By IMSA Wire Service
BRASELTON, Ga. – It wasn’t exactly how the team drew it up, but Corvette Racing won its third consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class championship Saturday in the Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
The 10-hour race was won in class by the No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR and co-drivers Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki, but it was the No. 3 Corvette C7.R team and co-drivers Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, joined at Road Atlanta by Marcel Fassler, who defended their title from one year ago with an eighth-place finish.
In what was an ultimate display of teamwork, the No. 3 team – who entered the race needing to finish fourth or better to clinch the championship – was forced to cheer on its sister car, the No. 4 Corvette C7.R of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Fassler, as it held off the No. 67 Ford GT in the final hour to secure a second consecutive championship for the No. 3.
With a little over two-and-a-half hours remaining and their car in contention for a race victory, Garcia spun exiting pit road and made contact with the inside wall, forcing him to go behind the wall to make repairs. He returned to the track in ninth, three laps down, setting up a scenario where all the No. 67 had to do was finish second or better to win the championship.
While in position to just that, Briscoe pit the No. 67 from second with 48 minutes to go, but was beat back out on track by the No. 4, who ended up holding on to the second position while the No. 67 fell to fifth.
“It probably went from one of my best races of my career to the most embarrassing moment of my career,” said Garcia. “Thank you to the (No.) 4 car for keeping the pressure up on the (No.) 67 car, which had to go for the win for the (championship) result. That’s part of this championship, the 4 car keeping the pressure up at the end. I’m very happy. It will take me a little bit to forget that mistake, but I’m very happy for the whole team.”
“The way it turned out, the way the 4 car went in there and really put pressure on changed things around,” added Magnussen. “Such a massive team effort to make this happen. I’m so proud to be a part of this. I think what really did it was the 4 car got sent super aggressively and changed the balance of things. Obviously the 4 car went for the win, but they knew why they were doing it. It turned things in our favor.”
It was the 13th team championship and 12th driver title for Corvette Racing in its 20-year history. The championship-winning No. 3 team managed to win the championship without scoring a win, riding remarkable consistency that included eight podium finishes in 11 starts. That was the first time since 2005 a team had won a championship with winning a race during the season. The runner-up effort for the No. 4 team, meanwhile, moved them up to third in the year-end standings.
“Congratulations to Antonio, Jan and the No. 3 Corvette C7.R team on clinching the GTLM Driver Championship,” said Mark Reuss, GM Executive Vice President and President Global Product Group and Cadillac. “This team never gave up all season to deliver our 12th Driver title for Corvette Racing over 20 seasons of competition. And congratulations to Corvette Racing and Pratt & Miller on their 13th Team Championship. They prepared a race car that delivered consistent performance and that great combination of power, durability and efficiency.”
Ford, meanwhile, secured the GTLM manufacturer championship with five wins on the season between its two entries.
The win for the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR was the team’s second endurance victory of the season, after winning the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in March, and Porsche’s third GTLM win on the season.
It was also Porsche’s 20th win in the Motul Petit Le Mans, extending its record among active manufacturers.
“It still feels amazing to win this race,” said Pilet. “It’s the last race of the season. We won Sebring, but since then we had a lot of bad luck and we missed a lot of victories during the season. But like I said, we’re right here with a brand-new motivation. We know that the team was really strong. And we have our lucky charm, Fred.”
Three manufacturers made up the top three spots in the finishing order with the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTLM of John Edwards and Jesse Krohn rounding out the podium. It was BMW’s third consecutive podium to close out the 2018 season.
A television re-air for the Motul Petit Le Mans is scheduled for Sunday, October 14 at 6 a.m. ET on FS1.