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SEBRING, Fla., March 17, 2012 – Corvette Racing celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in style, finishing second and third in the closely contested American Le Mans Series GT class. The final minutes of the 12-hour race saw dramatic shifts of fortune that shuffled the finishing order and propelled both Compuware Corvette C6.Rs onto the podium.
Running third at the start of the last lap, Jan Magnussen passed the No. 71 Ferrari to take second after the Ferrari and the class-leading No. 56 BMW fought for position. Moments earlier, Oliver Gavin passed the No. 155 BMW to secure third on the ALMS podium.
“I really don’t know what happened, but apparently the BMW and Ferrari got together,” Magnussen said. “I didn’t even know that I had passed the Ferrari in the darkness. We were struggling at the end of the race with the track conditions, so second is a huge bonus and a fantastic foundation to build on. Sebring is such a difficult race, and I’m very happy with a podium finish.”
The combination of a new wide-body Corvette C6.R race car and a new driver lineup that teamed Magnussen with Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor produced results quickly. “It’s a brilliant result for the entire Corvette Racing team, and a brilliant result for the No. 03 Corvette,” said Antonio Garcia, who made the transition to a full-season driver in 2012. “Track conditions were really difficult with traffic and crazy restarts, but Jan, Jordan and I just kept digging, and we finished with a great result.”
Making his debut with Corvette Racing, third driver Jordan Taylor led the GT category during his first stint in the No. 03 Corvette C6.R. “It was very exciting at the end,” said the 20-year-old racer. “Second overall and second in ALMS championship – I can’t complain about that! Now I’m looking forward to Le Mans.”
The No. 4 Corvette driven by Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Richard Westbrook ran at the front for much of the race, but lost track position during a late-race pit stop.
“The result was a bit of an anticlimax after leading and running at the front for most of the race,” Gavin said. “Our strategy anticipated a caution that didn’t come. Nevertheless, third place pays good points for the ALMS championship. Tommy drove brilliantly and Richard did a fantastic job, so our partnership is working well.”
There were 15 entries in the combined American Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship GT class – 10 in ALMS and five in WEC. The race awarded championship points in each respective series based on finishing position among the ALMS and WEC entries.
Gavin started fourth on the grid in the No. 4 Corvette, and worked his way to second during his first stint after an opportunistic pass after the first caution period. “On the restart, it seemed like the Ferrari guys were sleeping a little, and Jan and I got a jump coming into the last corner when the track went green,” Gavin recalled. “Then it was a case of racing hard for the next 20 laps – it was quite fun, actually.
“The track was very changeable, and you really needed to be on top of it,” Gavin added. “It was difficult to know what each corner would be like – sometimes sand on the racing line, sometimes grass, and a lot of oil coming off several cars.”
Garcia had a close call during his first stint in the No. 03 Corvette C6.R when he was hit by a prototype under braking going into Turn 7. He took the escape road in the Hairpin and continued, recovering to fourth by the end of his stint.
“There are different kind of drivers out there,” Garcia observed. “The big P1s pass you clean and fast, but the others – one was halfway to my door and thought he was clear to go left. I was lucky to keep the car on the track.”
Westbrook also had a moment during his first stint in the No. 4 Corvette when an accident involving the class-leading Ferrari and a prototype unfolded in front of him in Turn 13. “The two cars in front of me hit oil on the track, but my view was obscured by a GTC car,” Westbrook reported. “I hit the oil, managed to put the car in spin, and fortunately avoided hitting the wall. We got away with one there, and we were still very much in the race.”
Taylor took the lead in the GT class with a pass on the No. 77 Porsche in the fourth hour. “It was exciting for sure, and unexpected,” said the Sebring rookie. “The No. 03 Corvette was running in the top five for most of the race, and when the caution period cycled through we were in the top three and I was able to pick off two guys to take the lead. I was putting some pressure on the leader, showing him my nose, and trying to get him a little rattled. Eventually I went inside under barking, got it done, put my head down, and went forward. It was really cool, and a special moment. We definitely have a strong and durable Corvette.”
The Corvettes took command of the GT race at the midpoint, as Magnussen, Gavin, Garcia and Milner exchanged the lead. Gavin completed a double stint before handing off to Milner at 5:42 into the race.
“Our Corvette is fantastic under braking, and we’d just eat them up,” Gavin said. “I was behind a Porsche, and he was very defensive. I kept pushing him to make mistake – he did in Turn 15 and I got by him.”
After seven hours of racing, the intense competition that is the hallmark of the GT category was evident. Seven cars were on the lead lap, with the top six separated by less than nine seconds. At the eight-hour mark, the Corvettes were running first and second, with Westbrook leading in the No. 4 Corvette and Magnussen second in the No. 03 Corvette.
“The car was comfortable and we had the pace,” said Milner after completing a double stint and handing off to Westbrook. “The team worked so hard in the off-season to build these new cars, and it’s paying off.”
In the ninth hour, a battle between Corvette and BMW broke out, with Westbrook leading, the No. 155 BMW second, Magnussen third, and the No. 56 BMW fourth, followed by a Porsche and a Ferrari. With lap times quicker than last year’s qualifying pace, the racing was riveting. Less than six seconds separated the top five cars in GT.
“At that point, the track really suited both the Corvettes and the BMWs, so it was really tight,” Westbrook said. “We had to work hard to stay in front. I was proud to be driving this car in P1 in such a tough GT field.”
The 10th and 11th hours saw the pitched battle between Corvette and BMW continue as the lead changed hands on the track and in the pits. Milner dueled with Joey Hand, with less than a second separating the two cars.
“I had a great fight with Joey, going two-wide through Turn 17, side-by-side through Turn 1, splitting cars, and passing everywhere,” Milner said. “The Corvette was really fast and comfortable to drive, everything you want in a race car.”
The gap between the BMWs, Ferrari, and Corvettes expanded and contracted as the drivers worked their way through traffic, setting up the dramatic dash to the checkered flag.
“What an exciting way to start the season at Sebring International Raceway as they celebrate the 60th anniversary of the 12 Hours of Sebring,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President for Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “This Corvette team has that never-give-up attitude, and I’m proud of how they finished. We’re on a journey for this season, and it’s off to a great start.”
ABC will televise the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at 12:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday, March 18. Corvette Racing’s next event is the American Le Mans Series at Long Beach on Saturday, April 14.
Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring GT Results
(Combined ALMS/WEC Top 10):
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