By IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Over the past two decades, Corvette Racing has done a whole lot of celebrating in victory lane. 107 times to be exact.
The next time it happens in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which could come as soon as July 1 at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, it’ll be the 100th IMSA victory for the storied program. The team’s other eight victories have come at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
This weekend, they’re looking to make it nine, and will have two chances to do it with the familiar pair of “Velocity Yellow” race cars. Sharing the No. 63 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R are defending WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) champions Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, and their endurance racing teammate, Mike Rockenfeller.
In the No. 64 Corvette C7.R are 2016 WeatherTech Championship GTLM champions Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin, and their endure colleague, Marcel Fassler. Milner and Gavin were part of the lineup – alongside Jordan Taylor – that delivered Corvette’s most recent Le Mans victory in 2015. Milner, in fact, was part of each of the last two Corvette wins at Le Mans, also winning in 2011 with Garcia and then-co-driver Olivier Beretta.
“I said the first time I won there in ’11 that it was like nothing I’d ever won before, and I don’t think that I truly appreciated what that meant until I was fortunate to win it again in ’15,” Milner said. “Because then I felt like I remembered everything that happened.
“I felt like the first time I won there, you’re just in a total blur. You walk out on the podium, everything happens, you’re done and the next thing you know is you wake up the next morning. Then, it kind of hits you a little bit. So, winning the second time allowed me to sort of enjoy and appreciate what happens and everything that goes along with the win. It’s incredible.”
The feeling Milner describes is one that all six in the Corvette driver lineup have felt multiple times. Rockenfeller also has won twice at Le Mans in 2005 and 2010, while Garcia (2008, 2009, 2011), Magnussen (2004, 2005, 2006) and Fassler (2011, 2012, 2014) all are three-time Le Mans winners.
Gavin owns five victories at Le Mans in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2015. Those five victories make up 10 percent of his 50 career wins with Corvette Racing, the most recent coming in April’s BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach alongside Milner in WeatherTech Championship competition.
“Racing in IMSA has prepared us really well for going to Le Mans,” Gavin said. “The level of competition in North America is exceptionally high, and I’m confident that any of the teams from IMSA would be able to compete at the front with any of the (FIA World Endurance Championship) teams; there’s no real difference in the level of racing in WEC versus our GT Le Mans class. It’s the case at Le Mans that there are more cars than ever before in our GTE Pro category.”
There are 17 cars in the GTE Pro class this year at Le Mans. Garcia was Corvette’s best qualifier, placing the No. 63 Corvette ninth on the class grid with a lap of 3 minutes, 50.242 seconds around the 8.467-mile circuit on Thursday. Milner qualified 14th in the No. 64 Corvette at 3:50.952.
“We continued to work according to the plan we worked with since yesterday,” said Garcia after qualifying. “It’s a shame, though, that we had so many yellows and slow zones, as well as two red flags in the second qualifying session. Each time it stopped our rhythm.
“We got extra time for the third qualifying session, but that was then cut short by the rain. We made some progress with the car and gathered loads of data. With all we collected, we are confident we can make the right decision for Saturday, so I’m kind of happy with where we are.”
We’ll find out where both Corvettes are soon enough, with tennis superstar Rafael Nadal – who won his 11th French Open title just last weekend – set to wave the French tricolore to get the race under way less than 24 hours from now.
The race starts Saturday at 3 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET) and will be televised live in the U.S on the Velocity network. Radio Le Mans also offers complete live coverage throughout race week, including live race coverage starting at 7 a.m. ET on RadioLeMans.com.