The run for the American Le Mans Series championships begins now. The series' upcoming stint of five races in eight weeks will likely determine the champions in the production-based GT category. After a seven-week break in the ALMS schedule to accommodate the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the battle for the GT titles will be rejoined in the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City on Sunday, July 11.
With three of nine rounds completed, Corvette Racing drivers Jan Magnussen and Johnny O'Connell are fifth in the drivers championship, 25 points behind the leaders (65-40), while Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta are sixth. Chevrolet is fourth in the manufacturer standings with an 18-point deficit to the frontrunner (65-47).
"With the 24 Hours of Le Mans now behind us, Corvette Racing is focused on the second half of our mission, which is our quest for an ALMS championship," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "The entire team was heartened by the speed, handling and braking that the Compuware Corvettes demonstrated in Le Mans, and we are optimistic that will translate into improved performance throughout the rest of the ALMS season. To capture a championship, we have to focus on winning.
"Running five races in eight weeks is exactly the type of challenge that Corvette Racing relishes," Fehan said. "It heightens the team's intensity, drive, and passion. I'm confident that our race cars, parts, and people are fully prepared for the upcoming series of events. We know that we've done it before and we can do it again."
Sunday's race will be the debut of the GT2 Corvette C6.Rs at Miller Motorsports Park. The team competed in the GT1 category at MMP in 2006-08, and did not participate in last year's Utah Grand Prix due to an abbreviated schedule. The track's 4,400-foot elevation and the predicted 90-degree temperature on race day will make demands on the drivers, crew, and equipment.
"The high altitude affects engine horsepower, aerodynamic performance, and cooling," said Corvette Racing team manager Gary Pratt. "The thin air reduces the overall downforce that the aerodynamic package can produce, although the aero balance is similar to sea level. The altitude will affect all of the naturally aspirated engines equally, and we're prepared to increase airflow through the radiator to compensate for the reduced cooling."
"With the heat and the altitude, this could be the most physical sprint race of the year," said driver Jan Magnussen. "Hot weather will put a lot of emphasis on tires. It's been two years since I raced at Miller Motorsports Park with the GT1 Corvette. It's a great track, and it should suit the Corvettes in GT2 specification. I have great expectations."
Like a modern day Viking, Magnussen has traveled far and wide in search of victories. In the last month, the Danish driver has raced a Chevrolet Lacetti in a Scandinavian Touring Car Championship race in Gothenburg, Sweden, a Corvette C6.R in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Phoenix Racing's Impala SS in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Sonoma, Calif., and Stevenson Motorsports' Camaro GT.R in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series event in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Magnussen finished 12th in his NASCAR debut at Infineon Raceway on June 20. "The first couple of hours of the race were hard but super fair, and everybody would allow you to race side by side and even three wide," he reported. "But the last half-hour was just wild, every man for himself. I tried to keep my nose clean and stay out of trouble. I think 12th was a good result."
Next Sunday, Magnussen and the entire Corvette Racing team will be aiming for first place.