A well-executed team effort helped Corvette Racing return to victory lane at the 2.238-mile, 11-turn Laguna Seca road course for the second consecutive year. Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, drivers of the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R, scored their first American Le Mans Series (ALMS) GT Class win of the season and first since 2011. Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, drivers of the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R scored Corvette Racing’s first win of 2013 in the season-opening race at Sebring.Gavin qualified fourth for the ALMS GT Class at Laguna Seca while Garcia posted the sixth-fastest GT time in his No. 3 Corvette.
Right out of the gate, the No. 4 Corvette team faced adversity as they made contact with another car but were able to continue on with no damage. After both cars stopped for fuel and tires just over an hour into the race, the No. 3 car piloted by Magnussen powered their way to the front of the field while trouble struck the No. 4 Corvette again when Gavin radioed the crew that his car was stuck in sixth gear.
A full course caution coincided with the gear box problem and the crew brought Gavin down pit road and to their attention under yellow. The team quickly identified the problem which was a cracked hose in the gear box. Unfortunately the repairs cost the team five laps and they fell to the rear of the GT ranks, and came home in 10th position.
At the halfway mark of the race, Magnussen had stretched out a two second lead over second place until a full course caution fell for a car stuck in the sand. That is when the No. 3 team decided to bring Jan in for tires, fuel and a driver change. It was yet another lightning-fast stop for the Corvette Racing crew which kept the car at the front of the field.
With Garcia behind the wheel, the No. 3 team would not relinquish the lead again. The margin was tight most of the race and varied from three-tenths to almost two seconds. The crew and drivers had no room for error in such a close race. The No. 3 Corvette team impressively spent four seconds less on pit road than their competitors in second place. A number which surely factored into tonight’s victory.
Magnussen was happy with the long awaited win in a tough race. “I have to say, today was one of the most perfect races we’ve had with Corvette Racing,” he said. “We were under pressure the whole way. We never had a big lead, we really had to work through traffic and not get stopped by the slower cars and lose too much time. It was a matter of being precise the whole race. The pit crew made perfect stops. We didn’t have any issues in the pits. We did the driver change during only a short fuel, so there wasn’t a lot of time to make it. I am so happy we finally get a win over a year and a half. With this one, if you can’t win driving like this, you can’t win. It is a lot of pressure, but we have a great crew behind us the whole time.
“I knew right away we had a good car, but immediately in my mind I didn’t think we would win it because we have been in that situation many times last year where we had a good car, and a good situation going, but didn’t get the win. So this race was just a really tough race because we were under pressure the entire time and there was no room for any mistakes in the pits or on track and the whole team just performed fantastic.”
Garcia, who drove the final laps under intense pressure, gave much credit to this team. “It was brilliant,” said Garcia. “Even the driver change was amazing. Even if it was 11 or 12 seconds on fuel, we made it out on time and I could hardly even do my belts before taking off. So basically that is the main thing. The Corvette crew did a great job out there and all the pit stops were under yellow and even if we were coming in bumper-to-bumper, every time we were going out of the pits, nobody was behind us. They were behind, but they were further back than when we came in. You need a fast Corvette race car, but just as important is having a crew that performs like these guys did today. I think last year we did like 5 second places, so we really deserved a win or two. I thought today, with as perfect as we’ve been driving, if we don’t get this win, I don’t know what else to do. Everything worked, right where it needed to be.”
Gavin teamed with Milner to win the GT class in last year’s event at Laguna Seca, finishing 3.45 seconds ahead of the No. 3 Corvette C6.R, driven by Garcia and Magnussen for a 1-2 finish. Gavin and Milner continued their success that culminated in winning the 2012 ALMS drivers’ championship, and opened the 2013 season with a victory at Sebring last month.
The other top-ten finishers in Saturday’s race in ALMS GT competition were, No. 17 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (2nd), No. 56 BMW Z4 GTE (3rd), No. 91 SRT Viper GTS-R (4th), No. 23 Ferrari F458 Italia (5th), No. 55 BMW Z4 GTE (6th), No. 48 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (7th). No. 06 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (8th), and the No. 62 Ferrari F458 Italia (9th).
Corvette Racing has 79 ALMS class victories, including four in 2012, making it the most successful team in American Le Mans Series history.