It was a race of mixed emotions for
Corvette Racing. The factory Chevrolet
team returned to Victory Lane at the 24
Hours of Le Mans after two years away in
2011, but not with the car that had
dominated the GTE-Pro class. Antonio
Garcia, Tommy Milner and Olivier Beretta
took the laurels courtesy of the
misfortune of others, but the moral
winners were Oliver Gavin, Jan
Magnussen and Richard Westbrook.
The drivers of the No. 74 Corvette C6.R
were ahead nearly all the way until their
retirement during the 17th hour. Gavin
had made the break during a safety car
at the end of the opening hour, and he
and his teammates would stay in control
for more than 15 hours.
“We were basically managing our pace
and the gap to everyone else,” recalls
Gavin. “The car was coming more and
more to us as the track gripped up. Ferrari
was pushing very hard to try to catch up,
but as long as we kept doing the basics
SOME THINGS, YOU JUST CAN’T PLAN FOR
right, we were going to get another win.”
Corvette Racing has lots of happy memories from Le Mans. Its 2011 win? That one is bittersweet...
The No. 74 Corvette’s race was over in a
blink of an eye halfway through the 17th
hour. Magnussen took to the grass in the
final right-left jink out of the Porsche
Curves to avoid a GTE-Am car. A steering
arm broke in the initial contact and the
Corvette’s No. 73 C6.R relied mostly on
Antonio Garcia, Tommy Milner – and a
couple of lucky breaks – to take the
team’s seventh Le Mans class win.
Corvette’s triumphant trio from 2011 are
all multiple Le Mans class winners, with
a total of 11 victories between them.
’Vette then turned hard right into the
Porsche. The Chevrolet was out of the race.
That left the Garcia/Milner/Beretta
Chevy chasing the AF Corse Ferrari 458
Italia of Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander
and Giancarlo Fisichella. It looked like
Corvette Racing would have to settle for
second until the Italian car started to
slow courtesy of a problem with the coil.
Milner took the lead in the 22nd hour
and Garcia went on to complete a seventh
class victory for the team after a race in
which the pair had completed the majority
of the driving. Beretta, in his last season
with Chevrolet, had been left out of the
rotation through the night and then went
off on his out-lap in the morning and was
hauled straight out of the car.
“We started to dig that little bit deeper,
but we weren’t going to catch them,”
remembers Milner. “Then they started to
have their problems. Some laps they were
slow and some laps they were quick, so
we still had to push.”
against taking its new
Corvette C5-R to
Le Mans in 1999,
instead focussing on a
program including the
the Rolex 24 and
Le Mans Series rounds.
The ’Vette did grace
the Circuit de la Sarthe
that year, however.
Chevrolet supplied the
safety cars (BELOW) in
a deal, says program
manager Doug Fehan,
that was “all about
getting to know
[race organizer] the