The No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R piloted by Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, and Jordan Taylor finished second in Saturday’s season-ending Petit Le Mans race at the Road Atlanta circuit. The championship-winning No. 4 C6.R driven by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Richard Westbrook wasn’t as fortunate, having experienced a steering problem that caused the car to lose 26 laps to the leaders and finishing 12th.
Following a disqualification of the pole-winning No. 02 Ferrari for an infraction during the post-qualifying technical inspection, the season-ender commenced with the Corvettes in third and fourth on the grid. Right off the bat, Gavin jumped into second behind the No. 01 Ferrari driven by Scott Sharp. Meanwhile, Garcia dropped to sixth throughout the first lap but then gained on the leader, moving up to fifth on lap six, fourth on lap eight, and third on lap twelve. The Corvette duo was then running second and third, with Gavin in second and Garcia in third behind the Ferrari, until Gavin made a move in turn 7 to take the lead at the 40-minute mark.
The teams swapped drivers just before the first full-course caution at the one-hour mark, with Magnussen replacing Garcia and taking the lead in the No. 3 ‘Vette; meanwhile, Milner replaced Gavin. 90 minutes into the race, Johannes van Overbeek in the No. 01 Ferrari passed the No. 3 Corvette to take the GT Class lead. Both Corvettes pitted under the second full-course caution and in doing so, dropped to sixth and seventh behind cars that chose not to pit. 2:30 into the event, the cars that didn’t pit chose to do so, and Magnussen ended up second, Milner third.
The subsequent bout of pit stops came at 2:45. Richard Westbrook replaced Tommy Milner in the No. 4 C6.R and Jordan Taylor replaced Jan Magnussen in the No. 3. The duo ran second and third through their shifts. Then at 3:42, Taylor handed the reigns to Garcia while Westbrook swapped with Gavin at 4:34. The course’s third full-course caution saw both Corvettes enter the pits, with Gavin replacing Westbrook and Garcia staying in the No. 3 C6.R. After five hours (halfway) into race, Gavin took the lead and extended his position to 17 seconds, only being joined by Scott Sharp in the No. 01 Ferrari and Garcia on the lead lap after five hours of racing.
The race’s fourth full-course caution took place 5:27 into the event and both Corvette race cars reached the pits before they were closed off, while Scott Sharp’s No. 01 Ferrari had to wait for the pit lanes to open. Milner came out in the lead in the No. 4 C6.R, with Magnussen following closely in the No 3 C6.R. At 5:56, Milner radioed to the crew that he was experiencing issues with the steering and came into the pits. The crew inspected the front end and sent Milner back out for a trial lap. Unfortunately, the problem persisted and Milner was forced to take the No. 4 Corvette to the transporter, after which the crew replaced the steering rack and returned Milner to the race a mere 45 minutes later and 26 laps down to the leader.
Meanwhile, Magnussen was leading the GT class in the No. 3 C6.R. He lost the lead to the No. 01 Ferrari on a pit stop at 6:34. Following several bouts of caution, three cars were on the lead lap in the GT Class: No. 01 Ferrari, No. 3 Corvette, and No. 55 BMW. At 7:39, Magnussen switched out with Garcia, who was quick to pass the No. 01 and No. 02 Ferraris on his first lap out. The Spaniard ran second behind the No. 55 BMW driven by Jerg Mueller following the series of pit stops while holding off van Overbeek’s Ferrari. Garcia came to lead the class when the BMW entered the pits, a position he held until his finishing pit stop at 8:41, which dropped him to third.
Luckily, the BMW was given a stop-and-go penalty for unacceptable refueling procedures (which we didn’t even notice while watching the event), putting Garcia in second behind the No. 01 Ferrari driven by Toni Vilander. Garcia cut the Ferrari’s 60-second lead in half during the final laps. Garcia’s performance practically forced Vilander to run the last hour and 11 minutes without a pit stop — a bet that proved to be victorious for the Ferrari team. Garcia drove the No. 3 Corvette to the finish in second, a spot occupied by the No. 3 C6.R five times in 10 ALMS races during the 2012 season. The winning Ferrari completed 375 laps of the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta course 30.676 seconds ahead of the No. 3 Corvette. Two years ago, Corvette Racing won Petit Le Mans when the fuel cell of the competing Ferrari ran dry on the final lap.
Perhaps this quote by Jan Magnussen sums the race, and the 2012 ALMS season, best for the car and its drivers:
“It’s hard not to be a little disappointed, but that’s how it is. Tonight’s result was an indication of how our season has gone – so close and yet so far. We had a fantastic car, we just missed out at the end.”
The top ten Petit Le Mans GT Results include:
Position. Car Number – Drivers – Car – Laps
- 01 Sharp/van Overbeek/Vilander – Ferrari 458 Italia – 375
- 3 Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor – Corvette C6.R – 375
- 55 J. Mueller/Auberlen/Summerton – BMW E92 M3 – 374
- 56 D. Mueller/Alzen/Summerton – BMW E92 M3 – 373
- 45 Bergmeister/Long/Pilet – Porsche 911 GT3 RSR – 373
- 17 Henzler/Sellers/Ragginger – Porsche 911 GT3 RSR – 372
- 44 Neiman/Holzer/Tandy – Porsche 911 GT3 RSR – 369
- 91 Wittmer/Farnbacher/Hunter-Reay – SRT Viper GTSR – 369
- 02 Brown/Cosmo/Lazzaro – Ferrari F458 Italia – 368
- 48 Miller/Maassen/Leitz – Porsche 911 GT3 RSR – 367
Photo Credit: Jan Magnussen