CORVETTE RACING AT VIR: Pre-Race Media Conference Transcript
MSA WEATHERTECH SPORTSCAR CHAMPIONSHIP
VIRGINIA INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
MICHELIN GT CHALLENGE AT VIR
PRE-RACE MEDIA AVAILABILITY TRANSCRIPT
AUGUST 17, 2020
Corvette Racing drivers Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor (No. 3 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C8.R), Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner (No. 4 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C8.R) and Corvette Racing Team Manager Ben Johnson met with members of the media during a Zoom conference call Monday to discuss the upcoming Michelin GT Challenge at VIR, the program’s three-race win streak in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship’s GT Le Mans (GTLM) category and other topics. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R
THERE IS A LOT OF MOMENTUM FOR THE TEAM COMING INTO A RACE WHERE CORVETTE RACING HAS EXPERIENCED A LOT OF SUCCESS. WHAT’S YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEKEND?
“VIR has been very good for Corvette Racing. We’re looking forward to getting there with the new C8.R. It’s a track that if the car is good, it’s very fun to drive. We’ve done a few runs in the simulator, and everyone seems to be happy with it. The main thing is how we compare to our competition. Our confidence is as high as it can get after three wins in a row for Corvette Racing. We will try to make it four. Everyone will want to beat us and will push us very hard, but that is racing.”
WHAT YOUR PLANS AS FAR AS STAYING IN THE U.S. OR GOING HOME AFTER VIR?
“The problem in Europe is now country-to-country, all the regulations are changing. So far, Spain is being very flexible with that. I shouldn’t have any problems coming back between VIR and Atlanta, so my plan is to come back in between VIR and Atlanta. As Olly has said, everything changes so fast, so we need to be ready to adapt and don’t get caught out in any situations. With schools starting again, it may get a little trickier. We will see how the situations ago and plan it out race-by-race.”
WE’VE SEEN IN THE PAST WITH THE UNDERCUT, PEOPLE COMING OUT FROM THE PITLANE AND HAVING TO DEFEND ON COLD TIRES. IS VIR DIFFICULT TO DEFEND AGAINST THAT? IF YOU GET TO THE ESSES ARE YOU PRETTY MUCH HOME FREE AT THAT POINT? TALK THROUGH AN OUT-LAP IF YOU HAVE SOMEONE COMING UP FRO BEHIND YOU ON HOT TIRES.
“It depends on who is following you! Last year, it didn’t take (Nick) Tandy long to get through me and one of the Fords. It’s all a very hard situation. Once you are on hot tires, you need to make as much of a gap as you can to have a little more room defend from the other guys. At VIR and once you get to the Esses, maybe you can defend a little longer. Turn One is usually very hard to go fast through on cold tires, and it’s the same as Turns Three and Four. If you can get through that section, you might be able to survive attacks. Turn One and braking into there is key. I almost went straight through there last year. It also depends on track temperature to see if that makes it a little easier. Let’s see how it plays out. I hope we have a decent lead and don’t have to think about that. We need to play our strategy and either defend or attack the rest if we are behind. That’s probably one of the key things about Corvette Racing. When you’re in the lead, you can take a normal strategy but we if we’re behind, we can do different things. Let’s see where we are and how it plays out.”
THIS YEAR, IT SEEMS LIKE IMSA MADE A CONSCIOUS EFFORT TO DROP THE POWER OF GTD CARS TO CREATE LESS CONGESTION IN BRAKING ZONES. HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT DYNAMIC PLAY OUT? COULD IT BE EASIER TO OVERTAKE BEFORE THE ESSES BUT ONCE YOU GET THERE, MAYBE YOU LOSE GROUND IF YOU GET INTO THE ESSES BEHIND A GTD CAR?
“It might change things a little bit. We might have a little bit more time to pass cars between Turn Six and the Esses. That would give him a little more opportunity and a little less risk. But if you are stuck behind them through the Esses, you will be back there longer. I think the situation we have now where we are a little bit faster on the straights is creating a little easier interaction between classes. There haven’t been many contacts between GTD and GTLM cars that I’ve seen. VIR is one of the toughest tracks for that situation because there is a very long combination of corners. The level of drivers and knowing everyone should make it a clean race.”
JORDAN TAYLOR, NO. 3 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R
YOU’VE HAD SOME SUCCESS AT VIR AS WELL IN THE PAST. HOW IS THIS WEEKEND SHAPING UP?
“I’m looking forward to it. VIR is one my favorite tracks. I was upset that the prototypes never got go there when we did the split. I think the last time I raced there was 2017 when I raced the Cadillac ATS-V.R. It’s been a few years but I really enjoy it. It’s where I got my first pole in GT in 2010 and my first win in 2011 in a Camaro. I think Olly (Gavin) was on the podium that race, too. So there is some good history there. Going back with Corvette Racing, they’ve had a really strong history too with three wins and lots of front-row starts. It bodes well. Having had the new car at a number of different tracks – Daytona, Sebring and Road America – and seeing how well it ran at those circuits, VIR should the C8.R very well.”
TALK ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS ON THE CHEVROLET SIMULATOR AHEAD OF THE DAYTONA ROAD COURSE EVENT HOW SATISFYING IT WAS SEEING ONE OF THEIR DRIVERS TAKE THE WIN.
“It was cool. I got a call from Jeff Gordon a few weeks ago to see if I’d be up for working their guys on the road course. We figured out some days and I worked with Chase (Elliott, race-winner), Alex (Bowman) and William (Byron); I think Jimmie (Johnson) was on vacation. We did about three hours with each guy, and I had about an hour of seat-time myself to drive it, see what I thought and give some feedback. We worked a little bit with the crew chiefs about priorities that we usually focus on at Daytona.. what’s important and what to focus on over a race distance. It was cool to see how they work, and it’s different to how we operate at the simulator. It was fun to watch the race. All the guys are professionals and were going to figure it out on their own. But it was cool to be a part of it and see Chase really dominate the whole day.”
YOU’VE ACCOMPLISHED A LOT IN YOUR SPORTS CAR CAREER. ARE THERE ANY OTHER RACES OR SERIES WHERE YOU’D LIKE TO WIN AND CHECK OFF YOUR BUCKET LIST?
“Watkins Glen is on that list. I’ve never won there. Road America was on it, but we checked off that box this year. As far as sports car racing, I’ve accomplished a lot of things I wanted to. Going to the Nürburgring or Spa would be fun. But Watkins Glen… it was one of my dad’s favorite tracks and is one of his favorite events, and he never won that as a driver either. I think Ricky (Taylor, Jordan’s brother) is the only one in our family who has won that one. So it’s been on our list for the past few years.”
HOW DIFFICULT HAS IT BEEN NOT TO HAVE THE USUAL INTERACTION WITH THE FANS?
“It’s been weird. We’re used to autograph sessions and the Corvette Corral, where you have tons of fans that are so passionate for the team and the fans. It’s a weird feeling showing up to the track and basically going from the pitlane to your truck and not mingling with fans and other drivers like you would have in the past. It’s a different feel. The best part is that we have social media where we can interact with fans. The TV package is really good this year for people to follow us along.”
OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 4 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R
YOU AND TOMMY HAVE MADE A BIG JUMP IN POINTS OVER THE LAST TWO EVENTS. WE’RE NOT QUITE HALFWAY THROUGH THE SEASON, BUT ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS AT THIS POINT?
“We’re going race-by-race. It’s been an excellent restart for everyone at Corvette Racing. We’ve won each race and have two one-two finishes. The C8.R has really come out the gate very fast after the lockdown period. We’re very positive and hopeful, and our confidence can’t get much higher. VIR is a good track and should be very good for us. Tommy and Jordan were on the simulator last week, and I think there were some bits and pieces that we’ll try to put in play for when we get on track Friday. It’s a good, fun track. The people that run the facility are fantastic and go out of their way to make it a welcoming environment for the teams, the crews and the drivers. It’s a shame we can’t have spectators there this year, although we understand and fully respect that. We’re all excited to get back to racing after seemingly have those three races almost one after the other. It should be fun.”
YOU SPENT A LONG TIME IN THE U.S. AND GOT TO GO HOME. THE NEXT COUPLE OF RACES ARE PRETTY CLOSE TOGETHER. IS THERE THOUGHT ABOUT STAYING OVER AGAIN?
“It was great to come home, see the family and spend some good quality time with them. I’ll come over for VIR, stay over through Atlanta and reassess the situation then. That is my plan, but situations are changing and moving.”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 4 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R
THIS IS AS CLOSE TO HOME AS IT GETS FOR YOU ON THE SCHEDULE. WHAT IS IT ABOUT VIR THAT SEEMS TO MAKE IT A FAVORITE OF THE DRIVERS?
“For lots of reasons, VIR is one of the best tracks we go to. The people there – Connie (Nyholm) and her group – do a fantastic job with the teams, with the drivers and with fans. Unfortunately fans won’t be there this year, obviously. It’s a great racetrack – one that’s fun to drive by yourself. It’s a big challenge to get it all right with the uphill Esses being a huge challenge in our GTLM cars. Then you add in 25 more cars and it becomes that much more difficult to go racing and making passes happen. If you make a mistake, there’s typically big punishment. It’s a lot of fun and great for us to be the headline class in GTLM. Being from Virginia, I usually have friends and family there, but unfortunately they can’t be there this year but they’re excited to watch on TV and online. I’m excited to get going and seeing how this new Corvette performs at VIR.”
BEN JOHNSON, CORVETTE RACING TEAM MANAGER
ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH HOW QUICKLY THE C8.R PROGRAM HAS COME ON SO STRONG?
“Certainly we had expectations with a new car and all the development effort we put into it that we would be competitive straight out of the gate. At the Rolex 24 at the Roar, we learned quite a bit but were also happy with the performance of the C8.R. The downtime gave us the opportunity to address things we had seen from Daytona and the WEC race at Austin to bring a more developed car back down to Daytona for the restart of the season. We had high confidence but at the same time we have very tough competition. To have the success we have had to date is really motivational for the team and justifies a lot of the effort that has gone into it. You hope for success but you also know there are a lot of really good teams that are trying accomplish the same task.”
IN REGARD TO THE BOP FOR THIS WEEKEND, THERE HAVE BEEN WEIGHT ADJUSTMENTS FOR THE CARS IN GTLM. HOW WILL IT AFFECT THE CORVETTE?
“I think we were a bit surprised by the changes. Ultimately we have to rely on what IMSA has at its disposal for data and the metrics to make the right decisions. Certainly the cars are getting heavier and the tire degradation and the ability to make the car last over a stint will be that much more challenging, particularly with the elevated temperatures. How it changes the complexion of the competition and how it affects the different cars is something we will have to see when we get to the race.”
THERE HAVE BEEN QUESTIONS REGARDING WHAT GTLM COULD LOOK LIKE NEXT YEAR. IS THERE SOMETHING YOU CAN SAY ABOUT THE CORVETTE’S BUILD AND IS IT EASILY CONVERTIBLE TO A GT3 SPECIFICATION IF THERE WAS A DECISION TO BE MADE ABOUT THAT?
“It’s a relatively large task to make sure you’re changing the car – if we were to do that – to the GT3 rulebook. It’s not something simple that can be done in a relatively short amount of time. The future of GT racing is critical to Corvette. We’re committed to it and find a lot of value in professional-level GT racing to market the Corvette product. We’ll continue to work with IMSA, the FIA and the ACO to build the future of GT racing. But to change a car from GTE to GT3 isn’t simple as changing homologation stickers. There’s quite a bit of work to make sure you are meeting all the technical regulations for the GT3 platform.”
HAVE YOU DONE FEASABILITY STUDIES AND WHATNOT FOR THIS POSSIBILITY?
“Primarily just reviewing regulations. There is the updated regulations set for GT3 in the future, but that’s as far as it gone at this point until we can build a long-term roadmap with all the sanctioning bodies.”
WHAT WERE THE AREAS THAT YOU FOCUSED ON DURING THE LOCKDOWN TIME THAT REALLY SEEM TO BE PAYING OFF WITH BENEFITS NOW?
“From a car standpoint, there was really nothing at Daytona that was an acute failure. So we focused on small items that we had on the back burner that were going to be difficult to fit in to either development or manufacturing given the initial timeline of the races. The lockdown allowed us to at least plan those such that after we got off of the lockdown we could execute the high-priority ones. With a younger car that we have at the moment, there are things that after you accumulate mileage will show up – small chassis items, some suspension items that you fix before you get to the next race. What gained us more performance was the ability to look back at all the data from Daytona and the restart of the simulator program once IMSA lifted the testing ban on that and provide us some additional time to have all the drivers come and participate in that to learn from the Rolex 24 to prepare for the July race.
“We also put quite a bit into the operations part of the team. With a new car come new challenges on pit stops, driver changes and even doing quick adjustments on the car. When we had time between the end of the lockdown and the Daytona 240 race, we spent quite a bit of time homing in on those items as well.”
ONCE THE BAN WAS LIFTED AND YOU WERE ABLE TO DO SIMULATOR WORK, WHAT KIND OF TIME DID YOU ACCUMULATE ONCE YOU WERE ABLE TO ADDRESS ALL THOSE THINGS?
“The simulator is shared resource within Chevrolet, so you have to book time on it. Ahead of the first race, I think we had three or four days on the simulator between the end of lockdown and the Daytona July race. Those three or four days is enough time to generate quite a bit of content and information to review. That worked out well to have enough time to stage two tests and use the additional time then go back through that data to understand what was a positive and apply that to the car.”
WITH THE 20 EXTRA KILOGRAMS THAT YOU’RE DEALING WITH AT VIR, CAN YOU PUT BALLAST WHERE YOU WANT?
“The GT regulations enforce that you have to homologate the locations where you’re putting weight. That’s more for a safety perspective so the car is designed to have weight put in different places. But that is up to the manufacturer to select where those areas of the car will be built up to accept balance. We have five places on the C8.R where we can put weight. While it is a performance detriment to have 20 kilograms added, like everyone else we try to use it to the best we can to achieve a weight balance that best suits the car at the upcoming track.”
WITH THE NEW CAR, HOW MUCH UNTAPPED POTENTIAL DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE? AND AT ROAD AMERICA, IT LOOKED LIKE YOU HAD SOME TIRE DEGRADATION ISSUES, PARTICULARLY ON THE 3 CAR. IS THAT A CONSEQUENCE OF SHORT WEEKEND AND LEARNING ABOUT A NEW CAR AT THIS STAGE OF THE SEASON?
“In terms of how much capacity is left in the C8.R, in any new car you always are trying to find the next step. With the Corvette C7.R, we still found things. The tire typically changes every year so that kind of restarts some portion of the development process. The C8.R probably has a larger learning curve than some, but with the mileage we have accumulated from the test program, the races and our Driver-In-The-Loop (simulator) program, I think we are fairly far along. We hope to continue polish it and find time at the upcoming events.
“At Road America, tire degradation for us was high. We’ve done as much as we can to address that. Unfortunately without more time on the track, you can’t employ every change that you’d like to. We hope going forward that we’ve made a good step in that direction to make it a bit better. Some of that is the car being new and us continuing to learn it with, and the other part is a combination of tires, ambient conditions and BoP. Hopefully we’ll have a better stint performance at VIR given what we know now following Road America.”
WITH THE BOP CHANGE, IS THERE A BALLPARK NUMBER OF WHAT A CERTAIN WEIGHT ADDED OR TAKEN AWAY MEANS IN TERMS OF LAP TIME AT A TRACK LIKE VIR?
“Typically it’s somewhere between 1- or 1.5-tenths of a second per 10 kilograms as a general rule. I would expect that sort of change for us going forward.”
FROM CORVETTE’S PERSPECTIVE, ARE YOU IN FAVOR OF A HAVING CONVERGENCE OF GT REGULATIONS, OR ARE YOU TAKING A WAIT-AND-SEE APPROACH?
“The road map and plan isn’t formalized to that point yet. There are quite a few discussions that need to happen to understand what the future of GT racing looks like – is it a continuation of GTE or is it some level of convergence? Our priority is to make sure we can continue to showcase Corvette at the highest level. That requires factory efforts that display the car and demonstrates its potential. That’s what Corvette has been built on – the track-to-street connection. That’s the main priority… to continue that level of connection between the production car and the race car.”
IF YOU WERE TO HAVE TWO DIFFERENT SPECIFICATIONS – LIKE ONE FOR IMSA AND ONE FOR LE MANS – WOULD THAT RULE YOU OUT OF DOING SOMETHING LIKE THAT?
“It all depends on the difference is. Right now, there is a bodywork difference between the sprint package and Le Mans. If something like that were to take place, it needs to be something that is achievable and doesn’t completely change the car otherwise you’re in the situation where you have a GTE car and a GT3 car.”