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I looked around on the Pratt and Miller site and found this:

Corvette Racing’s season-long winning streak ends at Laguna Seca
American Le Mans Series, Round 8
Monterey Sports Car Championships
Laguna Seca Raceway
Monterey, California
September 22, 2002

3rd GTS (15th overall): #4 GM Goodwrench Corvette C5-R, 102 laps,
Andy Pilgrim, Kelly Collins
5th GTS (29th overall): #3 GM Goodwrench Corvette C5-R, 41 laps,
Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell
3rd GTS: Andy Pilgrim, #4 GM Goodwrench Corvette C5-R, 1m24.365s (95.499 mph)
4th GTS: Ron Fellows, #3 GM Goodwrench Corvette C5-R, 1m24.577s (95.260 mph)

Corvette Racing was three races short of a full-season win sweep when the team headed west for round eight of 10 in the 2002 American Le Mans Series. Everybody knew it wouldn’t be easy, because the Prodrive Ferrari that had been so quick at the 24 Hours of Le Mans would be there, making the competition tougher than ever.

As it turned out, nobody could have predicted the bizarre sequence of events that denied the team its ninth win of the season (seven in the ALMS, plus the 24 Hours of Le Mans).

Traffic and flat spots
In Saturday’s qualifying session, five quick cars — two Corvettes, two Ferraris and a Saleen — went out in search of a hot lap to win the GTS pole. It looked like a down-to-the-wire shootout was shaping up. First Ron Fellows set the pace in the number-3 Corvette, then Tomas Enge in the Prodrive Ferrari bettered Ron’s time by a tenth of a second. Andy Pilgrim took over in the number-4 Corvette, with two successive laps that knocked a tenth off of Enge’s time on each.

And then it started to go wrong. First, on a flying lap with 10 minutes to go, Fellows got snookered by a slower car, locked up the brakes, spun and continued. Unfortunately, the tires were flat-spotted so his qualifying effort ended.

On the same lap, Enge shaved almost half a second off of Pilgrim’s quick time — a mark that would hold up for the GTS pole. Pilgrim never got a chance to recapture the top spot, because on his flyer one of the Vipers forced him off. He had to settle for third, behind the Ferrari and Terry Borcheller in the Saleen.

“I don’t like to see those two cars in front of us,” Pilgrim said, “but this track never has been ideal for our cars. We’re not about to give up, though; we’ve had reliability on our side the whole season, and we won’t let them take it away from us without a good fight.”

Fellows made no excuses for failing to capture his seventh pole of the season. “I screwed up,” he said bluntly. “I locked them up and flat-spotted the right front tire. After that, it was all over.”

Worse than qualifying fourth, Fellows and O’Connell hand the choice of starting the race on the flat-spotted tire, or changing to new tires and starting at the back of the field. They chose to take new tires. After all, they had won races before from a back-of-the-pack starting position.

Johnny feels the heat; Kelly runs dry
The race started at noon on Sunday — a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the mid-70s. Most of the first hour was relatively uneventful, with the Prodive Ferrari leading the Saleen and the number-4 Corvette with Pilgrim at the controls. Fellows was busy making up ground from the rear of the field.

The first blow fell at about five minutes before one o’clock, when one of the Cadillac P900 cars sent Fellows into a gravel trap.

“It was like he was out of control,” Fellows said. “We were going into turn 4 and he seemed to turn in late, ran into me, then hit me again. I ended up in the gravel, and there was some damage to the right side of the car.”

Under a full course caution, Fellows eventually made it back to the pits. The crew checked the car over, performed the routine tire change and refueling, and Johnny O’Connell took over. His first few laps were under caution, and on his first green-flag lap he started to smell smoke.

“The crew did a great job on the pit stop, and the car was handling really well,” O’Connell said. “We were a long way behind, but on the track I had the Saleen in front of me and the Ferrari behind, so I was hoping I could help out the guys in our number-4 car. Just after we went green there was a bit of smoke, then going up the hill toward the corkscrew I started seeing flames. There was a place to get out of the way at the edge of the corkscrew, so I got the [on-board] fire extinguisher going, stopped and bailed out.”

O’Connell literally dove out of the car head-first, and didn’t waste any time trying to put out the fire. He grabbed a fire extinguisher from a trackside marshal, ran around the car to where he could best get at the flames, and tried to knock down the persistent blaze.

“When the Cadillac hit Ron it damaged the exhaust system and the heat set the bodywork on fire,” O’Connell explained later. “The fire did a lot of damage and the crew guys have a tough job ahead of them getting the car ready for Petit Le Mans. But these guys are good. They’ll get it done and get it done right.”

Fortunately, the team had planned to use the older cars they raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the next race in Miami, which gives them an extra week to prepare the fire-damaged car for the Road Atlanta finale.

In the final hour, the race seemed to be going the right way for Kelly Collins in the number-4 Corvette — if he could make it to the end with the fuel in his tank. The last round of pit stops had put Collins in the lead, but the team knew it would be close, and the Ferrari was charging hard. Enge in the Ferrari caught up to Collins with about eight minutes to go, and by then Kelly didn’t have any ammunition left with which to fight him off. His tires were used up, he was low on fuel and, after a valiant, effort and a brief, side-by-side duel, the Ferrari moved ahead.

In the final minutes, the number-4 Corvette rolled to a stop near turn 6, out of fuel, which dropped Pilgrim and Collins to third place.

“We did the best we could with the fuel and tires,” Collins said. “The sun was brutal on our tires and at the end there was no rubber left on the rears. The fuel was a gamble, but the gauge said we had 3.6 gallons left when it ran out. It just wasn’t our day.”

Corvette Racing’s next event is the Cadillac Le Mans Challenge, to be run October 4 on a temporary street circuit in downtown Miami, Florida.


Official Forklift Driver
7,068 Posts
I don't doubt that at all about the exhaust catching the fiberglass on fire. When I installed the Hedman Hedders the #8 pipe was so close to the fiberglass A/C box that you'd need a feeler gauge to measure the distance. It took less than 5 minutes for the thing to fill the shop w/ smoke!
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