Trials On Track Still Bring A Silver Lining For Corvette Racing

The latest round of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship took place over the weekend at Virginia International Raceway.

It looked as though it might be a good race for Corvette Racing, after both the #3 and #4 C7.R Corvettes topped two of the three free practice sessions on Friday and Saturday. When it came to qualifying, the team was hopeful of another pole position but mother nature threw a spanner in the works. A five minute downpour on the first half of the 3.27-mile track made tire choice a nightmare for the team.

An untimely downpour threw a wrench into qualifying for both cars.

Antonio Garcia in the #3 C7.R did an exploratory lap on his Michelin wet weather tires then returned to the pits while Tommy Milner in the sister #4 C7.R decided to wait it out until later in the 15 minute session, hoping that the track would dry out and possibly give him a chance to do some laps on slicks. Eventually Tommy had to go out on wet weather tires as the bottom third of the track was still too wet, he recorded a best lap of 1:57.492, good enough for seventh place. Antonio on his final lap did a 1:56.760 good enough for fourth place. Richard Westbrook in the #67 Ford GT took the pole with a time of 1:55.580.

Thankfully, the rain stifled all teams' attempt at qualifying. Mother Nature's BoP, we guess.

Sunday and race day was bone dry and very hot and humid, the race start was not so good for the Corvettes, with the #3 losing places at the start and the #4 getting pushed off-track at the top of the Roller Coaster by the #912 Porsche of Earl Bamber (who also spun off further down the hill and was assessed a drive through penalty for assaulting the Corvette). The #3 of Antonio Garcia improved to fourth with a nice move on the #911 Porsche and then proceeded to hunt down the two BMWs and the #67 Ford GT that were still ahead of him.

At the first round of pit stops, the #67 Ford GT pitted early from the lead and on the very next lap, returned to the pits with a clutch problem. The #911 Porsche that took over the lead following the pit stops then expired with a blown engine, bringing out a full-course caution. The #4 Corvette had lost almost a minute to the field following their spin and then struggling with the subsequent damage, but the caution period allowed Oliver Gavin to catch back up to the field. The #3 Corvette was now in the hands of Jan Magnussen. He took second place thanks to slick pit work when all but one of the remaining GTLM Class cars pitted during the caution period despite it only being about 15 minutes after their first regular stops.

The #3 Corvette followed the BMW across the line for a second place finish. The win was the first for the Bimmer.

The #3 C7.R came home in second place, splitting the BMWs who recorded their first win for the new M8 GTE car and the #4 Corvette finished in sixth place. The silver lining for the Corvette Racing team was that despite the disappointment of another potential victory being taken from their grasp, the #3 drivers of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia took over the GTLM Class lead from the #67 Ford GT drivers Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe. They now lead by four points with just two more rounds of the championship to go.

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The Ford vs Chevy gap in the manufacturer’s championship also closed by a couple of points, but realistically, it would be a miracle if Ford didn’t win, given they still have a twelve point lead. It would require both of their cars to finish at the back of the field in both races and Corvette to win both of the final rounds at Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta to overcome that large of a spread.

 

About the author

Nigel Dobbie

A certified petrol-head Nigel Dobbie is a native of the U.K. and a long-time Corvette owner. Currently living in the U.S., he drives a 2010 ZR1 and also owns a 2003 C5 Z06 that is currently in its third rebuild, which should end up as an 800 horsepower twin turbo track rat. He is passionate about motorsports, as long as it involves making right-hand turns. Nigel can usually be found trackside with his trusty Canon on any given ALMS race weekend. He is a freelance contributor for Power Automedia.
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