality, that’s how
we got it done. Look at how many races
we qualified fifth and sixth. And yet we’d
end up running at the front, or near the
front, when it came to the final outcome.
That was our advantage.”
Mirroring Fehan’s theme of “execution
exceeding vehicle,” Bobby Rahal chalks up
BMW’s two wins to track-based benefits.
“This year, to some extent, the results
flattered,” he says of the wide-bodied Z4s.
“Our Long Beach win was purely down
to a very good strategy. Obviously, the
drivers did a great job. But I think that,
WORDS Marshall Pruett MAIN IMAGE Camden Thrasher