Corvette Racing’s Jordan Taylor says that despite the disappointment of slipping from the GTE-Pro class lead to third in the final lap of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the American team has plenty to be proud of, in the come-from-behind run for the No. 63 car.
Taylor was in the car for a frantic final stint that saw the Corvette C7.R locked in a fierce duel with Jonny Adam in the 97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE that saw the British marque get the better of their American rivals in a race that conjured images of the brands’ GT1 duels a decade ago.
After being caught out by two of the safety car periods earlier in the race, the Pratt & Miller squad used a combination of strategy, pit work, and strong pace to jump ahead of the Aston Martin when Taylor got in the car for the final stint, setting up the dramatic dash to the line.
“It turned into a bit of a strategy race I think, and our guys, we fought back from being two minutes down early on with safety cars,” Taylor told Sportscar365.
“All of the race, we were fighting back, and I think a long way out our guys called a pretty good strategy to have it work out where our last stop is a full fill where the Aston Martin guys had to come in for a splash.
“We knew calculation-wise that it was going to be really tight, and that’s why we were just doing driver changes but leaving tires to make up time with that.
“I think [co-driver] Jan [Magnussen] was pushing very hard to make up that gap because we had calculated that we’re about five seconds back, and he was able to make up that gap all the way to the point where when they came in for the splash we equaled them.”
Taylor said the car began the stint very well balanced, but in the waning laps the constant strain on the tires finally began to take its toll.
“With five or six laps to go I could feel that we were losing some performance in the front tires and I was picking up a massive understeer,” he said. “It was becoming difficult to drive.
“I was locking up a little bit, but then one lap I go into the second chicane and I’m not sure if I had a puncture or what it was but it locked instantly with no warning.
“At that point, as soon as it locked, I knew we were in big trouble so I just straight-lined the chicane, maintained the position, but at that point the tires were so far gone and the Aston martin had good pace so it was just a matter of trying to hold him off, but it wasn’t going to happen.
“It’s a disappointing finish, but just the fact that we put ourselves in a position to win from where we started, where we were Hour 3, I’m tremendously proud of.”
After the Aston Martin slipped by, more problems on the last lap allowed the No. 67 Ford GT of Harry Tincknell to sweep past and into second.
Despite the disappointment of slipping to the bottom step of the podium on the final lap, and denying the team a 9th class win in the French endurance classic, Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan labeled the finish as “Classic Le Mans.”
“When you do this for your entire lifetime, you come to appreciate great racing, and when you do it long enough sometimes you’re going to be on the up side of that and sometimes you’re going to be on the down side,” Fehan told Sportscar365.
“I couldn’t be more proud of what our guys accomplished today. That car had that puncture early and just battled all day to get back up into position to lead that race going into the end.
“If you’re not rubbing, you’re not racing, and that was two cars, two teams, and two drivers who wanted to win. You couldn’t ask for anything more from an event like this. This event held up to the legend of Le Mans.”