A GT Battle For The Ages
Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, August 30 — One of the greatest sports car battles occurred in the 60s when Ford and Ferrari fought a corporate war on the race tracks around the world, focusing on Le Mans. Fans at Mosport could be forgiven if they thought they were seeing flashes of 40+ years ago. Substitute Chevrolet for Ford, and Corvette for GT40, and you have the makings for potentially just as intense battles on race tracks around the world.
The GT2 race came down to a battle of Ferrari vs. Corvette which thrilled fans.
The Corvette vs. Ferrari fight that took place at Mosport was breathtaking. The two Corvettes and lone Ferrari pushed each other, bumped each other, pressured each other, forced each other, and passed each other. Lap after lap after lap after lap. The battle was fought in the pits as intensely as on the track. The trio were rarely more then a few car lengths apart, cumulating in a last lap bumper-to-bumper run with desperation attempts.
The battle was so intense that it completely overshadowed the clinching of the LMP2 class championship. It overshadowed the exciting, and at times surprising, battle in LMP1. It even made some forget how these teams got to this position. Something that should not be forgotten.
The Corvette story is well known. They dominated the GT1 class mainly because they had no competition, or whenever a car did show up, it was barely worthy. Unable to justify the expense competing against nobody, GM told the team to drop down to GT2 and go up against Porsche, BMW, and Ferrari. In their first two races, they had their tails handed to them, first by Porsche and then by BMW. During qualifying at Mosport, BMW swept the GT2 front row, but the Corvettes were within striking range.
Meanwhile, the Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 Berlinetta GT had a disastrous qualifying session. Heck, they didn't even make to qualifying as Jaime Melo crashed the car heavily at Turn One in afternoon practice just prior to qualifying. The left side suffered extensive damage keeping the crew up all night. They literally cut the left side off the spare car and welded it to the race car. The fact they made the start is miraculous. The fact they were fast enough -- and lasted the distance -- to compete for the win is shocking. The fact the car looked like it had never been damaged was icing on the cake.
Johnny O'Connell (with hat) gives his co-driver, Jan Magnussen, a celebratory hug. Corvette took this battle against Ferrari, but most likely this war is far from over.
After the BMWs suffered problems, it came down to the two Corvettes and Ferrari. The battle was on. The #4 Corvette went off, leaving the fight to the #3 Corvette and Ferrari, though the #4 car was not too far behind to take advantage of any carnage. Which almost happened after the last pit stops when the Corvette reentered just in front of the Ferrari. The Ferrari tried to take advantage of their competitor's cold tires, and the two ran side-by-side all the way though Turn 3, rubbing bodywork the whole way. The Corvette persevered, and was able to hold on to the lead the rest of the way.
Johnny O'Connell, who ran the first stint and thus watched his teammate Jan Magnussen defend the win, said, "That was the best race I've ever been involved in."
The fans would certainly agree. Just think, now that Corvette is up to GT2 speed, The Risi team showed they can get the Ferrari back into the winner's circle, the BMWs are coming into their own, and Porsche, especially the Flying Lizard team, are always contenders, the most exciting sports car racing in the world may be occurring in the American Le Mans Series, but not in the faster categories.
Which brings up another interesting thought. Manufacturers racing can work. You don't need to dumb down the sport, discourage innovation, or think the paying public are a bunch of dolts that need to be fed fabricated entertainment instead of pure racing. It can work, even if you need to tweak rules and regulations here and there to keep teams in check. Mosport proved this.
There are always plenty of good views during the pre-race grid walkabout.
Sadly, not many people enjoyed it. The crowd was considerably down for a Mosport ALMS crowd, even from last year. Whether it was the weather (though Mosport fans know all about the Mosport weather), the NASCAR event conflict at Montreal (though, I'm hard pressed to believe Toronto area race fans would bypass Mosport for a NASCAR event at Montreal), or the economy, attendance definitely suffered. Hopefully, those in attendance will tell their friends about the amazing GT2 battle they witnessed, and word of mouth will pump up the crowd next year.
Meanwhile, don't miss the Petit Le Mans event at Road Atlanta and the Laguna Seca finale. If not in person, then at least on TV.
And, it's not just the ALMS that is producing great action. The Atlantic Championship is now a tight three-way battle thanks to Simona De Silvestro crashing out of the race and losing her large points lead over Jonathan Summerton and John Edwards, who finished one-two, respectively, at Mosport. The Star Mazda Championship is also a nail biter with the two top contenders separated by only seven points.
For now, I'm going to decompress. My adrenaline is still flowing from witnessing the modern day version of the Ford vs. Ferrari wars -- the Corvette vs. Ferrari battle.
Copyright © 2009 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.