Corvette Racing's Compuware Corvette C6.R race cars ran consistently at the front of the GT2 class throughout the first quarter of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The sixth hour featured an intense battle for P1 between Emmanuel Collard in the No. 64 Corvette C6.R and Pierre Kaffer in the No. 82 Ferrari 430 GTC. After running within a car length for lap after lap, the duel was ended by a pit stop during a safety car period that temporarily split the two racers. The No. 63 Corvette C6.R was holding third after six hours of racing.
Competition in the GT2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans took an eventful turn in the hours before midnight. After a safety car period had threatened to split the GT2 field, a brilliant battle broke out between Oliver Gavin in the No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R and Jaime Melo in the No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GTC. The fight for first was finally resolved when the Ferrari went to the garage with a reported gearbox problem. The No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R then pulled back into contention with a strategic triple stint by Jan Magnussen.
A full-course caution shortly before 9 p.m. separated the GT2 frontrunners behind three safety cars. The No. 64 Corvette was held at the pit lane exit under the new regulations, losing valuable track position. A late pit stop by the class-leading No. 82 Ferrari saw Melo return to the track just ahead of Gavin.
The No. 63 Corvette C6.R retired from the 24 Hours of Le Mans shortly after 7 a.m. this morning after completing 225 laps. Antonio Garcia was on his out-lap after replacing Johnny O'Connell in a routine pit stop when he reported a noise entering Mulsanne corner. Telemetry confirmed a problem, and the engine expired before he reached Indianapolis corner.
"Unfortunately it appears to be an engine failure, our first in 11 years of racing at Le Mans," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "We'll get the car back, take it apart, determine what the problem was, resolve it, and move forward. The engine was running perfectly one minute, and then not perfectly the next. There wasn't any indication leading up to it - no loss of oil pressure, no degradation in performance. The cause could be any number of things, so we'll look into it further before reaching a conclusion."
Mechanic David James retrieved Garcia and the data acquisition memory from the stranded car and returned them to the Corvette Racing paddock.
"There was no sign of a problem," Garcia said. "Suddenly there was a big noise and an engine alarm. I tried to cruise back to the pits, but that was it. Last year we won Le Mans, and this year it is a shame not to finish. It's tough when you can't fight for a win, but we need to keep our focus. This was the first time Corvette Racing has raced at Le Mans in GT2, and we'll gain knowledge and improve for the future. The Corvettes ran 1-2 for nearly three-quarters of the race, and I'm looking forward to the next race now."