2019 Corvette Racing Season
The 2019 season would close a chapter within the 20-year history of Corvette Racing. Pratt & Miller were already developing the new eighth generation Corvette race car, yet to be announced as the C8.R. The next generation race car would be a radical new design featuring a mid-mounted, flat-plane crank V8. With the C8.R preparing to make its debut the following season, 2019 would be the final year of the C7.R and the front-engine Corvette race car. For the final time, chassis C7RGT-007 would be called upon as the #3 car with chassis C7RGT-006 returning as the #4 car. With most of Pratt & Miller’s efforts going into the development of the C8.R, little changes were made to the C7.R including the livery. The 2018 adapted livery introduced at Watkins Glen had been carried over into 2019 besides the yellow rear wing chord that had returned to black. After three consecutive championships, Corvette Racing were looking to defend their title to close off the C7.R era on a high. This would not be made easy due to the lack of development on the C7.R, whilst the competition such as BMW and Porsche, had made improvements to their cars during the off-season.
In typical fashion the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship started with the three-day test at Daytona International Speedway named the Roar Before the 24. Taking place between January 4th – 6th, the Roar Before the 24 allowed all teams expecting to compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, to optimize their setups and strategies. However, introduced the previous year, teams now had the opportunity to fight for pit box and garage allocation based on lap times. Although the rewards may seem trivial, time can be lost in pit lane due to waiting in the pit box for cars running down pit road. Typically, a pit box located near the entrance of pit road is favorable as it can avoid these kinds of delays. A better garage location can save precious time if damage or a mechanical failure requires repairs during the race. During the test weekend, Corvette Racing’s pair of C7.Rs completed 341 laps, equating to over 1,200 miles. During the qualifying session for pit and garage allocation, Jan Magnussen set the fastest time of 1:42.651, with help from drafting teammate Oliver Gavin. The team used the same technique the previous year, which resulted in a similar outcome. With practice time being limited during the week of the race, Pratt & Miller utilized the final day to data gather on the variety of Michelin tire options and fine tune their setups.
Rolex 24 at Daytona
The first race of the season was the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Corvette Racing last took a victory at the event in 2016, when Oliver Gavin managed to edge the win over teammate, Antonio Garcia by 0.034 seconds to make for an iconic finish. Since 2016, the best result at Daytona had been the third-place finish achieved by the #3 car the previous year. With a great three-day test during the Roar Before the 24, and good practice sessions heading into Thursday’s qualifying, the team were feeling confident. During qualifying it was Nick Tandy in the #911 Porsche that took the GTLM pole, setting a time of 1:42.257. Jan Magnussen was not far behind posting a time of 1:42.583 to seal the second spot on the front row of the grid. Unfortunately for the #4 Corvette, Oliver Gavin was unable to copy the success of the sister car. Gavin reported a struggle for grip and the tire pressures being split. This resulted in the #4 setting the slowest time within GTLM of 1:43.239, placing their Corvette in ninth place. The race started on Saturday really well for Corvette Racing. Magnussen piloting the #3 was able to take the early lead and started to pull a gap. Within the first hour, there was an issue for Ryan Briscoe of the #67 Ford after he clipped the wall leaving pit lane and later spun out on track. Briscoe would bring the #67 into the garage for repairs. During the second hour of the race, it was looking very positive for Corvette Racing. Oliver Gavin managed to find good pace out of the #4 C7.R and moved up into fourth place. Magnussen had lost a bit of time during the first pit stop but was catching the leader.
The race would dramatically change for the #3 during the second pitstop. Both Corvettes pitted together, with the #4 Corvette’s pit box being in front of the #3’s. Magnussen stopped successfully in his box as Gavin pulled into his ahead. Whilst Gavin angled the #4 C7.R in, he accidently cut across the nose of the sister #3 car, which damaged the #3 badly. This resulted in repairs being made to the #3, dropping them off the lead lap. As the hours passed, the trio of Gavin, Milner and Fässler were able to get the #4 Corvette up to lead by the sixth hour mark. During the next quarter of the race, luck would come to the #3 Corvette. By utilizing smart pit strategy along with the help of timely caution periods, not only was the #3 able to get back onto the lead lap but was able to fight the Porsches for the lead in GTLM. It was a remarkable achievement; however, the success would be cut short after an electrical issue started to plague the #3. The issue affected the digital-dash, which disrupted the car-to-pits telemetry. With no telemetry, both the Pratt & Miller engineers and Antonio Garcia behind the wheel, were unable to monitor the fuel. The result was just before the halfway mark of the race, Garcia would run out of fuel on the back straight. During this time, the #4 Corvette was still running well, spending time in the lead on multiple occasions and consistently fighting amongst the top five.
As the race moved into the early hours, rain started to create havoc on the circuit. With the #3 being several laps down, it played into their favor as they were trying to get back onto the lead lap. By the 16th hour, the rain had completely soaked the circuit making the driving extremely challenging. The rain would claim another victim, but this time it would be the #4 Corvette. With Tommy Milner behind the wheel, the #4 hydroplaned violently at turn one, a section of the track where the cars exit the NASCAR banks at over 175 mph to brake hard into the tight and narrow hairpin. Milner would rotate at high speed across the circuit towards the tire barrier. Milner was unable to slow the car, however, he was able to strategically brake to control the rotation. This resulted in the #4 making heavy contact with tire barrier with the left side of the car. After the #4 was returned to the garage on a flatbed, both crews from the #3 and #4 went to work repairing the car. The left-side exhaust, rocker panel and bodywork would be replaced including the rear wing and front fascia. Corvette Racing were able to get the #4 back out on track in under 30 minutes with less than eight hours to go. By hour 18, the rain had become so torrential that the officials decided to red flag the race. After a lengthy stoppage the drivers were instructed to head back to their cars on hour 19, but it may have been premature. A huge pile up caused by poor visibility on the front stretch, took out multiple GTD cars. The drivers were complaining the conditions were too dangerous, but the IMSA officials were determined to finish the race.
With the rain, remaining relentless, on hour 21, multiple cars went skating off at turn one whilst crashing each other, including the GTLM leading #66 Ford GT and the #911 Porsche. After a total of 17 caution periods, the race would be red flagged again due to conditions. The cars all sat on pitlane for the final two hours, until the officials decided to call the race. For the first time in the history of the Rolex 24 at Daytona the race would finish short of the 24-hour mark. During the commotion before the race was stopped, the #3 Corvette was able to make up two positions into sixth, where it would finish. The #4 would finish in eighth place ahead of the #24 BMW. It was a rough weekend for Corvette Racing that seemed to have everything thrown at them. The result was not ideal, however in typical Corvette Racing style, the team never gave up.
Super Sebring Weekend
The next round of the championship would be the notorious Twelve Hours of Sebring. The IMSA race would take place on Saturday March 16th. On the Friday of the same weekend, the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) would run a 1000-mile race at the same circuit. This created a “Super Sebring” weekend, which Corvette Racing announced they would be participating in both events. A third chassis of C7RGT-004 would make its way to Sebring from Pratt & Miller. C7RGT-004 was the chassis that swept the 2016 championship. Unfortunately, the following year, chassis C7RGT-004 was badly damaged in a fire at the 2017 Roar Before the 24. Due to the damage, chassis C7RGT-004 would be replaced by C7RGT-006 for the 2017 season. Chassis C7RGT-004 last saw action in 2018 at the 6 Hours of Shanghai, Corvette Racing’s first competition in Asia. Chassis C7RGT-004 would wear #63 for the first time in competition and would be piloted by Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller.
Both Magnussen and Garcia would be called upon for the WEC Friday morning qualifying session. Unlike the single driver qualifying in IMSA, the FIA WEC takes an average time from the best laps set by two of drivers. Throughout the WEC qualifying Magnussen and Garcia created an average best time of 1:57.844 placing the #63 fifth on the GTE Pro grid. Garcia set the fastest time amongst the GTE Pro grid of 1:57.257, however a brake issue compromised Magnussen’s run. Later that morning IMSA would run their qualifying session, which saw Antonio Garcia post the best time for Corvette Racing. With a slightly different Balance of Performance (BoP) for IMSA competition, the #3 C7.R posted a time of 1:56.158 placing the #3 C7.R third, over one second faster than the time set in the WEC session. Milner was not far behind Garcia with a time of 1:56.248, however the #4 would be fifth fastest as the top eight cars in GTLM would be separated by only 0.832 seconds.
FIA WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring
The 1000 Miles of Sebring race was the sixth round of the 2018/2019 FIA WEC. Corvette Racing had already competed in two of the other rounds at the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours and the 6 Hours of Shanghai. Starting from fifth in the GTE Pro class, the #63 Corvette C7.R managed to run as high as fourth near the start of the race. It would be the tires that put Corvette Racing at a huge disadvantage to the rest of the GTE Pro field. The Michelin tires used in the WEC were a different specification to the Michelins used in IMSA. With the WEC cars having collected far more data on the tires allowed them to know what pressures to run them at and how they react to different temperatures. Pratt & Miller had data on the WEC specification Michelin tire from running them at the other two races, but it was not enough in comparison to the rest of the grid.
Antonio Garcia started the race, and it was not long before the tires started causing him problems. The #63 C7.R started to slip backwards as the Pratt & Miller engineers on pit wall started to look at solutions. Later in the race the #63 went off-sequence with the rest of the GTE Pro pit stops. This was partly because the drivers-side door needed replacing on a couple of occasions. The doors of the C7.R used for WEC events differed from the IMSA doors featuring sophisticated digital number boards. The WEC were still using the old style, three lights on the side used to indicate if a car was in the top three since the early 2000s. By the time Jan Magnussen took over driving duties, the tire setup had been altered, resulting in the #63 Corvette displaying better pace and making up time they had lost previously in the race.
Towards the final hours of the race, rain started to come down and create a lot of drama on track. On several occasions, cars of different classes went off circuit, which included some crashes. Fortunately for Corvette Racing, they were able to stay away from trouble and maintain consistent lap times to hold on to their position. The race finished with the #63 taking eighth in class. All three drivers managed to run a flawless race. Despite the setbacks, the #63 managed to stay on the lead lap the whole race. It was apparent the lack of experience on the different specification tire was hurting Corvette Racing in the WEC events as the team felt they had a car that could run at the front and potentially win.
Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring
It was a busy weekend for Corvette Racing. After finishing the 1000 Miles of Sebring event the previous the day, the following morning their attentions were immediately switched to the 12-hour IMSA event. With the two Corvettes starting from third and fifth, whilst running on a tire they knew well, the team felt a lot more optimism. The race would start under tricky conditions, with gloomy skies soaking the 3.74-mile circuit. With the race looking to be mostly dry it meant the teams would have to gamble on having a fast dry setup but be sketchy in the rain, or setup their cars for the wet but struggle for pace once the track dried out. On the start Garcia was able maintain second place, but after the first two hours passed, the C7.R was struggling for grip and had dropped to fifth, with Milner in the sister car right behind.
After two and half hours of racing, the circuit was gradually drying, despite drizzle continued. Garcia had inherited the GTLM lead, but cars were still spinning on the damp track. With just over nine and half hours remaining, the #77 Mazda DPi brought out a full-course caution due to a fire, similar to what happened to the team at Daytona, last race. Both Corvettes were back running together in fifth and sixth. The lead in GTLM was held by the #67 Ford that appeared to be running on a much softer setup, favored for wet weather racing.
Two hours later the track was now mostly dry with damp patches and standing water in areas. The track was now coming to the Corvettes, with Mike Rockenfeller behind the wheel, the #3 had moved up to third in class behind the two Fords. Unfortunately for the #4 Corvette, which had been running well, an alternator issue resulted in the car being brought into the garage for work. The #4 C7.R lost 11 laps at the expense of the electrical issue and was taken out of contention for a good result quite early into the race. Just before the halfway point of the race, drizzle had started to make the track conditions tough again as most cars stuck to slick tires. This caught out the #55 Mazda DPi that went off at turn 12 to hit the wall of turn 13 bringing out another full-course caution.
The race would remain trouble free for the next few hours as conditions started to improve again. Just before the eighth hour mark, the #3 Corvette was running second in class behind the #67 Ford. The #3 was able to hold onto second for the next two hours as the sun set, and the day transitioned to night. Garcia was piloting the #3 Corvette, 30 seconds behind the leader. However, the pressure was on as the #66 Ford behind had closed the gap to Garcia to within three seconds. Just before the 10-hour mark, drama would erupt for the team’s strategies as the #8 Audi R8 GTD car became stationary bringing out the first full-course caution in while. Within the remaining 80 minutes of the race, the Pratt & Miller engineers had worked out they were not going to be able to finish the race on fuel without two stops. As the #3 was running in third, the team decided to roll the dice and go on full attack mode. On their final pits stop with just over an hour remaining Garcia was behind the wheel entering the track in fifth place. Garcia was able to close the gap to the cars ahead over the next 45 minutes to be within one tenth of the #24 BMW ahead in fourth place. Garcia made his move and was able to pass for fourth in class. With 15 minutes remaining, Joey Hand in the #66 Ford was just over 16 seconds ahead in third.
Garcia persisted to drive the #3 hard to close the gap to within 0.700 seconds of the #66 Ford with five minutes remaining. With the GTLM leading #911 Porsche only 2.2 seconds ahead of third place, Garcia knew the win was within grasp. Ryan Briscoe in the #67 Ford was only 0.462 seconds of the GTLM leader. Pushing his Ford GT hard, he made contact with a prototype entering turn 15 in the attempt not to lose any time. Briscoe spun off the track allowing his teammate and Garcia in the #3 to pass by. Over the next few minutes, the #911 Porsche was able to hold the lead, whilst the #66 Ford withstood the pressure from Garcia. Porsche won GTLM and the #3 Corvette would finish third. Corvette Racing felt frustration knowing that if the race had gone three or more laps longer, the tires of their competitors would have been worn out, handing the #3 the victory. Despite this, it was a thrilling race at the end and Corvette Racing could walk away proud of the podium finish. The #4 Corvette was able to finish the race in eighth position but was unable to get any laps back after the time lost in the garage.
Grand Prix of Long Beach
Round three of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship took the series to California for a Prototype and GTLM only race, at the streets of Long Beach. Corvette Racing had established a strong reputation within endurance racing, however, at the shortest race of the season, the team was looking for their third straight win in the 100-minute race. Since 2007, Corvette Racing had collected eight class victories at Long Beach along with a combined total of 15 podiums. A win at Long Beach was much needed for the team as after two rounds, Garcia and Magnussen were sitting sixth in the Drivers’ standings and the #3 Corvette, fifth in the Team standings. Gavin and Milner were further back, holding ninth in the Drivers table and the #4 Corvette was sitting eighth in the Team championship. During the winter it had become apparent the engineers in Stuttgart had made many improvements to their mid-engine Porsche 911 introduced the previous year. Coming hot off the win at Sebring, the two Porsches were able to claim pole and second place in GTLM during qualifying. Chasing the pole time of 1:16.313, the best efforts from Corvette Racing came from Oliver Gavin posting a 1:16.520, placing the #4 C7.R third on the GTLM grid. Garcia qualified the #3 Corvette fifth with a time of 1:16.685.
The race would start under perfect conditions, quite the breath of fresh air for the teams after the rain they faced in Florida. Within the first lap of the race the #54 Nissan DPi went into the wall at turn six. As the #54 was backing out of the wall, the race leaders came around, which created chaos as they tried to avoid him. This resulted in a three-way battle for third place between the prototypes heading into turn eight. As the #10 Cadillac made the turn, the #55 Mazda made contact with the #10 car and spun out facing the wall. This brought out the first full-course caution of the race. The race went back to green with an hour and 26 minutes remaining. As the race settled in, the two Porsches up front were pulling away. Oliver Gavin was doing an amazing job, staying within two seconds of the Porsches, after pulling over a seven second gap from the fourth placed #66 Ford. Antonio Garcia was staying right on the rear of the #66 Ford but had not found the right opportunity to make a move. This was until the 33-minute mark when the #66 Ford pitted very early. The stop may have been perfectly timed for the #66 Ford as two minutes later the #55 Mazda went off again to bring out another full-course caution. During the safety car period, the #31 Cadillac DPi left pit lane with a missing wheel nut on the right front wheel. At turn four the wheel came loose right in front of the #3 Corvette. Fortunately, the Corvette managed to avoid the rogue wheel.
At the 41-minute mark the GTLM leaders pitted together including both Corvettes. Garcia handed over the #3 to Magnussen whilst Milner switched over from Gavin in the #4. The #3 car beat out the #4, but the stop was not quick enough to beat the Porsches. The race went back to green with 55 minutes remaining. Having stopped earlier the #66 Ford was in the lead of GTLM, with the two Porsches behind. Fourth place belonged to the #3 Corvette with the sister #4 car right behind. Coming out of turn eight the #911 Porsche was forced wide by a passing prototype. This caused a four-way battle for second place in GTLM down the back straight. The two Porsches were side by side, whilst Magnussen tucked in behind. The #912 Porsche was able to pass his teammate, however Magnussen was unable to make a move work but remained all over the #911 Porsche. As the race passed the halfway point, the Porsches and Corvettes had caught up the class leading #66 Ford. A thrilling five-way fight erupted in the GTLM class. Five minutes later, the #912 Porsche was able to get a good exit out of turn 11 to take the inside line down the front stretch. The #66 Ford and #912 Porsche touched multiple times heading to turn one. This allowed the #911 Porsche and #3 Corvette behind to close in on the battle for the lead within inches. The following lap, the #912 Porsche made the same move out of the same turn, but this time easily passed the #66 Ford for the lead. The battle for third between the #911 Porsche and the #3 Corvette continued, with the Porsche doing great defensive driving to hold off Magnussen behind.
With 30-minutes remaining, the #911 Porsche was starting to struggle allowing the #66 Ford in second to pull away. Patrick Pilet behind the wheel of the #911 was making his Porsche very wide, creating a tough job for Magnussen’s inches behind. With 25 minutes remaining some of Pilet’s defending was questionable as heading into turn nine he made a mistake, allowing Magnussen to make a pass, however, Pilet moved over forcing Magnussen to brake or hit the wall. At turn 11, Pilet got a poor exit, providing Magnussen an opportunity to sneak onto the inside line of the front stretch. Pilet forced Magnussen right up against the wall, however Magnussen masterfully held his line to pass Pilet heading towards turn one. The fight was not over, as Pilet locked up and bumped Magnussen multiple times on the rear going into turn one. Magnussen managed to hold his position and entered turn two with a slight gap. With 20 minutes remaining, a prototype was lapping the #911, whilst Milner in the #4 Corvette was lurking behind. Milner took the opportunity heading into turn one to use the line of the prototype to pass the Porsche. Milner would lock the brakes and bumped the rear of the prototype. Fortunately, no damage was created to either car, but the #911 Porsche was able to pull a gap away from Milner. This allowed the #67 Ford to close up to Milner and start to apply pressure. A few laps later, Milner was able to recover and started to close back on the rear of the #911 Porsche ahead. At the front of GTLM, the #912 leading Porsche was falling back as the #66 Ford and third placed #3 Corvette were closing down the gap. On the 94th minute of the race, Milner was able to pass the #911 Porsche and take fourth position.
On the final lap, Magnussen had gotten right up to the #66 Ford of Dirk Müller. Magnussen got a better run out of turn five and made a move to the inside entering turn six. Müller, however, moved across the racetrack to block Magnussen. The close action continued into through turn seven and down the hill into turn eight with Magnussen inches off the back of Müller. As the Ford exited turn eight, he ran out of fuel. With Magnussen so close behind, he hit the rear of the Ford, spinning the Ford into the wall. A lot of front bodywork damage to the Corvette was a result of the incident. Milner was right behind Magnussen but in a display of class and respect, decided not to pass his damaged teammate and followed him to the finish line. Corvette Racing finished second and third. Long Beach had yet again delivering another thrilling race.
Acura Sports Car Challenge Mid-Ohio
IMSA had returned to Mid-Ohio for the second year in a row after a five-year absence. The results at Long Beach moved Garcia and Magnussen up in the championship standings. The duo and the #3 Corvette were sitting third in the standings with 87 points, only four points shy of Bamber/Vanthoor of the #912 Porsche in first place. During qualifying, the #66 Ford, driven by Sebastien Bourdais set the pole time in GTLM of 1:19.124. Tommy Milner achieved the best time for two Corvettes of 1:19.721, placing the #4 C7.R fourth on the GTLM grid. Struggling with high tire pressures, Magnussen set a time of 1:19.919, placing the #3 in seventh.
On race day there was a lot of dark clouds surrounding the circuit, but the race started under dry conditions. With a lot of rain throughout the weekend, the track had not had the opportunity to rubber in, creating a slippery track surface. After the green flag, Milner in the #4 was able to put his Corvette in a good position heading through turn six. After turn five going down the hill, Milner was four-wide between the #66 Ford, #912 Porsche and a prototype. Fortunately, everyone made it out with Milner advancing to second in GTLM. Five minutes into the race, Milner was applying pressure to the class leading #911 Porsche. However, race fans would not be treated to a battle as Pilet in the #911 Porsche was called for a drive-through penalty for jumping the start at the green flag, handing Milner the lead. Milner was able to build a lead to over one second from the #66 Ford whilst Magnussen was running in sixth. After 25 minutes of racing, Milner had started to lap some of the GTD cars. As he went into turn two (The Keyhole), Milner was preparing to go down the inside of a GTD Lamborghini. The Lamborghini seemed to move over slightly, which resulted in Milner getting really sideways under braking. It was a scary moment, but Milner held it well and cleanly got by the Lamborghini. At the 31-minute mark, the #911 Porsche made its first pitstop very early to move onto an alternative strategy. Five minutes later, the #3 of Jan Magnussen made its first stop for tires, fuel and to hand over to Garcia. This was a call by the #3 Corvette race engineer Kyle Millay, that took on information reported by Magnussen about the improving track conditions. Millay made the decision to move the #3 onto a three-stop strategy to make changes to the setup of the #3.
This allowed Garcia to get a jump on the competition as the track surface was rubbering in. Over the next few minutes, the rest of the GTLM class started to pit, allowing Garcia to move up into fifth. Just over 10 minutes into his stint, Garcia passed the #25 BMW for fourth in class, as Milner stayed out, yet to make his first stop. At the 50-minute mark the #24 BMW pitted, handing Garcia third as on the following lap, Milner pitted for fuel and tires only. At the 53-minute mark the #912 Porsche from the GTLM lead pitted, attempting to jump the #4 Corvette. As the #912 left pit lane, Garcia in the #3 passed him on track to inherit the GTLM lead. The strategy for the #912 Porsche had worked and he had come out ahead of Tommy Milner to split the two Corvettes. Just before the one-hour mark, Milner had caught up the #912 Porsche and was attempting a pass going into the kink. Bamber piloting the Porsche, moved over to block Milner just after turn three (The Kink). As the two cars exited turn four, the Porsche ahead took a bad line trying to avoid the debris left by the #66 Ford. This resulted in Milner clipping the rear of the Porsche entering turn five. Some carbon flew off the Porsche, but little damage was made to either car. The two cars continued to battle until the one hour and four-minute mark, when Milner passed pit lane very slowly.
Milner managed to get the #4 back to pit lane, to take the Corvette straight to the garage. The typically bullet-proof Corvette C7.R had suffered from the left-rear axle failing. The Corvette Racing crew went to work replacing the axle to get the #4 back out on track within 13 minutes with Oliver Gavin behind the wheel. It was unclear to why the axle had failed, but the #4 had been a victim to multiple bumps and scrapes from competitors throughout the race. Just shy of one hour remaining in the race, Garcia brought in the #3 from first in GLTM for fuel and tires only. It was a long stop as the team was fueling the #3 to the end of the race. Garcia rejoined the track in fourth place, just over 10 seconds adrift from the #912 Porsche ahead. The two Fords pitted over the next few laps, which moved Garcia up into second. The racing remained clean for the next 30 minutes until the #54 Nissan DPi beached itself at the end of turn four. The first full-course caution of the day came out with 33 minutes remaining. With just under 24 minutes remaining, the race went back to green as Garcia was now in a Porsche sandwich. At turn one the third placed Porsche dropped a spot to the #25 BMW. The #912 Porsche ahead had managed to get a good jump at the green flag to pull a large gap away from Garcia. The BMW and #911 Porsche behind had caught up Garcia and were applying pressure.
As Garcia’s tires came up to temperature, he was able start pulling away from the competition behind. The BMW and Porsche battled for third place, which resulted in the Porsche pushing his way through at ‘The Keyhole’ to take third place. The race finished with the #3 Corvette taking second place. They had taken a gamble on a longer stop hoping the Porsche did not have the fuel to finish. Taking into consideration the position they started, it was still a great result for the #3. The #4 finished eighth after showing promise of being a race winner. It was unfortunate for the #4, but in typical Corvette Racing fashion, the team displayed the never give up attitude.
Le Mans 24 Hours
The next event on the 2019 Corvette Racing calendar was the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. The organizing entity of Le Mans, the FIA and ACO, held a test day a few weeks prior to the actual event. The test allowed teams to dial in setup options whilst collecting data on the FIA-specification Michelin tires. Pratt & Miller towards the end of May, began preparing for their trip across the Atlantic. During the test, the pair of Corvettes completed a combined total of 166 laps covering more than 1,400 miles. No one benefited more than Mike Rockenfeller, after missing the test last year due to other commitments. With the same two cars being used from the event last year, the team already had a good baseline setup. Pratt & Miller dedicated some time during the test for making adjustments to camber and damper settings, but where the team really benefited was learning more about the compounds from Michelin. The team gathered data on temperature windows for specific tire compounds. Rockenfeller managed to set the fastest time within GTE Pro of 3:54.001 in the #63 C7.R Teammate Tommy Milner set the third fastest time in class at the wheel of the #64 Corvette, producing a time of 3:54.036. Overall, the test was a success, and the drivers were pleased with the results.
Two weeks later was race week with the event taking place between June 15th-16th, 2019. On the 14th, the results from the multiple qualifying sessions were in. Antonio Garcia set a time of 3:48.830 in the final qualifying session, placing the #63 Corvette third amongst the 17 entries within the GTE Pro class. Garcia’s time was the fastest time for Corvette Racing at Le Mans in over a decade. Oliver Gavin set the best time for the #64 Corvette of 3:49.573, putting his C7.R 11th on the grid. Race day started under overcast skies. During the opening lap, Garcia at the wheel of the #63 and was able to pass the #67 Ford GT in a fight for second in class. However, entering the fast Indianapolis turn, the Ford was able to hold the inside line and defend against Garcia. The following lap, Garcia was able to make the pass work at the same corner to steal second place from the Ford. Further down the order, Gavin driving the #64, was able to make up some positions to take ninth in class. As the race approached the 15-minute mark, Garcia was able to hunt down the class leading #95 Aston Martin and again at the Indianapolis turn, he passed on the outside for the lead. At the 30-minute mark of the race, the highly anticipated battle within the GTE Pro was raging on. Oliver Gavin in the #64 had caught up the #82 BMW and was attempted a pass entering the second chicane on the Mulsanne straight. The two cars came out the chicane side by side making contact with each other with the BMW staying ahead. Gavin stayed behind the BMW entering the slow Mulsanne corner, where he masterfully out braked the BMW on the inside of the turn to take seventh in class. At the two- and half-hour mark of the race, Garcia was holding a comfortable lead, whilst Oliver Gavin started to embark on a battle for fourth. Closing in on the four-hour mark with the #63 was still leading the class, the #64 started dropped back during multiple yellow flag breaks.
With Milner behind the wheel of the #64, he started to battle the #71 AF Corse Ferrari for seventh place. Milner successfully passed the Ferrari and set his sights on the #92 Porsche ahead. The pressure got to the Porsche entering Arnage corner, with the #92, locking the brakes and going wide, creating an opening for Milner to pass easily on the inside for sixth. As the race entered the fifth hour, Jan Magnussen was attempting to double stint his tires. Unfortunately, the track was not ready for tires to be double-stinted yet and the #63 started to move around and struggle for grip. The result was Magnussen started to drop down the order. Towards the end of the sixth hour, disaster struck the #64 Corvette. With Marcel Fässler behind the wheel, the #64 was going through the high-speed Porsche curves as Fässler went down the inside of the slower #88 Porsche GTE Am car. The Porsche turned in on Fässler, which spun the #64 violently into a head on collision with the wall. The #64 sustained heavy damage, resulting in it being retired. Fässler was transported to a local hospital for CT scans that came back clear.
As the day transitioned into night at the eight-hour mark, the #63 was running third in class. There was a fantastic nine car battle at the front of GTE Pro but it would be broken up by the unique safety car format for Le Mans. With the Circuit de la Sarthe being over eight miles a lap, the ACO introduced staggered, multiple safety cars to control different sections of the track. This was in a bid to improve safety but can typically split up class battles. This would be the case in 2019 as the #63 was separated from the two front runners in GTE Pro. During the night hours of the race multiple incidents brought out the yellows, making the opportunity for the #63 to fight for the win harder. The #63 Corvette chipped away at the lead pack for a number of hours and during the early-morning period, the GTE Pro leader ran into trouble, allowing the Corvette to move back into contention.
By the 16-hour mark, the C7.R had re-taken the lead as it would enter a strategy battle with the #51 Ferrari for the win. With four hours remaining the game plan seemed to be playing out nicely for Corvette Racing as the #63 was holding a nice lead. As Corvette Racing were within grasp of their ninth class victory during their 20th consecutive year at Le Mans, disaster struck with only three and half hours to go. Mike Rockenfeller brought the #63 for tires, fuel and driver change to Magnussen during a safety car period but pit exit was closed. This once again stopped the Corvette from catching the safety car queue that included the #51 Ferrari that had just inherited the lead. The #63 dropped to second and as Magnussen was fighting hard to catch up, he spun on cold tires at the exit of the Porsche curves. Magnussen made contact with the outside wall with the front-left of his car. The #63 managed to get back to the garage, where the crew repaired the left-front suspension costing the team six minutes and two laps. A final, late race visit to the garage, destroyed any last opportunities to gain additional positions and the #63 Corvette C7.R crossed the finish line in ninth place with the #51 Ferrari taking the class win. It was a very sad end to the race with the Corvette being the car to beat. In its final Le Mans for the front-engine Corvette and the C7.R, a monumental swan song was stolen away in the final hours.
Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen
Upon returning to the USA, the next event for Corvette Racing was the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, at the historic New York circuit of Watkins Glen. Chassis C7RGT-006 was being rebuilt from the big crash at Le Mans, therefore chassis C7RGT-004 would be called upon. Heading into the race weekend, the last results at Mid-Ohio had switched around the championship standings. Bamber and Vanthoor were still sitting atop of the GTLM standings with 126 points, however, Garcia and Magnussen had moved into second place with 119 points. Qualifying was a huge success with Garcia setting a record-breaking pole lap time in GTLM of 1:40.799. Tommy Milner set the third fastest time in GTLM of 1:41.291.
The race started with tragedy almost immediately for the #4 car. During the opening lap, Garcia dropped a position to the #67 Ford at turn one, then at the exit of turn two the #24 BMW passed Garcia on the inside. As this was happening, right behind, Milner was defending fourth place as the #912 Porsche went up the inside of turn three. Milner had no option but to turn in as the fast approaching inside wall of turn four was ahead. The two cars made contact, resulting in the #4 rotating to the left and hitting the inside wall with its right rear. The Corvette then went across the circuit to hit the outside wall of turn four with the left front to come to rest with the passenger side facing the oncoming traffic. As the GTD cars came out of turn four at high speed, the #9 Porsche GTD hit the right front of the #4 to be followed by the #33 Mercedes GTD, that ripped away the right rear wheel of the Corvette. Both the #4 and #33 Mercedes were taken out the race, as Tommy Milner climbed out the #4 car holding his left hand. As the field passed Milner and his wrecked Corvette behind the safety car, Tommy took a moment to point at Laurens Vanthoor in the #912 Porsche, signifying his anger at Vanthoor not leaving enough room through the turn. The race went back to green at the 13-minute mark, with Garcia now running in third behind the #24 BMW and #67 Ford. The green flag racing would not last for long as the #31 Cadillac went off at turn eight, bringing out the second full course caution. The race went back to green flag racing at the 25-minute mark as some dark clouds started to loom over the circuit. At the 45-minute mark, the top five GTLM cars were all close together as they started to lap the GTD field.
Garcia had spent a majority of his time within inches of the #24 BMW, looking for a way past. At the 49-minute mark, Garcia got a great run out of turn four to make a pass on the inside of the #24 entering the ‘Inner loop’ chicane. Garcia had taken second and was already closing the gap to the class leading #67 Ford. As the first hour was passing, the #67 Ford momentarily lost power, allowing Garcia to take the lead. At the one hour and 10-minute mark, Garcia brought in the #3 Corvette for its first stop of the day from first in class. Garcia was followed into pits by the #912 Porsche and the #66 Ford. Garcia handed over to Magnussen whilst the pit crew fueled up and fitted new tires. Magnussen easily beat the Porsche and Ford out of pit lane to enter the track ahead of the two BMWs and the #911 Porsche allowing him to maintain the class lead. Magnussen was released into the thick of the GTLM battle and spent the first few laps getting the tires up to temperature allowing the #24 BMW to close up to within 0.400 seconds. Gradually as the tires came up to temperature, Magnussen was able to extend his gap to over 1.7 seconds. Magnussen was running a clean, easy first stint, which was disrupted at the one hour and 42-minute mark by the #84 Cadillac DPi and #44 Lamborghini GTD taking each other out at the exit of the ‘Inner Loop’ chicane. The Lamborghini was able to get going again, however the Cadillac was quite badly damaged from going backwards into the tire barrier. Magnussen pitted the #3 Corvette along with the two BMWs, both Porsches and the #67 Ford. Two minutes after the incident, a full course caution came out, due to the tire barrier requiring repairs. The #66 Ford decided to stay out, therefore it inherited the GTLM lead, with Magnussen leaving pit lane in third behind the #25 BMW. The race went back to green just shy of the two-hour mark. The #66 Ford had decided to stop towards the end of full-course caution period moving Magnussen into second. Magnussen spent the next 30 minutes closing in on the BMW and looking for opportunities to pass. At the two- and half-hour mark, Magnussen got a great run out of turn four and was able to pass the #25 BMW easily on the back straight to regain the class lead. Ten minutes shy of the halfway mark, the #3 Corvette pitted for fuel and tires only with #912 Porsche. In a rare occurrence, the Porsche was able to just edge out of pit lane ahead of the Corvette. After the two Fords pitted, Magnussen was sitting third behind the two Porsches within one second of the leader. After the halfway point of the race, Magnussen was close to the Porsche ahead, however, he was lifting and coasting into each turn in the pursuit of saving fuel. With two hours and 40 minutes remaining, Magnussen pitted the #3 Corvette along with the #912 Porsche and #24 BMW. Magnussen would hand back over to Garcia and the #3 would exit pitlane behind the #912 Porsche, rejoining the circuit in sixth. With two hours and 15 minutes to go, the #25 BMW pitted, moving Garcia up into fifth. Eight minutes later the class leading #911 Porsche pitted, as Garcia had closed a four second gap down to under a second of the #911 Porsche. As Garcia passed the Porsche in pits, he advanced into fourth and was now under one second from the sister #912 Porsche. Two minutes shy of the four-hour mark, the class leading #66 Ford pitted along with the sister #67 Ford. Garcia had now moved into second place and was only half a second behind the class leading Porsche. With one hour and 56 minutes remaining, Garcia made his move for the lead heading down into turn one. The #912 Porsche decided to protect the middle of the track, forcing the Corvette to take the outside line. Garcia entered turn one side by side with the Porsche on the outside, and was able to turn into the apex, whilst the Porsche ran wide at the exit. As they entered turn two side by side again, a GTD BMW sat in front of the Porsche, to which Garcia took advantage of and passed on the inside of turn two to claim first place again. As Garcia settled into the lead, an issue had risen for Corvette Racing. Garcia had forgotten to put in his ear plugs, meaning he had no radio communication with pit road. Corvette Racing resorted to using a board and tape to inform Garcia on how many laps were remaining until his next stop. The second placed #912 Porsche stopped with one hour and 44 minutes remaining and on the following lap, Garcia must have received the message on the makeshift board, to pit. During the stop, Garcia stayed in the car as a member of the pit crew handed him a piece of paper with information about the next stint. Garcia was able to exit pitlane with a nice margin from the #912 Porsche behind.
The #3 was now running fifth, with the four cars ahead running on staggered pit stop strategies. As the #24 BMW pitted from the lead, everything was playing into the #3 C7.Rs favor for the race win. Unfortunately, with an hour and 25 minutes remaining the #38 LMP2 car became stationary at turn seven. This brought out another full course caution that played nicely into the hands of the top three GTLM cars, yet to pit. The top three pitted, with Garcia making pit road just before it closed, to take on fuel and tires only. Garcia was now sitting last in class and whilst still under caution, pitted again with for fuel only. With one hour and 14 minutes remaining, the #3 was hoping to have fuel to the end. Garcia left the pits having leapfrogged the #24 BMW thanks to a faster stop. With just under 70 minutes to go, the race went back to green. Garcia was able to pass the #912 Porsche to be faced with the #25 BMW next in line. On the following lap, Garcia passed the BMW to take fourth behind the two Fords. As action on the track unfolded, a scary moment happened on pit road when the #25 BMW stopped for bodywork repairs. As the BMW was fueling, a large fire broke out. Fortunately, no one was harmed during and despite the large size of the fire, it was extinguished quickly. Back on track, Garcia was trying every move possible to pass the #66 Ford for third, but the Ford was aggressively defending. Garcia was being held up by the Ford, allowing the class leading #911 Porsche to pull out a large lead. with 48 minutes to go, the #911 Porsche pitted for fuel along with Garcia. The #3 Corvette was now running sixth behind the #911 Porsche, with the two Fords pitting for fuel four minutes later. Garcia passed the Fords on pit road to take two spots for third. Over the next 20 minutes, Garcia gradually closed down a four second gap to the #911 Porsche to under two seconds. With 13 minutes remaining, the class leading #912 Porsche stopped for a splash of fuel, leaving a battle for the lead between the #911 Porsche and #3 Corvette. With under five minutes to go, the gap had come down to 1.3 seconds, but the Porsche was managing to run consistent laps. On the final lap, Garcia was only 0.5 seconds behind the Porsche. Nick Tandy managed to hold off Garcia at the finish line to take the win. Garcia would finish second only 0.452 seconds adrift from Tandy. The result became the third straight podium for the #3 car, but the team were frustrated. They clearly had the car to beat, but the late full course caution gave the advantage to the Porsche.
Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix Presented By Acura
The following week, the series headed north of the border to the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Previously known as Mosport, Corvette Racing boasted a successful record at the Canadian circuit having clinched 11 class victories there since 2001. Heading into the round, it was announced that Tommy Milner would miss the race after sustaining an injury to his left hand during the incident at Watkins Glen. Marcel Fässler would fill in for Milner as he awaited clearance from the doctors. The Pratt & Miller team had the challenge on their hands to rebuild the #4 car in time for the race. The team started working on the car during the race at Watkins Glen as soon as the car was brought back to them on a flatbed after the opening lap incident. With chassis C7RGT-006 still at the factory being rebuilt from the crash at Le Mans, C7RGT-004 was transported to Canada, whilst undergoing repairs. The GTLM championship had gotten incredibly tight, with the #911 Porsches sitting atop of the standings with 152 points. Garcia/Magnussen sitting behind by only 1 point, whilst tied with the #912 Porsche. During qualifying, both Corvettes struggled. Magnussen posted a 1:14.295, placing the #3 Corvette in seventh place on the GTLM grid. Magnussen reported issues with a balance shift within the setup of the #3 C7.R. Fässler set the time in the rebuilt #4 car of 1:14.769. The #4 Corvette would make up the last spot in GTLM. With the pole lap time in GTLM being 1:13.086 set by the #24 BMW, Corvette Racing had their work cut out for them.
On race day, the weather presented clear skies around. During the opening lap, Magnussen was able to gain one position by passing the #66 Ford, to obtain sixth in class. The first 20 minutes were pretty event free for the two Corvettes until the 22-minute mark. Whilst entering turn one, two prototypes were fighting for position, resulting in one of them making contact with Magnussen’s #3 Corvette. Magnussen was forced wide through the turn allowing the #66 Ford to close up and start to challenge the #3. Magnussen was able to stay cool and recovered well resulting in him pulled a four-car gap on the Ford by the end of the lap. At the 36-minute mark of the race, with nothing to lose, the #4 Corvette pitted to attempt an alternative strategy. Fässler handed over to Oliver Gavin, that had not quite finished connecting all the safety belts by the time the pit crew had finished working on the car. This added significant time to the pit stop with the #4 entered the track to be lapped by the GTLM leading BMW.
At the 43-minute mark of the race, Jan Magnussen pitted the #3 from sixth. He handed over to Antonio Garcia who had problems getting the #3 into gear as he was trying to leave the pit box. As the #3 pitstop was underway, the #4 Corvette pit crew were getting out the board like they had to use last weekend at Watkins Glen for Garcia. Oliver Gavin’s radio was not working, forcing the team to communicate with him via a board with writing on. A few minutes later the #66 Ford pitted but was able to get out ahead of the #3 due to the issues Garcia had in pit lane. With 58-minutes to go, some of the GTLM front runners made their stops, allowing Garcia to move up into fifth. At the same time, Oliver Gavin made his stop for fuel and tires only. As the #911 Porsche pitted, Garcia had moved up to fourth in class, but Garcia would stop on the next lap with 55 minutes to go. Garcia stayed in the car and opted for fuel and tires only.
After the stops in GTLM had played out, the #3 was back in seventh with the #4 behind. Corvette Racing were optimizing the setup throughout the race, which resulted in Garcia setting the second fastest time in GTLM. With 47-minutes remaining the first full course caution of the day came out due to the #38 prototype going off at turn 5B. The race went back to green with 36 minutes remaining, with both Corvettes surrounded by GTD traffic. The front running GTLM cars were free of the GTD cars allowing them to pull away from the Corvettes, spoiling the Corvette Racing strategy. The green flag racing would only last three minutes as the second full course caution of the day came out due to a scary incident involving the #50 Cadillac DPi. The #50 lost control at turn two and gone into the tire barrier at high speed with the left side of the car. The Cadillac was sat on its side exposing its underbelly as it was wrapped within the tire barrier. A lot of work was required to get driver Victor Franzoni out the car and the #50 free from the tire barrier. Fortunately, Franzoni was alert and talking as he was taken away in an ambulance to a local hospital. The race was red flagged with 17 minutes remaining as track workers removed the Cadillac. The red flag would only last eight minutes as the cars were back out on track under yellow. The race went green with 14 minutes remaining. Corvette Racing’s chance to gain any positions had been taken away by the amount of time eaten up by the two full course cautions. The race finished with the #912 Porsche taking the GLTM win with the #3 finishing seventh and the #4 in eighth. It was certainly a very disappointing weekend for Corvette Racing. The team admitted they had missed the mark on the setups on both Corvettes. The Porsche had gotten lucky with how their pit strategy had worked in conjunction with the two yellow flag periods. The win for Porsche became the fifth straight, allowing the #912 to pull out a 11-point lead in the standings over the #3 Corvette.
Northeast Grand Prix Lime Rock
The next round of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was a GT only race at Lime Rock Park, Connecticut. With Tommy Milner still not cleared by the doctors to race, Marcel Fässler would step in as Milner’s replacement in the #4 Corvette for the second straight event. After a disappointing weekend at the previous round, Corvette Racing were looking to get back in their stride at Lime Rock. During practice, Fässler had a moment when he went up the escape road of turn five, striking a small tire barrier before rejoining the circuit. The #4 C7.R required the front end to be replaced. During qualifying, the fastest lap would be set by the #912 Porsche of 49.133. Garcia set the best time for Corvette Racing of 49.690, with Oliver Gavin not far behind with a 49.748. This placed both Corvettes in fifth and sixth on the grid. Despite being further down the order than they would have liked, the team were optimistic due to how close they were to the pole lap time.
On race day the temperatures were as high as 98°f, making the conditions tough for both cars and drivers. During the opening lap of the race, the #24 BMW attempted to pass Gavin on the outside of turn one. The BMW bumped the left-rear of Gavin’s Corvette and went wide onto the dirt. The #24 rejoined the track in last place in GTLM as Garcia was slowly closing in on the #66 Ford ahead. It only took five minutes for the top three cars to pull out a gap from the rest of the field. As the race approached the 10-minute mark, the #25 BMW in third started to drop back from the front two Porsches, as the #66 Ford had created a gap from the two Corvettes behind. At the 38-minute mark of the race, Oliver Gavin brought in the #4 Corvette for its first pit stop of the day. Fässler took over driving duties of the #4 to rejoin in seventh place. Three minutes later, Garcia pitted to hand over to Jan Magnussen. The #3 C7.R had managed to come out in front of the #25 BMW, however as Magnussen was trying to get heat into the tires, he would drop a spot to the BMW. The #66 Ford was the last of the GTLM cars to pit, which moved both Corvettes up a position with the #3 running in fifth and the #4 right behind.
At the one-hour mark, the #66 Ford had managed to take a spot away from the #4 down the inside of turn five. The #66 Ford of Joey Hand was on the move as only four minutes later he passed the #3 Corvette. The Ford would then go onto pass the #25 BMW, ten minutes later to take fourth place. At the halfway mark of the race, the heat was causing issues for tire degradation. Due to this the #4 Corvette crew opted for a three-stop strategy. Fässler brought the #4 Corvette in for its second stop of the day for fuel and tires only. With just over one hour remaining, Magnussen pitted the #3 to hand back over to Antonio Garcia. As this was happening, out on track, Fässler was all over the rear of the two leading Porsches. Fässler was attempting to get his lap back from them that had been lost in the pits. On the following lap, Fässler passed the #911 Porsche, as it went wide and off track at turn one, in response to the GTD McLaren joining the track from pit lane. As more of the GLTM pits took place, Fåssler had moved the #4 up into third place as the Porsche GT Team had left the #912 out for too long. Struggling on its tires, the #912 lost the lead to the #67 Ford. After the #912 Porsche pitted, Fässler inherited second place, with a five second gap ahead of the #911 Porsche in third. With 43 minutes to go, the #67 Ford from the lead made its final stop for fuel and tires. The Ford Chip Ganassi pit crew made a mistake on the right front tire, which allowed Fässler to pass the Ford as it was leaving pit lane.
Fässler had taken the race lead, however the two Porsches behind were within inches of the Corvette. The #4 would only hold the lead for 14 seconds as the #911 Porsche forced the #4 C7.R wide at turn one, to bump its way into the lead at turn two. The following lap, Fässler would lose second place to the #912 Porsche at turn one. Only 2.7 seconds separated the top five cars in the race, whilst Garcia was running last in GTLM. With 40 minutes remaining, Fässler was struggling on his tires, which resulted in him going wide into the dirt at turn one. Two minutes later, Fässler would pit the #4 for the final time, to hand back over to Oliver Gavin. The #4 rejoined the circuit in eighth place. The #24 BMW stopped, which moved the two Corvettes up into sixth and seventh. With under 30 minutes to go, Oliver Gavin had caught the leading four cars as he was attempting to get back onto the lead lap.
With 11 minutes remaining, Garcia had passed the #25 BMW to take fifth place as Gavin had unlapped himself to the #66 Ford running in third. The #912 Porsche and #67 Ford were involved in a fantastic battle for the lead, which allowed Gavin to close up on them. With six minutes remaining, the #67 Ford had pushed its way through to take the lead, however the two BMWs were right ahead to be lapped. This was good news for Oliver Gavin, as it gave him an opportunity to gain a position. Gavin passed the BMW to take sixth place as he had also unlapped himself from the #912 Porsche. The #67 Ford took the win, which helped Corvette Racing in the championship fight. The #3 took fifth place and the #4 sixth. The gamble on the three-stop strategy for the #4 did not work out, however it was obvious that Gavin had the pace to have challenged for a win. Not the response Corvette Racing was looking for after the previous race, but it was a step in the right direction.
IMSA Road Race Showcase Road America
The series moved from the smallest circuit on the calendar to one of the largest. Road America, Elkhart Lake. A 4.048-mile, 14 turn colossal circuit, that features every kind of turn from kinks to hairpins. Corvette Racing had used Road America for many years as their test circuit due to its variety of long straights, elevation changes and turns. With a two-week break between the race weekends, good news came out of the Corvette Racing camp. Tommy Milner had been cleared to race and would rejoin Oliver Gavin in the #4 Corvette C7.R but he would be driving with a support on his hand. Saturdays qualifying session proved to be tricky due to the changing weather conditions. The session was delayed by 15-minutes due to the severe weather in the area. Most of the track had dried out, however the final corner was still damp. Both Corvettes went off at the final turn during their opening laps but recovered without damage. Oliver Gavin went out an posted a blistering time of 2:00.663, one of the fastest times Corvette Racing had set at Road America. The time was good enough for third fastest, with the pole lap time going to the #25 BMW and the sister BMW taking second. The BMWs would be bumped from the front row of the grid after their both failed post-qualifying inspection handing Gavin pole position. Magnussen would set a time of 2:01.085 to place the #3 in fifth place on the GTLM grid. The top five GTLM cars would be separated by only 0.751 seconds. On race day, the weather appeared to be staying dry. The race started with Gavin defending the lead against the #67 Ford, as they drag raced side-by-side all the way to turn three. After seven minutes of racing, Oliver Gavin had pulled a 2.5 second lead. Magnussen had sustained the pressure of the BMWs behind and had pulled a gap to close in on the rear of the #66 Ford.
At the 20-minute mark, Magnussen was within 0.200 seconds of the Ford ahead and was applying pressure. Two minutes later he #911 Porsche pitted for tires, fuel and a driver change as they were looking to execute a three-stop strategy. Two laps later, Corvette Racing decided to bring Magnussen in to hand over to Antonio Garcia, at the response in Magnussen being held up by the #912 Porsche. At the 32-minute mark, Gavin was starting to struggle on his tires, allowing the #67 Ford to close the gap to under half a second. As the first 40 minutes had passed, the two BMWs pitted together to come out behind Garcia in the #3 Corvette. Meanwhile up front, the #67 Ford had managed to get by the #4 at the exit of turn 12. The #4 quickly lost the four second gap from the #912 Porsche behind, as the Porsche took second place. At turn 12 the #912 Porsche went wide, allowing the #4 Corvette to reclaim second place. Gavin would pit the same lap at the 45-minute mark. Tommy Milner took over driving duties of the #4 Corvette to come out on track in eighth position.
At the 53-minute mark, the GTLM leading #67 Ford pitted along with the #66 Ford and #912 Porsche. Garcia would inherit the GTLM lead with Milner moving up into fifth. With just over 90-minutes remaining, the #911 Porsche had dropped back. Milner had taken fourth place and was involved in a three-car battle for second. The #3 Corvette had pulled out a 21.4 second lead over the #25 BMW and was preparing for its second stop. With 87-minutes remaining, Garcia pitted for fuel and tires only to rejoin the circuit in seventh right behind the #25 BMW. With 77-minutes to go, Garcia had passed the #25 BMW to take sixth. Milner upfront, was still involved in the three-way battle for the lead, with the #24 BMW and #67 Ford. At the 72-minute mark, the #67 Ford had taken the lead away from the #24 BMW, with Milner close behind. A minute later, Milner would pass the BMW to take second, but the Ford ahead had already pulled a 2.6 second gap.
Tommy would bring the #4 Corvette in for its second stop of the day with 62-minutes remaining. Milner would stay in the car, taking on fuel and tires only. With 53-minutes to go, Garcia passed the #912 Porsche to take away third in class. The two Fords leading GTLM pitted together making Garcia the class leader and Milner third. Sadly, with only 32-minutes remaining, Garcia was forced to bring the #3 in from the lead as an alternator issue required two new batteries. The Corvette Racing crew changed the tires, fueled up, and opted to not change the alternator belt but rely on two new batteries lasting until the end. Garcia rejoined the circuit in sixth as the #4 Corvette was involved in an incident with the #54 Nissan DPi at the final turn. Milner had moved up into second at the expense of the sister car and was only 2.8 seconds behind the #67 Ford GTLM leader. With 10 minutes to go, Milner had dropped back from the #67 Ford by 3.1 seconds, but the #66 Ford was right behind by only 0.2 seconds. Milner struggling on his tires got a bad run out of turn three, allowing the Ford to tuck in behind to slipstream all the to turn five. As the two cars entered turn five, the Ford used the tow effectively and easily passed on the inside dropping Milner into third with six minutes to go. At the end of the lap the #4 Corvette pulled into pits for a splash of fuel. Milner rejoined the circuit in sixth place with only four minutes remaining. With under two minutes remaining, Antonio Garcia running in fifth, posted his fastest sector time as he attempted to close down the #25 BMW ahead. Garcia drove the #3 hard to take away fourth place from the BMW on the final lap.
The race finished with the #67 Ford winning in GTLM. Garcia finished fourth whilst Milner took sixth. It was a heartbreaking day, with Corvette Racing struggling to shake off the hard luck that had stayed with them from Le Mans. The alternator issue certainly spoiled the win for the #3. Garcia was quoted saying that if there had been one caution period, the #67 Ford would have not had anything for them. The lack of a cautions also ruined the #4 Corvette’s race. The team were gambling on a full-course caution that equated to them having enough fuel. The rare occurrence of no full-course yellow forced the #4 to stop for a splash of fuel. The positives that the team took away from Road America was they had found the pace out of the C7.R again and had a better understanding of the different Michelin compounds.
Michelin GT Challenge at VIR
The tenth round of the season took the series to Virginia International Raceway (VIR) for the second GT only race of the season. The 3.27-mile, 17 turn road course is a favorite amongst the drivers of Corvette Racing. With a diverse selection of turns including a combination of slow and fast corners with elevations changes, VIR is a real challenge for both the cars and drivers. Corvette Racing needed to get back onto the podium as their previous results had dropped them down the GTLM Championship standings. The #912 Porsche was holding the top spot with 248 points. The #911 Porsche was second with 234 points and the #67 Ford had moved into third with 230 points. The good news was Garcia and Magnussen were sitting only one point behind third place and defending the championship for the third year straight was still a possibility. Before qualifying, the #4 car required a engine change due to a potential fuel delivery issue discovered during practice. The change took 65-minutes and Gavin was able to set the fifth fastest time in qualifying. The #3 was able to display a strong outing in qualifying with Magnussen posting a time of 1:40.708. The time was only 0.078 seconds from the pole lap time set by #912 Porsche, placing the #3 Corvette on the front row.
The race started poorly for both Corvettes. Magnussen was unable to hold his position heading into turn one and dropped to third as the #911 Porsche had jumped from sixth to second by the first turn. The #911 Porsche had also dropped Gavin back to sixth. Within the first five minutes, the #912 Porsche had pulled away with Magnussen being almost two seconds behind the lead car. At the 17-minute mark of the race, an incident in the GTD class caused a puncture on the right-rear of the #96 BMW GTD. As the BMW cruised down the back straight, the tire carcass came free and came to rest in the middle of the track. With the tire carcass being in a dangerous position, the first full-course caution came out. Six minutes after the incident, the whole GTLM field pitted together as pit lane opened. Both Corvettes took on fuel and tires early and executed a textbook stop. The two Porsches only just got out ahead of the #3, however the #4 was right behind the sister car having made up two spots in the pits over the Fords.
The race went back to green at the 29-minute mark, with the two Porsches, yet again getting a huge start. At the 45-minute mark, the GTLM cars were starting to lap the GTD field. Oliver Gavin made a rare mistake and went wide at the exit of turn four. This intern handed the #66 Ford, fourth place to split the two Corvettes. Oliver Gavin was reporting the #4 was working the rear tires too hard, resulting in him struggling for grip. The Pratt & Miller engineers made changes to the tire pressures of the new set about to be fitted during the next pit stop. Later at the one-hour mark, Gavin was bumped from behind by the #67 Ford at turn one. This forced Gavin wide at the exit of turn one allowing the Ford to get down the side of the Corvette. As the two cars entered turn three, the Ford was able to dive down the inside to take fifth place. Gavin brought the #4 in the following lap for new tires, fuel and to hand over to Tommy Milner. Just after the 90-minute mark, there was justice for the #4 Corvette, as the #67 Ford locked up the rears entering turn one and spun into the dirt. The Ford did not lose any positions, but lost time. As the race approached the halfway point, Magnussen was slowly chipping away at the gap from the second placed #912 Porsche. The race leading #911 would pit, handing Magnussen second place as he brought the gap down from over four seconds to under two. At the halfway point, Magnussen brought in the #3 for fuel, tires and to hand over to Antonio Garcia. At the same time, the third placed #66 Ford pitted. As the fuel probe came out of the #3, so did the fuel probe on the #66, creating a side-by-side battle on pit road. Garcia just managed to edge the Ford to the pit exit line as they both pulled out in front of the #911 Porsche that had pitted a few laps prior. The #911 Porsche was able to take advantage of the warmer tires and made a dive down the inside of the Corvette at turn 4A to steal back the position lost.
As the battle on track was happening the race leading #912 Porsche entered pit lane. The #912 was able to come out ahead of its teammate to essentially maintain the lead after the #67 Ford pitted. Whilst the #67 Ford and #24 BMW pitted, Tommy Milner in the #4 passed them to take fifth place. With one hour remaining, the #3 Corvette was running third with sister car in fifth. Nine minutes later, Tommy Milner pitted the #4 for the final time to take on fuel and tires only. With 45-minutes to go, Garcia brought in the #3 from third for the final time to take on fuel and tires only. Yet again, the #66 Ford pitted at the same time, to create one final battle on pit road. It would appear as almost an identical fight to the one previous, with Garcia just getting a nose out ahead of the Ford. Garcia on cold tires, would head into turn one a little too hot resulting in a right front lock up. The Ford easily dipped down the inside to steal away the position. Garcia recovered well from the lock up and was right on the tail of the #66 Ford as the #911 Porsche made its final stop. Down the long back straight, Garcia started to pull to the left to make a pass. Dirk Müller driving the #66 Ford, aggressively pulled across to block the Corvette, forcing Garcia to lift off. As the two cars entered turn 13, Garcia got a better entrance on the inside for turn 14. Müller yet again, cut across the nose of the Corvette, but this time, Garcia was further up the inside, forcing Müller’s Ford into a spin. The two cars went off into the grass at turn 15, however, Garcia was able to keep the Corvette moving and he rejoined the circuit without issues. The front grille of the #3 C7.R was full of grass, which could lead to the engine overheating. As Garcia entered turn one, he braked hard to a stop, forcing the grass to shoot out of the grille. As Garcia got going again, the #66 Ford came flying up behind. Garcia was able to defend, which allowed Milner to close in behind the Ford. Race control reviewed the incident and due to the amount Müller had moved around to block Garcia, no action was taken. The two Porsches at the front had a huge lead, as the #67 Ford was in the pits. The Ford Chip Ganassi pit crew held the #67 Ford for just enough fuel to the end as it exited pit road ahead of Garcia. By turn 4A, Garcia had closed right in behind the #67 Ford to initiate a fight for third. At the exit of turn 4B, Garcia shot down the inside of the Ford and managed to pass entering turn 5A. As the two Fords, with the #4 Corvette behind, went through the fast sequence of turn five and six, Milner took to the right of the track creating a three-wide battle for fourth. Milner masterfully passed on the outside of turn seven to take fourth place with 34-minutes to go. Milner tucked behind his teammate, but despite Doug Fehan clearing them to race, Milner refrained from overtaking due to the #3 still within chances of a championship.
With 20-minutes remaining, the second full-course caution came out as the #57 Acura GTD car had a big accident at turn nine due to a tire failure. The tire wall and safety barrier were damaged in the accident, requiring track workers to make repairs. The race went back to green with nine minutes remaining. The Corvettes were separated by a lapped BMW from the two Porsches ahead. At the green flag, the BMW pulled aside, however, the Porsches had too much speed and pulled a gap from the Corvettes. Garcia managed to stay within one second of the #912 Porsche ahead, but he didn’t have enough pace. The #911 Porsche took the win, which handed Porsche GT Team the GTLM Manufacturers Championship. Garcia finished third with Milner in fourth. It was a much better result for Corvette Racing returning to the podium. Unfortunately, Corvette Racing would not be able to claim their tenth championship, but Garcia and Magnussen were still in a chance to challenge for the GTLM Drivers Championship with two rounds remaining.
Monterey SportsCar Championship Powered by McLaren
The series headed back to California for round 11 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Laguna Seca. After getting back onto the podium at the previous round, Corvette Racing were looking to repeat their success. Qualifying proved yet again, how tight the competition was in the GTLM with the entire class being separated by only 0.738 seconds. Pole position in GTLM went to the #24 BMW that set a time of 1:21.557. Jan Magnussen set the best time for Corvette Racing of 1:22.026 putting the #3 Corvette in sixth place. Oliver Gavin piloted the #4 to a time of 1:22.161 slotting in right behind his teammate in seventh. It wasn’t the ideal positions to be starting from as both Corvettes were going to need to fight their way through the field. However, Corvette Racing had a good history at Laguna Seca with a total of seven class victories dating back to 2004. The race started drama free, a contrast to last year’s race that started with two full course cautions due to huge accidents on the front straight. After the first lap, the #911 Porsche that started from last place in GTLM had moved ahead of both Corvettes, dropping them into seventh and eighth. Over the next few laps, Magnussen was sitting right on the rear of the #911 Porsche, waiting for Nick Tandy to make a mistake. As the race approached to the 30-minute mark, the #911 Porsche had pulled a small gap from the two Corvettes. The following lap Magnussen pitted the #3 for fuel, tires and to hand over to Antonio Garcia. The #3 became the first of the GTLM cars to pit. As Garcia left pit lane, he was a bit late coming off the pit lane speed limiter, but the crew executed a perfect stop.
The next lap, Oliver Gavin pitted the #4, allowing Tommy Milner to take over driving duties. Just shy of the 40-minute mark, the #67 Ford battling for fourth place spun out at the exit of turn 11. The Ford dropped one spot to the #911 Porsche and was able to recover with little time lost. The #67 Ford pitted the following lap and dropped positions to both Corvettes due to the time lost in the spin. The #912 Porsche was next to pit in GTLM, allowing the two Corvettes to make up another position. As the race approached the 45-minute mark, the GTLM class leading #66 Ford pitted. As the #66 exited pit road, Garcia passed on track to inherit fourth place. The following lap, Tommy Milner had caught the #66 Ford and started to engage in a fight for position. Milner managed to out-brake the Ford entering turn three. However, the Ford then slipped up the inside of Corvette at turn four to take back the spot. Milner closed back in on the Ford at turn five and stuck the nose of his Corvette down the inside heading towards turn six. As the Ford and Corvette entered turn six side-by-side, Milner braked later than the Ford to masterfully take back the position. The fight would not end there as on the uphill straight towards The Corkscrew, the Ford took the inside line, forcing Milner to turn later into The Corkscrew. The Ford had managed to defend the spot as the battle would be interrupted entering turn two by a faster prototype car. Eight minutes shy of the one-hour mark, the #24 BMW was the last GTLM car to pit as it came in from first place. Garcia would pass the BMW as it was leaving its pit box, allowing Garcia to inherit the class lead. The BMW entered the track right in front of Tommy Milner’s Corvette. Milner would pass on the inside entering turn four to advance into third. Over the next few laps, Garcia would be stifled by traffic and the age of his tires allowing the #66 Ford to close in. With 90-minutes remaining, both Corvettes were under pressure. Milner lost a position to the #24 BMW running on much younger tires at turn two. Four minutes later, Garcia pitted from the lead for fuel and tires only. The sister #4 car would do the same on the following lap dropping both Corvettes back into seventh and eighth.
As the race rolled into the final hour, the next few GTLM cars pitted together. This provided the opportunity for the two Corvettes to once again make up positions. With 53-minutes remaining, the first and second placed GTLM runners pitted. The #66 Ford lost time in the pits, trying to get the car started as it lost the lead to Garcia. Corvette was now running one, two, however one more pit stop was going to be required before the end of the race. Garcia would stop with 43-minutes to go for tires and fuel only. Garcia was stationary for only 19 seconds before being released. Three minutes later the #4 made its final stop for fuel and tires only. Both of the Corvettes lost very little time in pit lane and were able to rejoin in fourth and fifth. With 30-minutes to go, Garcia was taking time out of the gap from the #25 BMW in third. The gap had been brought down to under seven seconds, potentially leading to a third-place battle at the end of the race. After 10-minutes of racing had passed, Garcia had closed the gap on the #25 BMW to within two seconds. With 17-minutes remaining, Garcia had closed in to within a few feet from the rear of the #25 BMW at turn two. The BMW was defending nicely, which intern held up Garcia. This allowed the #4 Corvette behind to close up the gap too, but the chance for Garcia to steal a win was slipping away. Whilst Garcia was lapping traffic, in the attempt to not lose any more time, he bumped the rear of the #76 McLaren GTD exiting turn six. With only 12-minutes to go, Garcia managed to get a good run on the inside of the BMW entering turn two. The BMW aggressively defended leading to a few moments of contact coming out of the turn. The #25 BMW defending the Corvette had allowed the sister #24 BMW ahead to pull away. Garcia’s chances of gaining any more positions were fading away as the BMWs worked together.
Tommy Milner had now closed in on the third-place battle. Garcia made a lunge down the inside of turn two. The two cars exited the left-hand hairpin side-by-side but turn three was a right hander allowing the BMW to hold the inside line. Garcia had to give way of entering turn three side-by-side, but he was able to cross over to the inside at the exit. This gave Garcia the track position to enter turn four on the inside. Garcia executed a great move to take third place, but the BMW got a great exit out of turn four, forcing Garcia to defend all the way down the short straight to turn five. As the BMW attempted to cut to the inside of turn five, Milner in the #4 Corvette behind had closed right in on the battle. Milner took a better line through turn five, allowing him to make a later apex to carry more speed out of the turn. Milner came out of turn five and immediately passed the BMW on the inside to drop it down to fourth before turn six. Great strategy, amazing pit work and masterful driving had moved the Corvettes up the order. The battle for third had unfortunately allowed the second placed #24 BMW to pull out almost a 5.7 second gap with only nine minutes remaining. The race finished with the #66 Ford taking the win in GTLM and the #24 BMW taking second. Garcia finished third with Tommy Milner right behind in fourth. The sister #25 BMW had done its job effectively of holding up Antonio Garcia from taking second place. Garcia had closed the gap down from second place to 2.4 seconds, but the damage had been done by the long fight with the #25 BMW. Garcia and Magnussen had moved closer within the GTLM Drivers Championship to a 15-point deficit from Bamber and Vanthoor in first place. The drivers’ championship was still within grasp heading into the season finale at Road Atlanta for the Petit Le Mans.
Motul Petit Le Mans
The Petit Le Mans, season finale at Road Atlanta, would mark the close of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Corvette Racing announced during the weekend that the new mid-engine C8.R Corvette would debut the next season, meaning the 2019 Petit Le Mans was the farewell to the C7.R front engine Corvette. The likelihood of Garcia/Magnussen winning the drivers’ championship was poor, however the team wanted to win the final race for the C7.R, whilst also attempting to win the title. The GTLM class would grow to nine cars, with the addition of Risi Competizione returning with their Ferrari 488 GTE. Having only competed at the Rolex 24 at Daytona at the start of the year, the Ferrari showed no signs of lacking IMSA experience, by taking the GTLM pole lap time of 1:15.639. Antonio Garcia set the second fastest time of 1:15.702 in the #3 Corvette, whilst Oliver Gavin posted a 1:16.048 placing the #4 in eighth spot on the grid. Unfortunately, during post-qualifying inspection, the #3 Corvette C7.R was found to be out of compliance and was moved to the back of the GTLM grid.
Prior to the race, the new C8.R would make a surprise appearance running some exhibition laps at the hand of Tommy Milner. During the opening lap of the race, the two Corvettes got a great start, especially for Oliver Gavin that had moved up two spots within the first few corners. Garcia was also able to get a jump on the #25 BMW to move up into seventh. By the seven-minute mark, Gavin had slotted his #4 C7.R right on the tailpipes of the #911 Porsche in fifth. Despite being close, Gavin was unable to find an opening and remained behind the Porsche until the 20-minute mark when the #66 Ford managed to take sixth place away from him. At the 27-minute mark, Oliver Gavin became the first pit stop of the race as he stopped for fuel and tires only. During the stop, a member of the pit crew made an adjustment to the balance in response to Gavin’s feedback on a struggle for grip on the left rear. Gavin rejoined the circuit in seventh and was lapped by the class leading #62 Ferrari. The #24 BMW that was running in fifth was suffering an oil leak, which resulted in a trip to the garage for a lengthy repair. This allowed both Corvettes to advance a spot.
Garcia pitted the #3 at the 50-minute mark for fuel and tires only. Like the #4, the #3 Corvette also took on a balance bar adjustment. Garcia would rejoin the circuit in eighth and over the next few laps he closed in on the back of the #25 BMW. Just shy of the one-hour mark, Garcia got a great exit out of turn five to pass the BMW on the short straight heading down to turn six. Gavin running on a different strategy due the early stop was running in fourth. He was taking three tenths a lap out of the #911 Porsche ahead in third. Gavin was able to pass the Porsche at the one hour and 10-minute mark to secure third in class. Garcia running in seventh was closing the gap down from the #912 Porsche. After 80-minutes of racing, Garcia was able to get by the Porsche to move the #3 into sixth. Shortly after the #4 from third place made it second stop. Gavin handed over to Tommy Milner as the crew fitted four new Michelins and re-fueled. Just after Milner had joined the circuit, the #38 Oreca prototype crashed hard just before turn five, bringing out the first full course yellow of the day. The #38’s accident was a result of going wide onto the curb out of ‘The Esses’, to be hit from behind by the #7 Acura DPi that had misjudged the speed of the #38. Whilst under caution, pitlane opened at the one hour and 35-minute mark, resulting in the GTLM field pitting together. Garcia came in from fifth place and handed over to Jan Magnussen. The Corvette Racing pit crew executed a great stop to get Magnussen out ahead of the #911 Porsche, allowing the #3 to leave pitlane in fourth. The caution allowed the #4 Corvette to get back onto the lead lap. The race went back to green at the 105-minute mark. As the race passed the two hours and 30-minute mark, the two Porsches were running together. Tommy Milner was lurking behind and heading into the hard braking zone of turn 10A, Milner passed the #912 on the outside. Unfortunately, the sister #911 Porsche ahead managed to block Milner resulting in the #912 to get back past through turn 10B. Milner immediately left the fight to pit for fuel and tires. As the #4 was leaving pit lane, Magnussen pitted the #3 followed by the #911 Porsche and the GTLM leaders on the next lap. As the GTLM cars were finishing their stops, the #12 Lexus GTD made contact with the #10 Cadillac DPi causing the Lexus to crash hard at turn two. The Lexus became stationary at turn three bringing out the second full course caution of the day. Whilst the race was under caution, the #4 Corvette pitted for a splash of fuel in attempt to get back in synchronization with the rest of the GTLM cars.
The race went back to green just shy of the three-hour mark. On the restart, the #25 BMW managed to get the jump on Magnussen and took away fourth place. Milner, now running in seventh, had closed in on the #911 Porsche. Tommy made a great crossover maneuver into turn seven to get onto inside of the Porsche. The two cars drag raced side-by-side all the way to turn 10A. Milner was the latest on the brakes and despite a slight lock up, got his #4 Corvette into the turn first to win the battle for sixth place. With six hours and 24-minutes remaining, the #25 BMW and #3 Corvette pitted together. Magnussen handed over to Mike Rockenfeller and the pit crew executed a stop with perfection allowing the #3 to beat out the #25 BMW. The two cars joined the circuit right in front of the GTLM leaders. As the Corvette and BMW were trying to get their tires up to temperature, they dropped a lap to the two Fords. Over the next few laps, the GTLM leaders pitted, which moved Milner into the class lead. Tommy would stop the following lap to hand over to Marcel Fässler, 16 minutes shy of the four-hour mark. As the race passed the four hour mark, Corvette Racing were running fifth and sixth, with the #3 leading the charge. The race was going along nicely for Corvette Racing until Fässler was hit by the #85 Cadillac DPi at turn three. Fässler was sent into a spin to which he recovered, but a lot of time was lost. The result of the incident was Fässler only dropped one position to the #912 Porsche, however, the #4 Corvette had picked up bad flat spots on the tires due to the spin. To counter the flat-spots, Fässler had to pump the brakes into the turn to avoid locking up and the grip levels were reduced. At the four hour and 27-minute mark, Rockenfeller pitted the #3 from fifth place for fuel and tires only. Prior to the stop, Rockenfeller had been reporting oversteer. During the stop, the crew made adjustments the rear wing to improve grip to the rear wheels. A couple of laps later, Fässler pitted the #4 for fuel and tires.
The team opted to fit a different compound tire to both cars in response to the temperatures dropping at the track. Moments later, drama would erupt in the GTLM class as the #66 Ford, that had been running in the top three most of the race, had gone off at turn one. The third full course caution of the day came out 28-minutes shy of the halfway point of the race. The #66 Ford was pulled out of the gravel and able to rejoin the track. At the halfway mark, the #3 was running fifth with the #4 sitting seventh. The Ford and Ferrari at the front of GTLM seemed to have a lot more pace compared to the rest of the GTLM field, making it hard for any of the other GTLM cars to catch them. Just as the race had passed the halfway point, Marcel Fässler pitted allowing Oliver Gavin to get back behind the wheel of the #4 Corvette. Gavin rejoined the circuit right in front of the lead GTLM cars. He lost a lap to the class leader and second placed Ferrari as the Michelins were getting up to temperature. The #4 was really struggling with balance with the drivers reporting a lot of understeer.
The team kept making changes to the car and tires including compounds, but Fässler was quick to learn the softer compound tire resulted in almost immediate blistering. Unfortunately for the #3 car the same decision was made on tire compounds earlier in the race that had resulted in the same issues. This had put the #3’s pit stops out of sequence with the rest the GTLM field. The #3 was running on pace with the top two GTLM cars but Corvette Racing were praying for a yellow flag period. A full course caution would create an opportunity for the #3 to get back in sequence of the pit stops whilst putting it in a position to fight for a win. Less than 30-minutes after its previous stop, the #4 Corvette entered pitlane again as the team proceeded to make adjustments to counter the understeer. Seven minutes shy of the sixth hour, Mike Rockenfeller pitted the #3 from first in GTLM. Jan Magnussen took over driving duties of the #3 to rejoin the circuit in seventh. As the rest of the GTLM field pitted around 30 minutes later, Magnussen inherited the class lead by almost nine seconds over the #67 Ford. Jan pitted from the lead with three hours and 14-minutes remaining for fuel and tires only. Magnussen came back out on track in sixth place as a stunning sunset filled the sky over the circuit.
As the race passed the seventh hour, the track had almost been fully engulfed in darkness. Oliver Gavin ran only a single stint to hand back over to Marcel Fässler with two hours and 35-minutes remaining. Thirteen minutes later, Magnussen made a scheduled stop for fuel and tires and to allow Antonio Garcia to get back behind the wheel to finish the race. It was an emotional moment for Magnussen as the announcement had yet to be made that he would not be returning to Corvette Racing in 2020. After 16 years as a Corvette Racing driver, Magnussen had just driven his final ever stint. As the race passed the eighth hour Corvette Racing were running sixth and seventh with the #3 leading the charge. With one hour and 47-minutes remaining, Fässler pitted for fuel, tires and to hand the #4 over to Tommy Milner. As the race passed 90-minutes remaining, Garcia made a scheduled pit stop from second in class for fuel and tires only. Through a combination of great driving and fantastic pit work, the #3 was able to get back out on track to commence battle with the #911 Porsche for fifth place. After 16-minutes of great racing, Garcia managed to get past the #911 to obtain fifth place as the race was heading towards the final hour. The sister #912 Porsche ahead in fourth was nearly a minute further down the track. Garcia had the job to now start chipping away at that lead. As the race headed into the final 50-minutes, some of the GTLM cars started to make their final stops. This unfortunately marked the end of Corvette Racing’s hopes to challenge for a race win by getting back into pit sequence due to the lack of a full course caution. With 40-minutes to go, Garcia pitted from third. As the Garcia was in pitlane, the #63 Ferrari GTD car went off at the exit of turn 10A. The #63 had beached itself in the dirt bringing out the fourth full course caution of the day. Despite Corvette Racing praying for a full course caution, it had come far too late and made little to no difference by this point. With 30-minutes remaining and still under caution, Garcia pitted the #3 for the final pit stop of the C7.R era, to take on tires only. The race went back to green with 25-minutes to go. Garcia was sitting in fifth behind the #912 Porsche. With 16-minutes to go, Antonio Garcia put in his fastest lap of race as he was within half a second of the #912. The #25 BMW in third was only a few tenths of a second ahead of the #912 Porsche, creating a three-way fight after nine hours and 51-minutes of racing. As Earl Bamber of the #912 Porsche started to focus on defending against Garcia behind, the #25 BMW started to gently pull away. With 34-seconds remaining in the race, the #912 Porsche entering turn 10A was hit on the inside by the #31 Cadillac DPi. Garcia was right behind the Porsche as it went spinning into the dirt allowing Garcia to take away fourth place. The race finished in typical dramatic fashion with an incident in the GTD class as well. The #3 Corvette had finished in fourth with the #4 Corvette taking seventh. It was surely a disappointing send off for the C7.R and the last of the front-engine Corvette race cars, but the team as usual made the best of a bad situation. The #62 Ferrari won the GTLM class and seemed untouchable by the rest of the GTLM field. Unfortunately, fourth place was not enough for Corvette Racing to defend their championship for the fourth straight year. Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor of the #912 Porsche managed to sweep the 2019 GTLM championship with 330 points. Second in the standings was Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy of the #911 Porsche with 317 points. Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen tied for second place in the standings by also achieving 317 points, however second place would officially go to the Porsche. The tie breaker was decided by wins and the #911 Porsche had collected three throughout the year with the #3 Corvette failing to take one. At the exit of turn 10B on the cool down lap, Tommy Milner stopped the #4 Corvette C7.R in front of a large crowd to pull off a huge burnout backed by the thunderous pushrod, small block V8 soundtrack for the final time. The Chevrolet Corvette C7.R would officially be retired from Corvette Racing to make way for the new mid-engine C8.R in 2020.
|Race||Race Date||Race Distance (time)||Track||Car Number||Class Position||Overall Position||Start Position||Drivers||Laps Completed||Fastest Lap||Series||Class|
|Rolex 24 at Daytona||January 26 – 27 2019||24 Hours||Daytona International Speedway||3||6||16||2||Antonio Garcia / Jan Magnussen / Mike Rockenfeller||563||1:43.133||IMSA||GTLM|
|Rolex 24 at Daytona||January 26 – 27 2019||24 Hours||Daytona International Speedway||4||8||28||8||Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner / Marcel Fässler||555||1:43.319||IMSA||GTLM|
|1000 Miles of Sebring||March 15 2019||1000 Miles||Sebring International Raceway||63||8||17||5||Antonio Garcia / Jan Magnussen / Mike Rockenfeller||225||1:59.144||FIA||GTE Pro|
|67th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts||March 16 2019||12 Hours||Sebring International Raceway||3||3||12||2||Antonio Garcia / Jan Magnussen / Mike Rockenfeller||330||1:57.775||IMSA||GTLM|
|67th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts||March 16 2019||12 Hours||Sebring International Raceway||4||8||18||4||Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner / Marcel Fässler||321||1:57.901||IMSA||GTLM|
|Grand Prix of Long Beach||April 13 2019||100 Minutes||Long Beach Street Circuit||3||2||9||5||Antonio Garcia / Jan Magnussen||72||1:17.373||IMSA||GTLM|
|Grand Prix of Long Beach||April 13 2019||100 Minutes||Long Beach Street Circuit||4||3||10||3||Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner||72||1:17.215||IMSA||GTLM|
|Acura Sports Car Challenge Mid-Ohio||May 5 2019||2 Hours 40 Minutes||Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course||3||2||13||7||Antonio Garcia / Jan Magnussen||116||1:19.362||IMSA||GTLM|
|Acura Sports Car Challenge Mid-Ohio||May 5 2019||2 Hours 40 Minutes||Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course||4||8||31||4||Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner||105||1:19.096||IMSA||GTLM|
|87th Edition des 24 Heures du Mans||June 5 – 6 2019||24 Hours||Circuit de la Sarthe||63||8||28||3||Antonio Garcia / Jan Magnussen / Mike Rockenfeller||337||3:49.958||FIA||GTE Pro|
|87th Edition des 24 Heures du Mans||June 5 -6 2019||24 Hours||Circuit de la Sarthe||64||16||57||11||Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner / Marcel Fässler||82||3:50.482||FIA||GTE Pro|
|Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen||June 30 2019||6 Hours||Watkins Glen International||3||2||13||1||Antonio Garcia / Jan Magnussen||195||1:41.563||IMSA||GTLM|
|Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen||June 30 2019||6 Hours||Watkins Glen International||4||DNF, Accident||DNF, Accident||3||Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner||0||DNF, Accident||IMSA||GTLM|
|Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix Presented By Acura||July 7 2019||2 Hours 40 Minutes||Canadian Tire Motorsport Park||3||7||18||7||Antonio Garcia / Jan Magnussen||116||1:14.972||IMSA||GTLM|
|Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix Presented By Acura||July 7 2019||2 Hours 40 Minutes||Canadian Tire Motorsport Park||4||8||19||8||Oliver Gavin / Marcel Fässler||116||1:14.922||IMSA||GTLM|
|Northeast Grand Prix Lime Rock||July 20 2019||2 Hours 40 Minutes||Lime Rock Park||3||5||5||5||Antonio Garcia / Jan Magnussen||182||51.090||IMSA||GTLM|
|Northeast Grand Prix Lime Rock||July 20 2019||2 Hours 40 Minutes||Lime Rock Park||4||6||6||6||Oliver Gavin / Marcel Fässler||181||50.959||IMSA||GTLM|
|IMSA Road Race Showcase Road America||August 4 2019||2 Hours 40 Minutes||Road America||3||4||15||5||Antonio Garcia / Jan Magnussen||77||2:03.536||IMSA||GTLM|
|IMSA Road Race Showcase Road America||August 4 2019||2 Hours 40 Minutes||Road America||4||6||17||1||Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner||76||2:03.133||IMSA||GTLM|
|Michelin GT Challenge at VIR||August 25 2019||2 Hours 40 Minutes||Virginia International Raceway||3||3||3||2||Antonio Garcia / Jan Magnussen||88||1:41.081||IMSA||GTLM|
|Michelin GT Challenge at VIR||August 25 2019||2 Hours 40 Minutes||Virginia International Raceway||4||4||4||5||Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner||88||1:41.371||IMSA||GTLM|
|Monterey SportsCar Championship Powered by McLaren||September 15 2019||2 Hours 40 Minutes||WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca||3||3||14||6||Antonio Garcia||114||1:22.929||IMSA||GTLM|
|Monterey SportsCar Championship Powered by McLaren||September 15 2019||2 Hours 40 Minutes||WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca||4||4||15||7||Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner||114||1:22.498||IMSA||GTLM|
|Motul Petit Le Mans||October 12 2019||10 Hours||Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta||3||4||13||9||Antonio Garcia / Jan Magnussen / Mike Rockenfeller||433||1:17.046||IMSA||GTLM|
|Motul Petit Le Mans||October 12 2019||10 Hours||Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta||4||7||16||7||Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner / Marcel Fässler||431||1:17.243||IMSA||GTLM|
#3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R Drivers 2019 (#63 used for FIA events)
Antonio Garcia took over full time driving duties with Corvette Racing in 2012, replacing Olivier Berretta. In his first full season with the team he helped Corvette Racing accomplish five class podium finishes, which played a major part in handing Corvette Racing their ninth ALMS Manufactures Championship.
The 2019 season marked Garcia’s eighth year with Corvette Racing as a full time driver. Heading into 2019, Garcia along with his teammate Jan Magnussen were coming off back-to-back GTLM Drivers Championship in 2017 and 2018. As the C7.R and the front-engine Corvette embarked on their final year, Garcia was looking to defend the championship for the third year along with a fourth straight championship for Corvette Racing. Throughout 2019, Garcia proved the C7.R was not showing signs of being ready to retire. Garcia lead at many races and collected a total of six podiums throughout the season. Unfortunately the two 911s of the Porsche GT Team managed to tandem win many races resulting in the #912 Porsche of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor sweeping the 2019 GTLM championship. Garcia with Magnussen of the #3 Corvette tied the #911 Porsche in points but the #911 Porsche broke the tie by taking more class wins resulting in Garcia finishing third in the standings.
Garcia is regarded as one of the best GT drivers in the world. He has claimed multiple victories at the biggest endurance races in world such as Le Mans, Sebring and Daytona. Garcia won back-to-back IMSA titles in 2017 and 2018 and has never finished lower than third in points dating back to his first full season with Corvette Racing in 2012.
- Birthdate: June 5th, 1980
- Birthplace: Madrid, Spain
- Residence: Barcelona, Spain
- Family: wife and two children
- Corvette Racing: 2009 – Present
Notable Career Highlights
- 2013 ALMS GT Champion
- 2017 and 2018 IMSA GTLM WeatherTech Champion
- 24 Hours of Le Mans winner – 2008-09 (GT1), 2011 (GTE Pro)
- Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona winner – 2009 (Overall), 2015 (GTLM)
- Sebring 12 Hours winner – 2009 (GT1), 2015 (GTLM), 2017 (GTLM)
The 2019 season became Magnussen’s 16th year with Corvette Racing. After being paired with Antonio Garcia in 2012, Magnussen had not finished lower than third in the standings. Coming off back-to-back GTLM championships in 2017 and 2018, Magnussen was keen to send the C7.R with a bang by securing a third championship. Magnussen and teammate Antonio Garcia ran strong all year, collecting a total of six podiums, however, the consistency of the Porsche GT Team proved too much and Magnussen would finish third in the standings. At the end of the 2019 season, Jan Magnussen announced he would be leaving Corvette Racing, making 2019 his final year as a full time driver. Throughout his time with Corvette Racing, Magnussen established himself as one of the favorites amongst the team and the fans, leaving a legacy behind.
Magnussen started his racing career in 1990 racing single-seaters. In 1994 Magnussen won the British Formula 3 Championship with Paul Stewart Racing breaking Ayrton Senna’s record
of most wins in a single season, capturing 14 wins out of 18 races.
Magnussen would become a Formula 1 test driver for McLaren before competing in DTM and International Touring Car Championship between 1995 and 1996, where he finished second in the 1996 ITC Championship. Magnussen would become a full time Formula 1 driver for the Stewart Grand Prix team in 1997, where he would accomplish a career best sixth place finish at the Montreal Grand Prix in 1998.
Magnussen joined Panoz Motorsports in 1999 to compete in the ALMS where he captured six wins. He would become part of the Corvette- Ferrari rivalry in 2003, driving the Prodrive Ferrari and would join Corvette Racing the following year.
A legend in Denmark, his aggressive racing style and take-no-prisoners mentality made him very popular with the fans. Magnussen became a full time driver with Corvette Racing in 2007 and throughout his time with the team, accomplished 35 wins. In 2008 Magnussen became the ALMS GT1 Driver Champion with teammate Johnny O’connell and would win the IMSA GT Drivers Championship with Antonio Garcia in 2013.
- Birthdate: July 4th, 1973
- Birthplace: Roskilde, Denmark
- Residence: Roskilde, Denmark
- Family: Wife Christina, sons Kevin and Luca, daughter Millie
- Corvette Racing: 2004-2019
Notable Career Highlights
- Two time ALMS Driver Champion – 2008 (GT1), 2013 (GT)
- Two time IMSA WeatherTech GTLM Champion – 2017, 2018
- Four time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner – 2004 (GTS), 2005, 2006, 2009 (GT1)
- Rolex 24 at Daytona GTLM class winner – 2015
- Five time 12 Hours of Sebring class winner – 2006, 2008, 2009 (GT1), 2015, 2017 (GTLM)
- ALMS “Most Popular Driver” – 2001, 2003, 2011, 2013
Mike Rockenfeller (Daytona, Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans)
Mike Rockenfeller entered his fourth straight year as the third driver of the #3 Corvette C7.R. Throughout the 2019 season, Rockenfeller competed in five races for Corvette Racing as he piloted both the #63 and #3 C7.R at the Super Sebring Weekend. Rockenfeller’s best result of 2019 was helping the #3 Corvette finish third at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Rockenfeller is considered one of the most accomplished drivers of his generation, with a résumé that boasts a DTM Championship and wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Rolex 24 at Daytona, Twelve Hours of Sebring, Spa 24 Hours and the Nürbürgring 24 Hours.
Nicknamed “Rocky”, Mike Rockenfeller started racing in go-karts at the age of 11, where he was also his own mechanic. At the age of 18 he became a Porsche Junior driver to be promoted the following year to a full Porsche works driver. In 2005 Rockenfeller won six races in the FIA GT series including the Spa 24 Hours to become the GT champion. He would also win within the same year the GT2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 2007, Rocky would join the DTM series driving for Audi Sport Team Rosberg and raced for the Audi factory team in the Audi R10 TDi at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The following year Mike would become the LMP1 champion in the Le Mans Series with Audi Sport Team Joest. After multiple attempts, Rockenfeller would finally become the overall winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2010 driving the Audi R15 TDi Plus. In 2013, Rockenfeller accomplished two victories and multiple runner-up finishes in the DTM series to become the champion.
To date Rocky races for Abt Sportsline in the DTM series as well as for Action Express Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driving a Cadillac DPi-V.R.
- Birthdate: October 31st, 1983
- Birthplace: Neuwied, Germany
- Residence: Landschlacht, Switzerland
- Family: Wife Susanne, sons Phil and Paul, daughter Stella
- Corvette Racing: 2016-2019
Notable Career Highlights
- German Carrera Cup Champion – 2004
- FIA GT Champion – 2005 (GT)
- Le Mans Series Champion – 2008 (LMP1)
- 24 Hours of Le Mans winner – 2005 (GT2), 2010 (LMP1)
- Rolex 24 at Daytona winner – 2010 (DP)
- DTM Champion – 2013
- Twelve Hours of Sebring winner – 2017 (GTLM)
#4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R Drivers 2019 (#64 used for Le Mans)
The 2019 season marked Oliver Gavin’s 18th year with Corvette Racing. After a tough couple of seasons for Gavin and the #4 Corvette, Oliver was looking to get back to help send off the C7.R in a big way for its final year.
The 2019 season was not kind to the #4 Corvette. Oliver Gavin was only able to pick up one podium throughout the year finishing third behind the sister Corvette at Long Beach. Gavin would drive two different chassis throughout 2019 as the selected chassis number six was damaged badly during a crash at Le Mans, resulting in chassis number four filling in for the rest of the year.
Oliver Gavin would become the most successful and longest-serving driver in Corvette Racing history. With 51 victories and five championships as part of the program, Gavin ranks as one of the most accomplished drivers in IMSA history. His Corvette Racing record included wins at Le Mans, Sebring, Daytona and Petit Le Mans. Gavin would win two championships with co-driver Tommy Milner (2012 and 2016) and would become the longest-running driver pairing in IMSA history at the time of the start of the 2020 season.
- Birthdate: September 29th, 1972
- Birthplace: Huntington, England
- Residence: Yardley Hastings, England
- Family: Wife Helen; children Lily, Isaac, Fergus
- Corvette Racing: 2002-2020
Notable Career Highlights
- 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM Champion
- Four-time ALMS champion – 2005-07 (GTS/GT1), 2012 (GT)
- Five class wins in 24 Hours of Le Mans – 2002, 2004-06 (GTS/GT1), 2015 (GTLM Pro)
- Six class wins at 12 Hours of Sebring – 2001-02 (GTS), 2006-07 (GT1), 2013 (GT), 2016 (GTLM)
- Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona winner – 2016 (GTLM)
Tommy Milner entered his eighth season with Corvette Racing in 2019. Along with teammate Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner went on to sweep the 2016 GTLM Championship. Throughout the next two years the #4 Corvette struggled and ran into poor luck. Unfortunately for Milner, 2019 would be no better only picking up one podium after finishing third behind the sister Corvette at Long Beach. Tommy would miss two races during the 2019 season after sustaining a hand injury during a high speed crash on the opening lap of the Six Hours of the Glen. Marcel Fässler replaced Tommy during the two races, which resulted in Tommy scoring zero points across the two rounds missed. The outcome of the injury was Tommy would finish lower than his driving partner, Oliver Gavin, in the drivers standings.
A second-generation racer, Milner is son of noted team owner Tom Milner. Tommy Milner’s passion for racing started at a young age watching his fathers race team. Following success in go-karts Milner was chosen as one of the six North American drivers in Formula BMW USA junior drivers program in 2004. Later in the same year Milner made his sports car racing debut in the Grand-Am series with his father’s team, which paired him with former Corvette Racing driver Kelly Collins.
In 2006 Tommy Milner joined the American Le Mans Series driving for the Panoz Team PTG program in the GT2 class. In 2009 Milner became a full time driver with Rahal-Letterman to drive the new BMW M3 E92 GT where he accomplished three runner-up finishes and again the following season before joining Corvette Racing.
Since joining the team in 2011, Milner has won Le Mans twice, claimed two Drivers Championships and taken victories at Daytona and Sebring. Milner has competed in Formula and sports car series with distinction for factory-affiliated teams such as BMW and Chevrolet. His partnership with Oliver Gavin covered nine years making them the longest-running teammates in IMSA up to date.
- Birthdate: January 26th, 1986
- Birthplace: Washington D.C.
- Residence: Ashton, Virginia
- Family: Wife Lauren
- Corvette Racing: 2011 – Present
Notable Career Highlights
- Two-time class Driver’s Champion – 2012 (ALMS GT), 2016 (IMSA WeatherTech GTLM)
- Two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner – 2011 and 2015 (GTE Pro)
- Two-time 12 Hours of Sebring class winner – 2013 (GT) and 2016 (GTLM)
- Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona class winner – 2016 (GTLM)
Marcel Fässler (Daytona, Sebring, Le Mans, CTMP, Lime Rock and Petit Le Mans)
Marcel Fässler made his debut with Corvette Racing in 2009 as the third driver for endurance races. After a six year absence, Fässler returned to Corvette Racing in 2016 as a third driver for three of the four endurance races. Fässler would join Corvette Racing for the fourth consecutive year in the third driver role for the 2019 season.
Unfortunately at the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours the podium was taken away from Fässler in the last few hours of the race due to transmission failure. This was not Fässler’s first time behind the wheel of a Corvette race car as previously he had competed in the FIA GT Championship 24 Hours of Spa taking victory in the Carsport C6.R in 2008. Fässler went on to race a full season with Phoenix alongside Jean-Denis Deletraz in the C6.R taking one victory at Bucharest and five pole positions. Fässler redeemed himself at Le Mans later in 2010 when he finished second and then won the race overall with Audi in an R18 in 2011, 2012 and again in 2014.
Fässler helped Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner sweep the 2016 championship by earning wins at Daytona and Sebring and a third place at Petit Le Mans. During the 2019 season, Fässler was involved in a major crash at Le Mans. He was hit by a slower GTE AM car through the Porsche Curves that resulted in high speed impact into the wall. Due to the speed of the accident, Fässler was transported to hospital but was unharmed, however chassis C7RGT-006 was badly damaged. Fässler was not supposed to rejoin the team again until the season finale at the Petit Le Mans. This was not the case as full time driver, Tommy Milner, was injured in a crash at the Six Hours of Glen. Fässler would fill in for Milner at the next two rounds, until Milner was cleared by the doctors.
- Birthdate: May 27th, 1976
- Birthplace: Einsiedeln, Switzerland
- Residence: Gross, Switzerland
- Family: Wife Isabel
- Corvette Racing: 2009, 2016 – 2020
Notable Career Highlights
- Runner-up German Formula 3 Championship – 1999
- DTM race winner – 2003
- Runner-up FIA GT 24 Hours of Spa – 2006
- Winner FIA GT 24 Hours of Spa – 2007 (Overall)
- Runner-up 24 Hours of Le Mans – 2010 (Overall)
- Winner 24 Hours of Le Mans – 2011, 2012 and 2014 (Overall)
- Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona class winner – 2016 (GTLM)