2004 VICTORY IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY
JAN MAGNUSSEN ’VETTE CV Years 2004-19 Le Mans starts 14 Class wins 4 GARY PRATT Senior vice-president Pratt & Miller So drama-filled was Corvette Racing’s 2004 Le Mans that it ran out of spares. Its cars finished 1-2 in sixth and eighth positions overall, led home by Oliver Gavin, Jan Magnussen and Olivier Beretta, but it was a long haul for a team that had to raid parts from a show car on display in the old ‘Village’ area at Le Mans. That makes it special for Pratt because his operation builds the cars.
“There were so many incidents that year that we plain ran out of spares; I don’t know why it was, but it seemed like the prototype drivers weren’t giving our guys a lot of room,” he recalls. “The show car was a dummy chassis, but it had real bodywork. I sent my wife up there with some of the guys to go get parts off it.
“I remember telling Olly not to crash when he got back in the car for the final time: we didn’t have anything left to repair it with.”
Magnussen remembers what he calls “a crazy race” with fond memories too.
“That was my first win at Le Mans, which makes it special, but we also had to come back from something like six laps down,” he recalls. “We were leading at midnight when one of the Audis [the Veloqx entry driven by Jamie Davies] put me in the wall out of the Ford Chicane. It was just past the pit entry, so I had to do a full lap with a damaged car to get back to the pits.”
The Prodrive Ferrari squad that had vanquished the Corvettes in 2003 was out front before hitting problems. Tomas Enge brought the leading 550 Maranello he shared with Alain Menu and Peter Kox into the pits in the 20th hour with wheelbearing issues.
“That problem cost them exactly the amount of time they were ahead,” explains Magnussen. “We left the pits almost at the same time with me 20 metres ahead.”