Ron Fellows On Sebring And Beyond
Everything is Geared Towards Winning At Le Mans“This had to be the best Corvette C-5 that I have ever had,” rejoiced Ron Fellows after teaming with Johnny O’Connell to win their third consecutive GTS Class win at Sebring, with assistance from Max Papis. “It just didn’t skip a beat.”

“I am so proud for the Pratt & Miller team. This result was a testimony to the whole team. We spent minimal time in the pits, changing tires every other stop. The X-trac gearbox was perfect, the brakes were excellent and the engine was as strong at the end as it was in the beginning.

"To me, the Michelin tires performed better than I thought, giving us the ability to consistently double stint throughout the race.”

Making the change to Michelins was a difficult decision and was something that had to be taken care of at the corporate level, as Goodyear and Corvette has been synonymous for quite some time. “The switch was a significant change for us and the reason was for the durability. It was one of the factors that allowed the Ferraris to beat us at Le Mans last year. Now, that factor has been eliminated and will not be an issue anymore. As far as actual lap times, it is hard to say. We are maybe a little bit faster, but it is hard to quantify. There have been occasions when we were as fast on the Goodyears. It just isn’t comparing apples to apples. Conditions change, set-ups change; things just aren’t always the same.

“There are some aspects about the switch that we are unsure about though. Goodyear has an outstanding rain tire, and as of yet, we have not experienced the Michelins in the rain.”

In the build up for Sebring, the projected battle in GTS between the Ferrari, Saleen and Corvettes looked to possibly very interesting. It just never happened. “We knew we would be reliable, but we ended up being quite comfortably quicker and our #3 was extremely reliable.”

Ron ended up getting the class pole when the efforts of Oliver Gavin in the #4 Corvette was disqualified due to some issues with the wing end plates. This put Gavin at the back of the pack for the start of the race. “In a way, Ollie had an advantage starting on the new tires. Tires are just not as good after sitting, especially after being beat up in qualifying, so while he was at the back on the grid, I knew he would be quicker. He ended up being a second or so faster a lap than I was. He did his pace and I did mine. I was erring on the side of conservation, but my concern was to run a comfortable pace. We were quicker that the Saleen and it was a long race. In Gavin’s defense, he was all pumped and was in full kill mode. It’s fun to get into that rhythm and it is hard to back down once you get into that mode.”

Eventually, the #4 car went out with clutch failure. “I’m not sure if their early pace contributed to that or not. I was in my car and was told on the radio that they were out, so from then on out, we were easy on the clutch the rest of the way. We were careful and thankfully we didn’t have any issues.”

dailysportscar.comNew this year to the #3 Corvette to partner Ron and Johnny was Max. “Johnny and I have been fortunate over the years to some great third drivers and Max is no exception. Two years ago we had Ollie and last year we had Franck Freon and I felt very comfortable with them. Max is a good guy. I raced with him in a Ferrari 333SP in 1998, and we became friends after that. He really understands the team concept that is critical in endurance racing.”

That same pairing will be going to France in June, trying to put the Corvette back on top at Le Mans. “Winning at Le Mans is our focus. Everything is geared towards that. We have a good solid, durable package that is pretty damn quick. We’ll need to tune our car in to the Michelin tires and we have some different aerodynamic things to try, but I think it is going to be interesting.”

At Sebring this year, and at Le Mans in 2001, a Corvette almost finished on the overall podium. Could that happen at Le Mans this year? “I think that could be a very tall order but anything is possible. It’s not the focus, but it would be nice. We had a good fight with the delayed Audi at Sebring, but just didn’t get there. At Le Mans in 2001, which was the really wet race, we were up to fourth, but we stopped with a few hours left. We were way ahead at the time, so the decision was made to stop and do some service. Could it happen? Maybe, but what we really are looking at doing is taking it to those red cars. If we stay in front of them, I’ll be happy.”
Gary Horrocks


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