When the clock struck midnight at Le Mans on June 14, 2012, the field was set for the 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Corvette Racing's Compuware Corvette C6.Rs will start third and fifth in the GTE Pro field in the classic endurance race. A pair of two-hour qualifying sessions that ended at midnight determined the final qualifying order, but the Corvette Racing crew concentrated on preparations for the upcoming 24-hour test of endurance.
Both Compuware Corvette C6.Rs stood on their qualifying times set on Wednesday night. The No. 59 Ferrari turned the fastest lap in today's first session at 3:55.393, followed by the No. 97 Aston Martin at 3:55.870, knocking the No. 74 Corvette C6.R off the GTE Pro pole that it had held provisionally at the end of yesterday's session. Oliver Gavin turned a lap in 3:55.910 on Wednesday night, and that time held for the third spot in GTE Pro.
"Track conditions were different tonight and that seemed to affect us more than the others," Gavin said. "I just couldn't generate the same cornering force that I could yesterday, and couldn't attack the corners like I did yesterday. It was very close with the Aston Martin getting ahead of us by only a few hundredths of a second on an 8.5-mile circuit. So we'll go with what we've got – third is quite good. I'm looking forward to the race now."
Jan Magnussen's 3:57.181 in the No. 73 Corvette C6.R on Wednesday was the fifth quickest in the GTE Pro category.
"In the first session tonight we gave Jordan (Taylor) as much track time as we could to make sure he’s comfortable with the car and the track," Magnussen said. "As for a fast lap, we decided not to go for that since Antonio (Garcia) still had to get his night time laps in and we were still working on finding the right setup. The good news is that we've saved an extra set of soft tires for Saturday and Sunday."
Garcia agreed with his Danish co-driver: "The car is good but we’re still trying different setups and ideas to make sure we have the best possible package," he said. "All three of us put in a good number of laps at night to get used to the darkness and the traffic, which is a good practice for Saturday night. All in all we’re ready to go."
Long runs in the No. 73 Corvette C6.R bolstered the confidence of the team's youngest driver, 21-year-old Jordan Taylor. "Today was definitely an improvement over yesterday," he noted. "I felt more confident and my lap times were a lot more consistent, which was exactly what I wanted to accomplish. I still keep learning the track over the course of each session, and will continue to do so throughout the weekend."
Tommy Milner opened today's first session with a solid one-hour stint in the No. 74 Corvette C6.R, setting the early pace with a 3:58.214 time that stood as the fastest lap for the first hour.
"I had relatively little traffic tonight, a stark contrast to last night," Milner reported. "We worked through several setup options and made improvements. Ultimately the race is the most important thing, so we're working on making the car comfortable. This is a great test for us, with conditions that are comparable to what we'll see in the race.
"Comparing to last year's car, I'm much happier with the new wide-body C6.R," Milner noted. "Speeds are definitely faster, although some that has to do with the track resurfacing. I would say that all of the computer simulations and technology have paid off."
Richard Westbrook ran nearly an hour in the first session in the No. 74 Corvette C6.R and then completed his mandatory laps in darkness in the second session.
"The car feels good, the lap times are very good, but we don't know what the competition is doing," Westbrook said. "Everyone is on a different program. Some are using qualifying as a race setup simulation like us, some are going for a qualifying lap. It's very difficult to judge where you are. All we can do is our own thing; the Corvette C6.R feels great. It would be nice to know for sure that we are as competitive as it feels we are, but we'll all know for certain on Saturday afternoon."
Corvette Racing's next event is the 24 Hours of Le Mans in Le Mans, France, on June 16-17. The race will start Saturday at 3 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET). SPEED and SPEED.com will provide continuous coverage in the U.S. starting at 8:30 a.m. ET on June 16; see local listings for program times.