There were two laps left for the GTE Pro category. Corvette Racing’s Jordan Taylor was helming the No. 63 C7.R with gusto, doing his best to fend off Jonny Adam in the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage for the class win. The suspense rose to a climax as Adam beat Taylor on the braking zone at the end of Arnage to take the lead. Yet the Aston Martin subsequently ran wide of the line, and the yellow Corvette nudged the sharkskin Aston back to second place.
The cameras panned to Doug Fehan and crew back the Corvette garage, elated.
Then came the final lap. And the Aston assault proved too much for Corvette’s racecraft. Taylor had a lockup entering one of the Mulsanne chicanes, causing a flat-spot on the right front tire. This in turn affected the ability of the No. 63 to ward off the No. 97, to where Taylor couldn’t set the car up for another turn, and went straight through a gravel pit in an attempt to maintain the gap ahead of the Aston Martin. And where such an event would have otherwise been looked at by the marshals, the move caused a puncture in the opposite front tire. That sealed any hopes of Corvette Racing winning. Adam and the Aston handily passed Taylor and the Corvette on the Ford Chicane, just before the finish line.
But whereas the overall race winning Porsche No. 1 919 LMP1 officially finished, the GTE Pro class had yet another lap to go. And during that lap, the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT passed the No. 63 C7.R for second place. By the time Taylor crossed the finish line, the left tire was completely flat and locked up. The front fascia was breaking loose, and the driver’s side headlight was out.
A ninth Le Mans win cruelly evaded the Corvette Racing team in the final minutes of the 24-hour race.
All things considered, Corvette Racing still overcame incredible odds to get on the podium, and the results are far better than last year. The No. 63 C7.R, also driven by Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, merely qualified sixth. The No. 64 C7.R driven by Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin and Marcel Fassler qualified 10th. And, as things go, the 24-hour race wasn’t kind to the cars. The No. 63 Corvette dealt with both an earlier tire puncture as well as a four-wheel brake change at the 10.5 hour mark – which took only 75 seconds to complete. Near-flawless driving and a perfect pit strategy eventually put the No. 63 in the lead towards the closing stages of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, until it wasn’t. Meanwhile, the No. 64 car lost a rear wheel, as well as its wing, in the first half of the race. Tommy Milner managed to get the car back to the pits, but the time in the garage proved to be too much to reel back in the hyper-competitive GTE Pro field. The No. 64 car finished four laps off pace, and 8th in the class.
Meanwhile, Jordan’s brother, Ricky Taylor suffered his own misfortunes in the No. 43 Keating Motorsport Riley Mk. 30 LMP2 car – finishing 48th overall. And the eye-catching Larbre Corvette C7.R art car finished 49th. Both cars were the last to finish the race, ahead of 11 DNFs.