Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen took a much needed win at Virginia International Raceway as the No. 3 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R claimed victory in the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR. Garcia crossed the finish line to win by 12.031 seconds over the Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook. The victory is a repeat of the duo’s 2016 win here at the 3.27 mile, 17-corner circuit.
Garcia/Magnussen and Corvette Racing in turn extended their lead in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Le Mans (GTLM) Driver’s standings. The win also put Chevrolet back into the top spot in the Manufacturer’s Championship — continuing the neck and neck race with Ford. Only two events remain in the championship and the competition remains tight. This victory marks Corvette Racing’s 106th all-time win back to 2000 – with three of those victories celebrated at VIR.
Garcia was tired but elated after running a double stint. “It was another long day at the office, but it was a good one. It is definitely good to have competitive pace and remain up front. That was something we weren’t used to in the last few races. We had a really, really tough middle stint where Ferrari and Ford were strong, but I was able to keep up with them. I didn’t know how much fuel they were saving, so I didn’t know what pace we were doing. I think the key was stopping one or two laps longer than the Ferrari and the Ford because I had really clear laps from those two, in the low 1:42s that made me so close to the Ferrari and especially to be ahead of the Ford coming out of the pits. That was 90 percent of the race… that pit stop and being able to get in front of them. It was a very hard two laps coming out of the pits on cold tires but I knew if I was able to do that most of the race would come down to that. It was keeping the pressure up on the Ferrari to force a mistake, and we didn’t allow the BMW to run very slow to make it to the end. That is part of racing. I think we definitely deserve this one.”
Magnussen and Garcia drove measured stints after starting sixth on the grid. Magnussen drove the first 51 minutes and weathered several close calls with slower competitors. He pitted from third to hand over to Garcia, who rejoined fifth.
The final stop for the No. 3 Corvette saw Garcia rejoin in third place and directly ahead of the No. 67 Ford GT. After two stellar laps on cold tires to build up grip on the Corvette, Garcia put his sights on the No. 25 BMW of Bill Auberlen/Alexander Sims and the No. 62 Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella/Toni Vilander. The No. 62 Ferrari went off-track from second place with 32 minutes to go, and Sims in the lead BMW was forced to pit for a late-tire change with 10 minutes left. Up until the BMW pitted, Garcia had made up many seconds on the lead car but the crew was nervous about making it to the end of the race on fuel without a yellow flag period. The entire race ran without a full course caution.
Magnussen, who turned the car over to Garcia during the first stop was a bit surprised, but very satisfied with the victory. “It’s unbelievable for us to come away with a win. Honestly, in the middle of the race it kind of looked like a situation of ‘OK, we aren’t losing too much in the championship – a couple of points here, a couple of points there, but we would still stay in the lead of the championship.’ Then for things to turn around like they did in the last half-hour with the BMW coming up short (on fuel) and the Ferrari falling off… crazy, absolutely crazy result. This is such a fantastic result for the whole team. In a race like this with no yellows, which we kind of knew it was going to be, you can’t really take advantage of strategy. There are very few knobs you can turn in that situation. I think the crew, Antonio, just everybody on saving fuel to start with and then going at the end putting a lot of pressure on everybody… this is fantastic!”
The No. 4 Corvette of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin almost made it to the podium of the GT-only race, but like the two races prior, late contact with the No. 66 Ford GT of Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand pushed the No. 4 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R from second-place. Milner drove a great final stint and had just moved up from third with a pass going into the braking zone of the track’s long backstretch, but the two cars went off track and briefly stalled. Milner was able to rejoin the field, but a punctured tire as a result of the collision added insult to injury. He and Gavin eventually finished sixth.
Needless to say, Milner was disappointed. “Another disappointing finish to a race for Oliver and I. We were judged not being a fault, which pretty much says it all about the ending. We had the potential for a Corvette 1-2. Our Corvette was so good at the end. The pit strategy was great; it really helped us at the end having me in the end for a fresh stint. I was pretty worn out after that first stint. But after getting a quick bite to eat and some liquids, I was ready to go again for that last stint. We did everything right today. We’re really not happy with how our race finished. We are happy that our teammates won, but we deserved a good finish of our own and wanted to be up there on the podium with our teammates.”
Gavin, who watched in horror as great strategy for a podium disintegrated said, “Today’s been another day of highs and lows for Tommy and I. It’s nice that we’re back with pace and hunting for podiums and victories. Congratulations to the No. 3 Corvette for a great win and big step in the championship. But once again it’s disappointing for us to be taken out of the running for what would have been a podium and likely a Corvette Racing 1-2. Every single weekend, someone wants to run into us; it seems like we are in the middle of incidents every weekend. Nobody wants that; we want to race hard and fair. Our season has gone like that; every slice of bad luck has come our way. On the positive side, the Corvette is fast and strong again. Hopefully it bodes well for the last two races for the championship where we can support our teammates in the Manufacturer’s, Driver’s and Team championships. That has to be our focus. We’re frustrated today, but we’re buoyed by the result for Antonio and Jan.”
Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing’s Program manager was very proud of the team coming out of VIR. “This just goes on the long list of races where odds and statistics might indicate we would not have a good chance of success. But when you take our engineering, our strategy, our drivers and our crew into account, those are the reasons why we have won 106 races. Today was a demonstration of all those things coming together – as we are known for – and once again we executed according to our plan.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the America’s Tire 250 from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday, Sept. 24.