Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Corvette Racing Sweeps 24 Hours of Daytona

The most thrilling victory for Corvette Racing, dating back to 2001, may have transpired this past weekend as the C7.R Corvettes finished 1 - 2 in the GT Le Mans Class (GTLM) at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, the first race of the 2016 IMSA Season.

Team Corvette dominated the endurance races in the 2015 season with first-place victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 hours of Sebring, and the 24 hours of Le Mans.  It is nice to see 2016 starting off as well.

This race was the closest finish in the history of the Rolex 24 with one Corvette beating the other Corvette to the finish line by only 0.034 seconds!

 The back story is really wild.  The No. 4 Corvette, the eventual winner, started the race in 7th position but driver Oliver Gavin moved up to third place after just five laps.  Team mate Tommy Milner set the fastest lap time of any GTLM car up to the 12 hour mark.  The No. 3 Corvette ran strong all day too.  As the final half-hour approached, Antonio Garcia, driving the No. 3 Corvette was in third place behind the No. 912 Porsche with the No. 4 Corvette in first place.  Once Garcia passed the Porsche, with the Corvettes running 1 - 2, Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing program manager, "issued no team orders", meaning that the two Corvettes were free to compete for the win!  One writer described the final 20 minutes as follows:

After the two Corvette GTLM cars got around the class leading #912 Porsche 911 towards the end of this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona, Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan gave his drivers permission to race each other. What followed was the most spectacular 15 minutes of racing many have ever witnessed.

The #4 car, driven by Oliver Gavin, was in the lead, but the #3 car, driven by Antonio Garcia was on a fresh set of tires. Garcia chased Gavin hard, attempting NASCAR-style drafting passes on his teammate.

The announcers for IMSA Radio are flabbergasted: They've never seen racing like this, especially not after 23 hours and 45 minutes of continuous, grueling racing.

The Corvettes were trashed after the race!

Here are a few video clips so you can experience the wild finish:

The finishing positions by manufacturer are:

Corvette C7.R         1, 2
Porsche 911RSR      3, 8
Ferrari 488GTE      4, 6, 10
BMW M6 GTLM     5, 11
Ford GT                   7, 9

1 comment:

  1. The automotive Press continues to write articles about this amazing finish and competition between the Corvette teams. Here is some commentary from Marshall Pruett forwarded to me by Don Kingery:

    It would be the Corvette Racing teammates ragging the living %$#@!* out of their C7.Rs on the way to a memorable 1-2 finish. How nasty and unyielding was the battle between Oliver Gavin in the No. 4 and Antonio Garcia in the No. 3? Both drivers set fastest laps for each car in the final 20 laps of the race; Garcia broke the GTLM race lap record on Lap 707 - with 15 laps left to run.

    After approximately 23 hours and 30 minutes of racing, courtesies were forgotten between Corvette teammates, and but for a few millimeters on either side of their C7.Rs, the torrid pace being waged meant a frighteningly small margin of error was at play. One slight miscue by either driver in a braking zone or while side by side could have ended Corvette's day in disaster and handed the win to Porsche.

    The record-setting margin of victory - just 0.034 seconds - is what made the headlines, but I'd rate the driving performances by Gavin and Garcia on the way to the start/finish line as the most impressive feat as their battle raged.
    "Those last 10 laps I was driving around thinking 'I have to pull this off somehow, and I've got to keep Antonio behind for the next 10 laps and do it fairly and cleanly,'" Gavin told RACER. "It was some of the hardest 10 laps I've driven. In a strange way, I was very calm about it. I wasn't anxious or thinking 'I can't screw this up.' I was trying to let it flow. And it worked for most of it... There were some points that boiled over. It was like that [finish] line kept going away from me, and all I wanted was for it to come closer."

    Precision driving can be elusive after limited sleep. Gavin was able to unleash a final surge of adrenalin before taking over the No. 4 C7.R for the run to the checkered flag when Corvette Racing program manager Dough Fehan and General Motors vice president Mark Reuss offered words of encouragement.
    "In the motorhome, I was tired and all the things you are at the end of a 24-hour race, and we'd just got the penalty with [No. 4 co-driver] Marcel [Fassler] so our side of the garage was done, and Fehan came and gave us a pep talk," Gavin added. "He said 'We can do this. A lot of the other guys are worn down, we've had the pace throughout the day, and we can do this. This is something we can really achieve.'
    "Then Mark Reuss was sitting next to me and gave me a slap on the back and said 'We can do this,' and all the lethargy, all of the tiredness, it was all gone. You get into the car, you think about how Daytona is one of the biggest races in the world and, also, you think 'this is what I do. This is what I'm paid to do by the team, and it's my time to deliver.' And I did."
    The Corvette 1-2 in GTLM with Gavin, Fassler, and Tommy Milner leading Garcia, Jan Magnussen, and Mike Rockenfeller follows the team's class win at Daytona in 2015, and adds to the 1-2 earned 15 years earlier at the 2001 Rolex 24.