CORVETTE RACING AT LE MANS: Date with Destiny Dawns
|CORVETTE RACING AT LE MANS: Date with Destiny Dawns
Ninth Le Mans class win would add another highlight in 20th season
DETROIT (June 8, 2018) – With a successful Test Day in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for Corvette Racing to turn its focus toward the focal part of its season – the 86th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s the 19th consecutive appearance for the team at the French endurance classic… and undoubtedly its biggest challenge.
The two Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs, fresh off eight hours of testing Sunday, are part of a 17-car field in the GTE Pro category. A victory would be the ninth for the program at Le Mans and quite possibly the most impressive.
Corvette Racing was 10th and 11th in class on the Test Day with Oliver Gavin quickest in the No. 64 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R. He wasn’t too far ahead of Antonio Garcia in the No. 63 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Corvette; the two cars were separated by just 0.038 seconds around the 8.47-mile circuit.
Incredible competition is nothing new to Corvette Racing, which has swept the last two IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship titles in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class for manufacturers, drivers and teams. Those championships have come against many of the same marques and entries that the team will face at Le Mans.
Already this year, Corvette Racing has tasted success with a class victory on the streets of Long Beach for Gavin and Tommy Milner. They will team with Marcel Fässler in the No. 64 Corvette while Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller – who returns to Le Mans after last appearing in 2012 – are together in the No. 63 Corvette.
Garcia and Magnussen are coming off a hard-fought, third-place finish in the team’s most recent IMSA event at Mid-Ohio in May. The two Corvettes already have one 24-hour race under the belts with a third- and fourth-place finish in January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona to open the season.
To illustrate the closeness in GTLM, all four Corvette drivers are tied in points and only 10 markers from first place. Chevrolet is third among manufacturers but only three points out of first.
Turning toward Le Mans, the team’s history and success there is well-documented: the eight victories in 19 appearances is a level of success that no active program in the last two decades can match. Corvette Racing has won in three generations of Corvette race car – C5-R, C6.R (in two categories) and C7.R.
Each of the six Corvette Racing drivers own exemplary records at Le Mans:
The 24 Hours of Le Mans will air live on the Velocity Channel and MotorTrend On-Demand with coverage of the Test Day, practice/qualifying and the race on RadioLeMans.com.
ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 63 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R: “This race will be even more difficult this year with more brands and new cars in our category. In the end, Le Mans is long enough to work your way back if you lack just a little pace. If that’s minimal, then we can still challenge. Lacking more than that at Le Mans can be very, very painful because of the safety car rules and length of the lap. You can run your own race, but as we saw last year you really have to race your competition. Between us, the Aston Martin and one of the Fords, we all went throughout the race without a mistake in the pits or on the racetrack. With more cars than last year, it makes the odds even higher that there will be more running a trouble-free race this year. That puts a bit more pressure in the way that if you make a mistake, not just one car is going to pass you; it will be a few. For sure you need to raise your game. Every little mistake is going to cost a little bit more.”
JAN MAGNUSSEN, NO. 63 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R: “When you have an older car like we have with the Corvette C7.R, all of the big stuff has been developed. Now it’s about fine-tuning what we have. When we were testing, there were different things we are able to try because we know the car so well. You tend to dig a lot deeper to find alternative setups that we may be able to run in certain situations. It also will be good to have Rocky back with us. There definitely is an advantage to having the same drivers from Daytona and Sebring to race at Le Mans. We get to know each other a lot better, and a lot more time in the car is never a bad thing. It won’t be as new to him having that experience already this year.”
MIKE ROCKENFELLER, NO. 63 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R: “I’m very excited to go back to Le Mans. It has been awhile. There are some things in life that you take a little bit for granted, and when you don’t have it you realize how much you miss it. So I’m very proud to come back – and to come back with Corvette Racing. This will be the toughest competition I have faced at Le Mans with the number of entries and number of them who could win the race. In years past, it has been six or seven when I was in prototypes. Now it’s 17! For me – and for every expert and fan of Le Mans – the proper race and the real fight will be in GTE Pro. So it is great to be in there. I really prefer to be in that situation.”
OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 64 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R: “Racing in IMSA has prepared us really well for going to Le Mans. 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 WEC 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. The bar is just a little bit higher now, which is crazy to say because that has been the case the last several years. But this year is another level. It’s an all-manufacturer class with all pro drivers. There are no weak links. Each team will bring their best game and best strategy for the event. There will be nowhere to hide. Out of 17 cars in our class, there will be six to eight that have very good races. And of those, there will be three or four that have perfect races and will be there on the lead lap going into the last hour. I just hope at least one of our cars are in that mix and able to fight for that victory.”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 64 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R: “It seems like every year the competition in our class gets stronger. Over the years, we’ve seen that we’ve raced against some of the same teams, the same drivers and same crews over again. In our case, that experience is invaluable. We go into the race a little unsure of what to expect but each year I’ve felt like the challenge of being successful at Le Mans becomes more and more difficult as teams get more experience, new cars come out and things like that. Perhaps we adjust our own expectations. For sure it feels better when you look on the timing screen after a not so good session and you’re seventh or eighth. This year if you have a bad session, it’ll be easy to see yourself 15th, 16th or 17th. It will be a mental challenge not to get worked up. If the pace is not too bad and you’re a half-second or two seconds down the order a bit, you can’t get too flustered. That will be one of the bigger changes from years past. But I’m excited thinking about the race and the competition we’ll face. We will fight with someone on track at pretty much every part of the race.”
MARCEL FÄSSLER, NO. 64 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R: “For me, winning Le Mans this year would be amazing. I’ve been lucky to win overall but I really want to win in this classification. On paper, the challenge of our competitors will be very high. Seventeen cars is a pretty big category, and they are all-manufacturer teams. Everyone will be going for a win. If you really are the one which wins, you will have a great deal of satisfaction. That makes it super hard for everyone, but the satisfaction would be enormous if we are the ones.”
DOUG FEHAN, CORVETTE RACING PROGRAM MANAGER: “The Test Day illustrated what we already knew to be true: this year’s GTE Pro race will be the most difficult one in Corvette Racing history. Since we ended the testing session, our engineering team in Le Mans and in America have been analyzing our performance to see where we can make gains and what adjustments the crew can make to both Corvettes. It’s fair to say that the work between the test day and the first practice session is just as important as any throughout the year. We may not know until we hit the track again where we stack up, but no team will give a greater effort than Corvette Racing.”
Corvette Racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans