DAYTONA BEACH – Last year, Corvette Racing’s No. 3 team fittingly scored the team’s third straight IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) championship.
The team’s other Chevrolet Corvette C7.R carries No. 4. Can they keep the trend going?
As Tommy Milner – the co-driver of the No. 4 Corvette with Oliver Gavin, with whom he also shared the 2016 GTLM championship and a win that year in the Rolex 24 At Daytona – puts it, a strong result in the season opener definitely helps.
“It seems like each year we have good races here at Daytona,” Milner says. “That certainly seemed to set the tone in 2016, for the rest of the year, putting us in a good position to start with. The consistency and continuity within Corvette Racing, we’ve had the same car now for multiple years and we have a really good book on how to make these cars go fast, here at Daytona now as well.
“I think all those things combined, when you combine the experience of Corvette Racing and all the engineers and the drivers that are here that I’m fortunate to be teammates with, it’s probably the most experienced team from top to bottom. Certainly, that seems to pay off here at Daytona, but also championship-wise, just sticking with it.”
In a field as competitive as GTLM, with full-season, factory-backed programs from Ford, Porsche and BMW, it’s hard to imagine that any team or race car could have this much success. The whole premise of the WeatherTech Championship is for each car to have as close to equal a chance of winning as possible.
How is it that this team and its two cars have had a stranglehold on the championship for the past three years? Milner already touched on a few elements. His teammates amplify them.
“I think we’ve been successful down to some continuity in the driver lineup, due to a great team of guys and some fantastic strategy from the crew,” said Gavin. “We’ve had a great car in the C7.R. It’s been very reliable and we’ve just executed. That’s really been the key thing. In every meeting that we have, before we start the race weekend or during a race weekend or before a race, we talk so much about execution, delivering, making sure we’re clear in our thoughts and making the right choices.
“Experience is a big thing. We have plenty of that in our team. I suppose it’s all of those little bits of ingredients and putting that jigsaw puzzle together that’s so important, that ends up getting those championships. You can’t really put your finger on one single thing, but there’s lots and lots of things that all go together as a mix to then add up to getting those three championships in a row.”
“I think, first, because it’s probably the best team out there,” adds Antonio Garcia, who has co-driven the No. 3 to the last two GTLM titles with Jan Magnussen. “Second, consistency, not only with the crew and drivers – I mean, it feels like racing for us comes very natural.
“It’s very rare for us to do mistakes, even if I did that last year in the last race, it was probably one of the few I did. Even when that happens, you have a whole team behind you making up for everybody’s mistakes. I think the teamwork is probably the key thing about Corvette Racing. Not always every single person can perform at 100 percent, but there are many other people who can back you up and do the work.”
So, if you had to sum it all up into one phrase, based on what the drivers are saying, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Will it work yet again in 2019?
“I’m looking forward to seeing how we stack up against everybody,” Magnussen said. “I think we’ve done some good work over the short offseason that we have. We pretty much know what we have. All in all, it’s pretty much the same as what we had last year, but we’ve had some time to fine tune everything, and there’s a new tire that we have to get to learn from Michelin.”
Corvette Racing fans – and there are many – have a few other things to look forward to in 2019. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of IMSA, and the season-long celebration includes a big helping of Velocity Yellow (the iconic color used on the team’s race cars) with both Magnussen and Gavin represented on the 50 Great IMSA Drivers list.
“For me, racing in IMSA, it’s been a huge part of my career,” Gavin said. “I’ve had many, many happy memories. Whether I’m looking back and thinking about the Sebring victories I’ve had, or the victory we had here in 2016 in the Rolex 24, that was just intense.
“Those last 30 minutes in the car racing wheel-to-wheel against my teammate, Antonio Garcia, was some of the most intense racing I’ve ever experienced in all my career. Also, to be in the championship with such a fantastic team as Corvette Racing, I think I’ve been exceptionally lucky. I’ve been in the championship for this long and driven for such a great team, and driven such a great car, the C5.R, the C6.R and now the C7.R. I’ve been very, very lucky to compete and drive those cars, but also compete in such a fantastic championship that goes to so many great racetracks.”
Another key target is the team’s 100th win in IMSA competition. When you add in the team’s eight victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the program already passed the century mark overall, but getting 100 in IMSA is valuable.
“I was in the car to get the 100th win at Lime Rock back in ’16, and that was very special,” Gavin said. “I suppose if I’m being a charitable guy, I would say Tommy needs to do it, but it just comes down to whoever’s in the car and whoever matches up in the right place at the right time.
“With both of our cars being so competitive over these last three years and us winning the championship three years in a row, we’re hoping that we’re going to be able to clinch that 100th IMSA victory here at some point in 2019. We’re just waiting to see which racetrack that’ll be at. We’ve had some great success throughout the calendar, but fingers crossed, it’ll be here at the Rolex 24.”