ColdTrackDays correspondent, Joey Selmants, was able to sit down with four-time American Le Mans Series champion, Johnny O'Connell, ahead of last weekends ALMS race at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Follow the link for Selmants Q & A with O'Connell... [read more]

Joey Selmants- What led you to Corvette Racing?

Johnny O’Connell- I had been racing for Panoz, but saw that the team was not going in a very good direction. There weren't many strong LMP1 rides available, so I called Doug Fehan and eight hours later had an offer to drive the 4 long races with them. It turned into a full season when Chris Kniefel made the decision to retire. That was in 2001

Selmants- After making the switch to GT2 at Mid Ohio last year, after many successful years in GT1, what has been your initial reaction about the category?

O’Connell -We are all enjoying it very much. It's a big change, with very strong competition and forces us to really dig deep both on the track and for the engineers designing the car. It was a good move for many reasons and all of us are happy we did.

Selmants- How does the GT2 car feel compared to the GT-1 C6-R?

O’Connell- It has less downforce, so midcorner speeds are down, but at the same time we're not as sensitive to someone running close behind us making us loose, or us losing the front end when we get close to someone.The brakes aren't quite as good, but not bad, and we're running about a hundred less horsepower, so you need to be more aware of momentum.

Selmants- Where does the Corvette seem to have an upper-hand on the GT2 competition? Horsepower?

O’Connell- Right now I would say the only place we are perhaps stronger is under braking. We for sure don't have the horsepower of the other teams, but are working on that.

Selmants- One of the most interesting things about GT racing is the track to street technology transfer and vice-versa. Did you and the rest of Corvette Racing have any input on the design of Corvette's street cars?

O’Connell- With C-6 there was a very close relationship with the race team and production. They did lots of things on the street car to let us build a better race car, and I know that when C-7 comes out, that trend will continue. The race team will have a lot to do with what C-7 is like.

Selmants- Last year the team was allowed to run a larger engine, but this year you have had to run a smaller, 5.5L engine. Do you notice any advantages or disadvantages with this new package?

O’Connell- Well the numbers, both horsepower and torque, have gone down. The biggest loss to us was losing direct injection. Hopefully in the future we will get that back, as it gives you way more power and better mileage.

Selmants- Is there any unfinished business at Laguna Seca this year after Jan's incident with the Flying Lizard Porsche at last year's Laguna Seca race?

O’Connell- They are a strong team, and Porsche is very committed to the 45 car. We don't need to get even by crashing them, but do need to beat them. Last year we were far stronger than them, but so far this year they've gotten the better of us. Hopefully we'll improve in those areas where we are struggling and be stronger once we return from Le Mans.

Selmants- After Laguna Seca, the next stop for the team is the 24 hours of Le Mans. What is it like for a driver to compete in front of such a passionate crowd at such a famous and historic event?

O’Connell- For any driver it is the opportunity of a lifetime. The place is unreal special, and you are competing against the best in the world. This year I will move into second place as the American having made the most appearances there, and in a few more will have raced there more than anyone. I've won four times, most for an American, have nine podiums, most for an American, but still have a lot of unfinished business there and plan on going back for years to come.

Image: VetteWeb
Interview and Editorial: Joey Selmants

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