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Corvette, SMP Racing Take GTE-Pro, GTE-Am Wins at Le Mans

Corvette, SMP Racing take GTE class wins at 24H Le Mans…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

Corvette Racing and SMP Racing have taken the GTE-Pro and GTE-Am class victories in the 83rd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Corvette’s trio of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor took the GTE-Pro victory in the No. 64 Corvette C7.R, their first as a trio and the first for the team at Le Mans since 2011. It’s Gavin’s fifth, Milner’s second and Taylor’s first win at Le Mans.

A race-long battle between the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia and the Corvette was building towards the finish, primarily due to different strategies.

The No. 51 Ferrari moved ahead on strategy into the lead past the halfway mark after its change of brake pads, but after a restart Toni Vilander suffered a puncture that required an extra stop.

Milner made it out ahead of the Ferrari on that pit stop, and as the race progressed, the final battle was shaping up to come down to Vilander and Gavin for the win.

But it didn’t occur as planned after Vilander exited the Mulsanne corner more slowly than normal with the left rear corner.

The Finn pitted the Ferrari and the car went behind the wall for repairs to the gearbox. Tensions in the garage appeared to run higher – and faster – than any repair work as the car lost six laps in nearly half an hour behind the wall.

Corvette’s trio went on to win by five laps over the sister AF Corse car, the No. 71 Ferrari of Davide Rigon, James Calado and Olivier Beretta. That trio lost four laps early in the race to change the starter motor, but pressed on.

The No. 51 car of Vilander, Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella ended third in class, ahead of the No. 95 Aston Martin, No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR and No. 99 Aston Martin, which were all running at the finish but severely delayed throughout the race.

GTE-Am lacked much drama until the final hour, when an accident occurred for the class-leading and race-dominant No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8.

Paul Dalla Lana sustained a hard crash entering the Ford chicane, just before the front straight. He did get out of the car, but it cost Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda their third straight win to open the season.

It marked the second major accident for Aston Martin in the race, after Roald Goethe’s hard accident earlier in the race as well. Goethe was released from the track medical center but was taken to hospital for x-rays, awaiting results.

With the Aston out, the No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari F458 Italia inherited the win after a mostly faultless drive from Andrea Bertolini, Victor Shaytar and Alexey Basov. It’s the first win for a Russian-entered team at Le Mans.

Two American-heavy lineups completed the podium following the Dalla Lana accident. The No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR and No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari F458 Italia were contending for the final podium position, but both wound up on the podium as it turned out.

Patrick Dempsey shared the No. 77 car with Patrick Long and Marco Seefried, while Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler and Jeff Segal shared the No. 62 car. It’s the first podium for five of those six at Le Mans, with the exception of past class winner Long.

Long and Bell were separated by mere tenths of seconds in a tooth-and-nail fight for third. Bell spun at one point exiting Mulsanne corner, but the Le Mans rookie rebounded with a spirited charge back before handing over to Segal.

The No. 53 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R was also in podium contention but retired with late race gearbox issues.

RESULTS: 24 Hours of Le Mans

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno) is Sportscar365's North American Editor, focusing on coverage of the IMSA-sanctioned championships as well as Pirelli World Challenge. DiZinno also contributes to NBCSports.com and other motorsports outlets. Contact Tony

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Scott Puett

    June 14, 2015 at 9:23 am

    That’s the Corvette I know.

    • Jerry

      June 14, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Yeah that was cool!

    • Woody

      May 19, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      The Vette got damn lucky in 2015….I don’t know what race this guy who wrote this piece was watching but the #51 Ferrari was better the entire race than the eventual winning Vette. I stayed up all night watching the GT-PRO battle, and Vilander ran down and passed the Vette with about an hour left after the Vette and the Ferrari made their last stops , I guess he forgot that , it was debris on the track that somehow got jammed into the Ferrari gearbox, it wasn’t a mechanical failure. What I thought was hilarious was for the next 6 months all the Vette ads in the various car magazines said the Vettes dominated the 2015 LeMans which is totally wrong…it was actually the #51 Ferrari that was dominating, only some debris on the track lost the 2015 LeMans for the #51 Ferrari…

  2. Rick

    June 14, 2015 at 10:09 am

    Kudos to all three #64 drivers, but especially to young DP driver Jordan Taylor who turned in many consistently fast laps. It’s not easy to switch from a high-downforce prototype to a GT car. Very impressive!

  3. Doug Waller

    June 14, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Corvette and the small block Chevy V-8 will continue to dominate ….. looking and sounding so good while doing it. Euro race cars have whines, looks and exhaust notes that only a mother could love. So sad to see Econo-boost Ford abandon their great V-8 engines and faithful fans for the nose-blowing sick-6 noises … thank you EU market.

    • AudiTT

      June 14, 2015 at 12:19 pm

      That was Corvettes first win since 2011, and well deserved. Each to their own on engines, it’s what you’re brought up to love.

      Onto GTE-Am, Demspey’s well earned second place must be a dagger to the heart to some who frequent these comments sections.

    • gtgianlu

      June 14, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      You probably haven’t ever heard a thundering AM Vantage V8 or a screaming 458,both GTE of course…

      • Greg

        June 14, 2015 at 4:44 pm

        The Aston is nice, so is the 458. But Corvette has had a OHV push rod V8 since the 60’s. And it pretty much has sounded the same ever since. That to me is why it sounds the best.

  4. Steven

    June 14, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Great win by corvette racing. Congrats!

  5. Bill

    June 14, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Corvettes rule! Congrats to the drivers and the whole Corvette Racing team

  6. Ganzhimself

    June 14, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    Congratulations to the 64 Corvette Team on putting the greatest American sports car back on top at Le Mans. Bring on the Fords in 16 and let’s show the world again why Corvette is the standard of production sports cars!!!!

    • Speckles

      June 15, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      As nearly all road tests conclude, “…the greatest performance value on the market.” And I totally agree with this statement having just sold a 2009 Z06. Yeah it was fast, and the C6 was the best Corvette up to that time as I’ve also owned C2’s and a C3. No rattles, somewhat comfortable, world class handling, and the only quality issue I had with the C6 was a bum xenon headlight. However, the acres of cheap plastic in the interior REALLY detracted from the experience and while somewhat comfortable as noted, I definitely was not happy driving it for more than two hours at a time due to poor seats in an $80K car! Another issue was the fiberglass ass end–it would literally move if bumped up against or when washing and waxing it. I agree with nearly all reviews through the C6 version; i.e., you will not find more performance for the money but the car lacks refinement. It was hardly “the standard of production sports cars.” I’ve not driven a C7 which apparently is much better, but my C6 experience likely means I won’t be going back.

      • Greg Miller

        July 5, 2015 at 11:24 am

        True the fit and finish of Corvette has always been a point with some people. If you want a car with a $70,000 interior buy a Ferrari if you want a car that handles excellently and will suck the doors off of your Ferrari buy a Corvette at half the price

  7. Dave

    June 15, 2015 at 9:23 am

    I have the sounds of the 458 ringing in my ears! Incredible! Great win for the Vette boys who have struggled in the US this year!

  8. Dr.D

    June 15, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Love those Vettes….even though a ZL1 Owner…

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