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ALTON, Va., Sept. 15, 2012 – Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner won the American Le Mans Series GT Drivers Championship with a victory today in the VIR 240 at Virginia International Raceway. Their fourth victory in nine races clinched the GT Manufacturer Championship for Chevrolet and wrapped up the GT Team Championship for Corvette Racing.
“This is the kind of day you hope for – a perfect race, a great race car, the right pit calls, and no drama,” said Milner. “I got my start in professional sports car racing at VIR, so to get my first championship here in my home state of Virginia is very special. I can’t say enough for Oliver and the Corvette Racing crew; they’ve been best friends from the day that I arrived. Just a great day!”
Gavin avoided trouble in a chaotic start and took the lead at 42 minutes into the four-hour race. A well-timed pit stop at the one-hour mark put the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R in control with Milner taking the two middle stints. Gavin then drove the final hour and crossed the finish line with a 19.5-second margin of victory over the second-place No. 45 Porsche.
“There is no better way to crown 60 years of Corvette production than by winning the ALMS GT Manufacturer Championship,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President for Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “This achievement is the result of a tremendous effort by the entire Chevrolet team. Start with a high-performance platform from the Corvette production group, add power, durability and efficiency developed by GM Powertrain, perfect the package with the engineering expertise of Corvette Racing, put exceptional drivers behind the wheel, and then go head-to-head with world-class competition in the most intense road racing series on the planet. Corvette Racing’s championship season reflects Chevrolet’s commitment to winning on the race track and in the showroom.”
“Winning the Drivers Championship in a category as fiercely competitive as the ALMS GT class requires speed, stamina, strategy, and teamwork,” said Mark Kent, director of Chevy Racing. “Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner have those qualities, and now they have the 2012 GT Drivers Championship. Both are excellent racers and outstanding representatives for Corvette and Chevrolet. We congratulate Oliver and Tommy on their well-deserved championship, and we are confident that there are many more titles in their future.”
Gavin scored his 38th career ALMS victory today in his milestone 100th start. He joined Corvette Racing in 2002 as an endurance racing specialist, and became a full-season driver in 2003. Gavin won three consecutive ALMS GT1 championships in 2005-07, and twice finished second in the GT1 championship. Following Corvette Racing’s move to the GT class in 2009, Gavin was runner-up in last year’s GT title race.
“Tommy made it so easy for me,” Gavin said. “We had a decent lead and I just wanted to make sure I kept that in case there were any problems at the end. From the championship standpoint I knew we were really strong and just needed to make no mistakes and get to the finish.”
Getting to the finish wasn’t easy. Just as the race started, chaos erupted in the first corner when the No. 20 LMP1 spun. With the track blocked, there was a chain reaction pileup. Gavin made it through, but Jan Magnussen was in the middle of the melee in the sister No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R.
“I was on the inside, and fortunately all of the craziness was happening to the left of me,” Gavin said. “I followed the No. 01 Ferrari into Turn 1, then there was a wall of smoke and I could see Johannes was really cutting to the inside. I had to go even farther to the inside, and then an LMPC car spun right in front of me. I thought I was going to nail it, but it just seemed to evaporate. I got through on the grass, and was nearly T-boned by Bergmeister as he was trying to avoid the wrecks. It was like the seas parted and I went through.”
The No. 3 Corvette’s race essentially ended in the first corner, with the car sustaining damage to its hood and left-front fender. Magnussen pitted and the Corvette crew taped the damaged panels, but he had to return to the pits on the next lap for a complete new nose assembly. The Dane rejoined the race four laps down to the leaders. Despite running some of the fastest laps of the race, the deficit was too great to make up.
“There was a bit of stop-and-go and it was looking like it was going to be a messy start,” Magnussen said. “Then we got going and as we went into Turn 1, the inside lane stopped a bit and it was clear for me on the outside. I don’t know what happened up in front, but they started spinning and I had nowhere to go. I tried to stop, but hit an LMPC car and had a lot of damage to the nose. I couldn’t go to the inside because the other Corvette was there. I can’t believe it.”
Gavin emerged in second, and was shadowing van Overbeek’s race-leading No. 01 Ferrari. At the 42-minute mark, Gavin made his move for the lead.
“I passed him in Turn 1 and made it stick in Turn 2,” Gavin recalled. “He got a bad run off Turn 11 and then a GTC car slowed him in 14 and 15. The GTC driver didn’t see him and pushed Johannes wide so I got a run on him. My car was better under braking, and I thought I could make it through if he didn’t put me in the grass.”
As the stint continued, Gavin’s tires began to lose grip and he was passed by the No. 01 and No. 02 Ferraris. He pitted from third at 1:01, and while Tommy Milner was getting into the No. 4 Corvette, the race’s second full-course caution began. That fortuitous timing put the Gavin/Milner Corvette in the GT lead when racing resumed after the pit stop cycle.
Milner ran a relatively uneventful double stint, maintaining a steady four-second lead over the second-place No. 56 BMW. Milner pitted at 2:12 into the race for tires and fuel and stopped again with one hour to go, turning the No. 4 Corvette over to Gavin for the run to the finish. Almost simultaneously the No. 56 BMW of championship rival Dirk Mueller pitted with a broken toe link, falling from second to eighth.
“When the car is that good and so comfortable, when you’re by yourself and out in clean air, it’s a lot of fun,” Milner said. “That was a good two stints. A great pit stop and a bit of good luck got us in before the yellow and put us ahead, but nobody could catch us.”
Magnussen ran to 2:19 before handing off the No. 3 Corvette C6.R to Antonio Garcia. The Spaniard drove to the checkered flag, gaining spots with quick laps and attrition among his rivals to finish eighth. Magnussen and Garcia are second in the driver standings going into the season finale at Road Atlanta.
Today’s victory was Corvette Racing’s 85th win in 140 races. Chevrolet and Corvette Racing have won nine ALMS manufacturer and team championships since 2001. The team made the transition to the production-based GT category in 2009, and has scored eight wins in the super-competitive class.
“I think today was emblematic of all the things that make Corvette Racing a champion,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “Preparation, strategy, and execution.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the 10-hour/1,000-mile Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., on Saturday, Oct. 20.
American Le Mans Series VIR 240 GT Results (Top 10)
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