(Lakeville, CT, USA) – The Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette Racing Team extended its points lead in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Le Mans (GTLM) Saturday with a fourth-place finish by Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen in the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park. The driver combo of Magnussen/Garcia now lead the Driver’s Championship by seven points, and Chevrolet has increased its lead in the Manufacturer’s standings to four points after round seven of eleven races. Garcia also set the fastest lap of the Lime Rock enduro to earn one critical bonus point.
Patrick Pilet and his co-driver, Dirk Werner, were elated as the former took the checker for Porsche’s first worldwide win in the new 911 RSR — a long time coming for the radical new Stuttgart IMSA GTLM challenger. Pilet’s Porsche 911 RSR crossed the stripe 14.5 seconds ahead of Laurens Vanthoor in the other factory Porsche that Gianmaria “Gimmi” Bruni started from the pole position for a one-two Porsche finish. The two-hour, forty-minute enduro ran the entire distance without a single caution period, despite early contact between the Corvette and one of the GTs.
Sadly the No. 4 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner finished eighth after early-race contact on the serpentine 2.5-mile Connecticut circuit. The No. 4 Corvette was forced to return to the paddock twice for repairs – an example of their “never-give-up” attitude that defines Corvette Racing. The team scored Corvette’s historic 100th win in IMSA competition at Lime Rock, last year, in 2016.
“I’m pretty disappointed to have another race where we don’t finish. It would be nice for us to have a clean race here for once,” said Tommy Milner, “It’s hard to tell what happened there. It looked like the Ford checked up earlier than I expected; I tried whatever I could to not hit him but that probably caused more problems. I’m sorry for those guys. I never want to be involved in an accident like that and take somebody else out of the race.
Looking at the data, I was slower than I had been going in there. But that’s racing. We’re trying to make split-second decisions. Most of the times they are the right ones, but every now and then they’re the wrong ones.” I certainly would like to take back what happened there, and I’m sure he would a little bit as well. But again, that’s racing.”
They managed to get the No. 4 C7.R back on track, but the second Corvette would finish 30 laps down. According to Olivier Gavin, “After the second time behind the wall, Tommy mentioned the car was pretty good, and when I got in the first number of laps were pretty solid. We had decent balance.
I struggled too with tire pickup, then tried to be kind to others and not get too involved with anyone else on the circuit. So I put myself in positions to pick up some junk on the tires. It was so difficult to clean them off afterward. We just want to have a clean weekend. It seems like every weekend we run into some issue or problem… you name it and it’s happened this year.”
Magnussen started sixth and drove the first 51 minutes before handing off to Garcia from fourth place. Garcia rejoined in fifth and eventually cycled through to the lead as different pit stop strategies emerged into the final hour. The No. 3 Corvette pitted from first with 47 minutes left and was one of the final GTLM cars to stop for fuel and fresh Michelin tires.
“It was a great job by the team on strategy,” said Magnussen. “Antonio gave it everything he had. It was a fantastic race at the end between he and the 24 car. Fourth place is good for the points as the 25 and 66 were behind us. It would have been great to be on the podium but it wasn’t in the cars.
Now on to Road America and hopefully a return to the podium. My stint was a tough one. I didn’t really have the pace to keep up. I got really held back in traffic with people fighting for every inch out there. That really cost some time so we fell back quite a bit. Other than that it was pretty uneventful!”
The strategy very nearly paid off with a podium finish, but the tight confines of Lime Rock and traffic stymied Garcia’s changes. A nose to tail battle for the final podium spot between Martin Tomczyk in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM and Garcia in the Corvette went to Tomczyk and his co-driver, John Edwards, by a slim margin. Garcia and co-driver Jan Magnussen wound up fourth in the No. 3 entry ahead of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, who rounded out the top five in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT.
The BMW just beat the Corvette of Garcia by 2/10ths of a second at the stripe. Garcia’s C7.R managed to finish ahead of the Ford GTs, as a late splash and go stop by Ryan Briscoe, from third, demoted the GT to fifth with seven minutes remaining.
“The points situation was in my mind at the end,” recalls Garcia. “I fought hard to get by the No. 24 car but I also knew that wasn’t the car we are fighting for in the championship. There were some moments where he cut me off late and almost spun himself out. Luckily nothing happened. I tried everything I could.
Their car for sure was out of tires at the end and the car was very wide. The way the strategy worked, we had better tires on lighter fuel. I’m very happy with today. A podium was possible but we did all we could. It is great to get the fastest lap and the bonus point. Having that made me think a little bit how aggressive I needed to be at the end.”
Doug Fehan, Corvette’s Racing Program Manager, remains enthusiastic and optimistic, “Today was a very atypical Lime Rock race where there were no cautions, but at the same time typical in the amount of close-quarters racing and a premium on strategy and luck.
Fourth place today is a solid result for us in the GTLM Championship, where we have grown our lead in the Manufacturer’s, Driver’s and Team standings. It just shows again how anything can happen at Lime Rock! Now we regroup and ready for another great challenge and great track at Road America.”
IMSA’s next event is the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase from Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The race is scheduled for 2:35 p.m. CT on Sunday, Aug. 6. Fox Sports 1 will air the race live with audio coverage on IMSA Radio.