2020 was a year that held so many disappointments for so many people in so many ways. But for Corvette Racing, and the inaugural year of the C8 Corvette in IMSA racing, it was a fantastic year. Corvette returned to win the GTLM Manufacturer Championship, the #3 Corvette won the GTLM Team Championship, and Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor won the GTLM Driver's Championship.
2020 was a year of changes for Corvette Racing.
Foremost was the new mid-engine racing platform thanks to the redesigned eighth generation Corvette. On the street, the C8 has been a roaring success. Accolades include: 2020 Motor Trend Car of the Year; 2020 Car and Driver 10 Best; 2020 North American Car of the Year; and 2020 Detroit Free Press Car of the Year. And buyer demand (and production delays) have resulted in a year-long waiting list to buy a C8 Stingray. But we had no idea how the race version, the C8R, would fare on the track.
There were driver changes, as well. Legendary driver Jan Magnussen was replaced on the #3 team with Jordan Taylor; Jordan had participated in the past as the third driver in endurance races on the team, but he was now in a full-time capacity. And by the end of the 2020 season, another legendary Corvette driver, Oliver Gavin, would announce his retirement.
The first race of the 2020 IMSA season, the 24 hour event at Daytona in January, didn't start so well. The new platform didn't have the pace of its Porsche, BMW, and Ferrari competitors. By the end of the endurance race the results were 4th place and 7th place (last) in the GTLM class. It was not pretty.
Then COVID hit. Despite the uncertainty of the season, and the cancellation of events, the Team used the time effectively to fine-tune the car and the Drivers became more accustomed to the very different behaviors of the platform.
IMSA racing resumed, again at Daytona, on the weekend of July 4th. Oliver Gavin qualified in 1st place with the #4 Corvette and Jordan Taylor qualified the #3 Corvette right behind him in 2nd place. The only American manufacturer celebrated Independence Day with the first 1st place finish for the C8 in only its second outing.
Those great results continued throughout the 2020 season. A Corvette finished in 1st place in six of the remaining ten races and in 2nd place an additional six times. By the end of the season the #3 Corvette had a winning margin of 32 points, the largest winning margin that your author has been able to calculate (going back to 2011). Corvette has been the GTLM Champion in four of the last five years.
The factory Porsche team was the defending champion for 2020, but failed to win a single race until the 9th race of the season. But they did finish strong with three class wins in the final three races. They suffered from some bad luck, but did themselves in a bit (in one race by crashing into each other leaving the pit row). Sadly, they announced prior to the current (2021) season that they will not be returning -- too bad because they had some good momentum at the end of 2020.
RLL Racing, the group that fields the BMW M8, had a good season, finishing in 2nd place behind Corvette, a big improvement over the prior two years when they finished 4th each time. They are continuing in 2021, which is good news.
As the 2020 season closed, we heard the sad news that our good friend, Doug Fehan, would be stepping down after leading Corvette racing for 25 years. Fehan, Gavin, and Magnussen -- three greats departed in the span of one year. Sometimes change is hard to take.
If 2020 was a great year (despite the personnel changes), how will 2021 play out?
All we know is that Corvette Racing is off to an amazing start! While the 2020 Daytona 24 hours race was a disappointment for Corvette fans, the 2021 event was a smashing success as the cars finished 1 - 2 to start the season. One or the other Corvette led 716 of the 770 laps.
Up next, this weekend, is the 12 Hours of Sebring. Here's hoping for continued success!