Reading Time: 6 minutes
MONTEREY, California (Sept. 24, 2017) – Corvette Racing’s pairing of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen took a huge step toward the GT Le Mans (GTLM) Driver’s title in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Their fourth-place class finish in the No. 3 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R at the America’s Tire 250 means they only need to start the season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in two weeks to officially claim the GTLM championship.
Sunday was a doubly good day for the Corvette Racing program as Chevrolet extended its lead in the GTLM Manufacturer’s Championship to four points with the result. As long as Chevrolet is the second-highest finishing manufacturer in the 10-hour Petit Le Mans, the Bowtie Brand will clinch its second straight title and 12th since 2001.
Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin had another run of bad luck in the No. 4 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R. With aims of moving up through the field like the sister Corvette, the Gavin/Milner pairing placed ninth in GTLM after Gavin was hit from behind at the first corner of the opening lap. The contact damaged the Corvette’s rear diffuser, which impacted the handling and performance throughout.
Once changed, however, the No. 4 Corvette team gathered valuable information for the No. 3 Corvette’s championship run.
Magnussen began the race seventh in class, but that was a product of the team’s qualifying strategy to focus on race setup rather than ultimate pace in Saturday’s time trials. That paid off in the long run, as did a timely full-course caution just shy of the halfway point in the two-hour, 40-minute race. A GTLM competitor went off-track, and No. 3 Corvette lead race engineer Kyle Millay immediately called in Garcia for tires and fuel before the pits closed.
The call elevated Garcia from seventh to second by the time the race resumed. With a mind toward the championship picture and not the race result, the team elected to stay with a strategy that ensured the No. 3 Corvette would finish ahead of its closest title contenders.
Corvette Racing closes the IMSA season with the 10-hour Petit Le Mans from Road Atlanta on Saturday, Oct 7.
ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R – FINISHED FOURTH IN GTLM: “I think we played it really cool today. It felt like instead of being the ones defending, we were the ones trying to go for it. We seemed to be the more relaxed car out there out of the ones in contention. We were not sure about the pace today. For sure the beginning of the race wasn’t really promising when everyone started to pull away. As soon as everyone started to drop off in lap time and I saw Jan before we pitted we were almost within a tenth of them so I thought, ‘Um, we might have a chance here.’ For sure if it had been a green race, I think we had a very good chance to finish second behind the Ferrari. But when it came to strategy, fuel and all of that, we had to be smart and go for the championship and not worry about the race results. I was pretty happy with how our Corvette felt, especially during the last 10 to 15 laps of a stint, which I think the hardest today. It was just really good. I had pressure for sure. I really liked that the closest car to me was Richard (Westbrook) because I knew he wouldn’t do anything strange. We had a fair fight. I kind of knew he would try to catch me and try to pass me, but I also knew he would run out of tires soon. I kept calm and as soon as I saw he was starting to struggle, I put in a little bit more pace to open the gap. At the end of the day, we didn’t know if all the other cars would make it to the end of the race (on fuel), and they actually did. But it doesn’t matter for the championship.
“I think we played all year long, I can’t remember us making a mistake. I don’t know… I would have to go back race-by-race. But I think this has been a perfect season for Corvette Racing and the No. 3 car engineers and crew. Whenever we had the car, we made most out of it and whenever we didn’t, we still made good points… just like today. If you would have told me before the start we would have come out of here with fourth and while not going for the race result of podium, I wouldn’t have believed it. I am very, very happy. I still don’t believe we are mathematically done and as soon as we start Petit Le Mans, that is it. It has been a very long season for us since after COTA. We struggled, but we kept it up there but we proved that we had what it took to win races and the championship.”
JAN MAGNUSSEN, NO. 3 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R – FINISHED FOURTH IN GTLM: “We’ve managed the whole year largely because of Kyle (Millay, No. 3 Corvette lead race engineer) to get more out of races than we should have. Whenever we haven’t had good pace, we always got good points. Today was no different. We had a good plan for the race but was painful to execute, but it worked. The painful part was in the beginning watching everyone drive away. Then things would turn around at the end of the stint where we would catch everything back and be in the mix. That’s great strategy that got us ahead of both Fords and the No. 25 BMW. It’s a great way to go to Petit Le Mans, where we can work on securing the Manufacturer’s Championship.”
OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 4 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R – FINISHED NINTH IN GTLM: “Unfortunately our race was shaped by contact from another car. It seems like it has been the story of our year unfortunately. As I came into Turn One of Lap One, the No. 24 BMW got turned around. I was right behind Jan; he was checking up and I was just desperate not to hit the back of him. As I braked, the Lamborghini from GTD just came in and obviously didn’t expect me to be going so slow. It just drilled us in the rear which broke our rear diffuser, which flapped for all of my two stints. The vibration just got worse and worse, and we lost performance. The car was tricky to drive, hard to drive and very snappy. Once again, frustrating. We managed to do a couple of things just to try things out to give them (the No. 3 car) the right steer with the right tire choices. It’s been a good team effort. They are in a really strong position now in the championship which is great to see. They just basically have to start and they lock up the championship. It’s been once again a great team effort for Corvette Racing. We haven’t had the fastest car here this weekend but by strategy, execution, hard work, working certain problems, the team has come through with an extended lead in Manufacturer’s points, and an extended lead for Antonio and Jan and the No. 3 car for their championship. So ultimately, we’ve checked the box for the championships and that is fantastic.”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 4 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R – FINISHED NINTH IN GTLM: “Our race was doomed from the start, in the first corner. That’s just very unlucky. It was just a racing deal – a car spinning ahead of Olly and cars behind getting stacked up. That kind of stuff in inevitable especially in a tight turn like it is here at Laguna. The car was a little bit damaged there at the start. Our Corvette was okay; it definitely didn’t have the pace today to win the race, but could have maybe been fourth or fifth if everything went smoothly. I am super proud of the team. We had super tricky conditions all weekend here. At times it was looking doom and gloom like we were way off the pace. In the end, the engineers did a really did a great job of keeping their heads clear and making good calls with tire strategy and pit strategy. Ultimately we executed as best we could today. That is what makes a championship team even in the face of some super strong adversity. Even under all that pressure there, all those guys did an awesome job. I am super proud of this Corvette Racing team and proud of what we have achieved this year.”
DOUG FEHAN, CORVETTE RACING PROGRAM MANAGER: “When you put together great race strategy with perfect pit execution and you have drivers of the talent level that we have at Corvette Racing, you’re going to make things happen that ordinarily wouldn’t. Today we showed that again. We qualified seventh and ninth, and we took the No. 3 Corvette to where we needed in order to put a very firm grip on the Driver’s and Team’s championships. Now we will go to Atlanta and do everything we can do to defend our Manufacturer’s Championship. It should be a great race.”
Article by Ryan Smith and Judy Kouba Dominick
Photo by Richard Prince
Reach out to us to see how we can help solve your toughest design, engineering and production problems and bring your innovative vision to reality.