Fin de C6.R

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The gap widened when Beretta in the #64 car had a puncture and dropped back, but then an unexpected gas-flow problem with the #63’s fuel rig allowed the black #64 to take the lead. Garcia later regained the point when Beretta pitted for fuel, tires and a driver swap to Fassler. Just three hours from the end, in the hot midday sun, an intense battle for the GT1 lead developed, with Fassler putting intense pressure on O’Connell. The American was on worn Michelins, the Swiss on new rubber. O’Connell’s radio crackled with orders to let Fassler by. “It was a call I hated to get,” the Georgia resident recalls. When O’Connell came in for fuel and tires, he was visibly upset. That’s when a team member told him, “It’s not over, they have one more stop to make than we do.”

The final pit strategy was to become a moot point, as Fassler soon radioed in that he was having problems shifting. It was time to ease off to try and save the car, but it was not to be. Fassler coasted to the side of the road just before pit-in with a broken gearbox. A team of engineers and mechanics ran a circuitous route through the paddock to get to the stranded car, but by the rules they were not allowed to get within ten feet of the Corvette; they could only question and advise Fassler. Ultimately, there was no way to get the car back to the pits. When the #64 was finally withdrawn, the one remaining Luc Alphand C6.R, driven by Julien Jousse, Xavier Maassen and Yann Clairay, moved up into second, six laps behind the iconic yellow #63.

The two Corvettes swept across the finish at 3 p.m., with the #63 car taking the team’s sixth class win in ten years. Crew Chief Binks was overcome with emotion; he’d finally done it. It seemed more important than every other win combined. “Winning Le Mans is so unbelievable that I can’t even talk about it,” said Binks, with tears streaming down his cheeks. A jubilant O’Connell exclaimed, “When you look at the Americans who have won here multiple times, they’re all important figures in motorsports history. To achieve my third win with Corvette Racing, driving a sports car that’s an American icon, it’s hard to put that into words. There is nothing more difficult and more rewarding than winning here.”

Those who have never driven or built a car to race at Le Mans would have a difficult time understanding the enormity of the responsibility of representing a carmaker and a nation, as well as the tremendous elation at sharing victory—not just with the crew at the race, but also with all the personnel who remained in Michigan preparing the new C6 for the team’s venture into the GT2 class. If Briggs Cunningham could have been there, he would have understood and been proud.

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