Corvette Racing is known for its tenacity for bringing home the tin. Even while still using the aging C7.R Corvette racing chassis, Team Corvette was a fan favorite and brought home several championship wins thanks to their “Never give up!” mantra. Despite Balance of Power (BoP) restrictions and challenges at the hand of Mother Nature and their fellow man, the team persevered and fans loved every minute of it.
The C8.R Corvette’s all-new, mid-engine chassis configuration afforded the team with a higher-performing car when it was first introduced last racing season, but a steep learning curve for both teams and drivers meant the heat of battle on-track would prove invaluable at getting up to speed. Which they did, in record time. Check out the Nick Tandy and Jordan Taylor’s pit exit during the wee hours Sunday morning in Corvette Racing’s tweet below!
Coming into the first race(s) of the 2021 season starts with the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Before that, however, is the traditional Roar Before the 24 – three days of testing at Daytona International Speedway’s road course. The Roar and the Rolex 24 fell on back-to-back weekends and there was a 100-minute race which set the starting grid for the twice-around-the-clock endurance event, which was held this past weekend.
All eyes were on Team Corvette, to see if the recent personnel changes would have any bearing on the team’s overall character. One of the main changes begins at the top with Chevrolet naming Laura Wontrop Klauser as its newly created Sports Car Racing Program Manager in place of Doug Fehan, who has served as the face of Corvette Racing since the program began. For an introduction to Laura and the many aspects of racing she is involved with including Corvette, check out the video below.
Behind the wheel, defending GTLM Drivers Champions Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor are back with endurance teammate Nicky Catsburg in the No. 3 C8.R. Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy, plus long-distance driver Alexander Sims, made their public debut in the No. 4.
Corvette Racing took first and second in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) category of Sunday’s 100-minute qualifying race for this weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona as Nick Tandy and Alexander Sims won in their debut with the team. The victory for Tandy and Sims in the No. 4 Corvette means they and Tommy Milner started from the GTLM pole position for the Rolex 24. The Roar Before the 24 weekend also ended with Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg coming home second in the No. 3 C8.R Corvette. They enjoyed starting in second position with Antonio Garcia in the Rolex 24.
As the race began, Team Corvette was unaffected by any mishaps that plagued cars further back in the field. For the next six hours, Corvette enthusiasts could watch their beloved Corvette Racing team swap positions within the GTLM class. Only a couple of seconds separated the two Corvettes for most of the first quarter. As the field spread out and traffic began to become an issue, Nick Tandy explains why first isn’t always the fastest, “The trouble comes when you get a certain class that comes around on a pit sequence. You might get two or three GTDs that come out on cold tires or a couple of P3s out on cold tires, and that’s when it gets really nerve-wracking. You can kind of get stuck in there in a big group with eight or 10 cars together.” Such is the plight of multi-class racing.
Tandy, in the No. 4 C8.R, led by a little more than five seconds over Taylor and the No. 3 Corvette. The pair of Corvettes led all but two laps in the first 12 hours of the race. By the halfway point, Alexander Sims sums up Team Corvette’s strategy for staying ahead, “So we’re at the front of the field. It may look like it’s all under control, but we’re pushing hard and not leaving much on the table. We’re in the right position at the moment… despite there only being five cars on the lead lap – all five are absolutely in the hunt.”
Both Corvettes continued to wrestle with the BMWs and a Ferarri for the rest of the night and team members and drivers constantly adjusted to the changing conditions between day and night driving. As the sun rose on the first day of February, racers found themselves welcoming the warmth and sunlight. With each lap, the will to win, and the stakes for losing, increased.
Jordan Taylor, who was called back into the driver seat of the No. 3 Corvette C8.R after lead driver Antonio Garcia was determined to have COVID, explains, “I was super upset and disappointed for him when I got out of the car after what I thought was my last stint and was told he couldn’t get back in the car… I was extremely nervous the hour leading up to my last stint, just knowing what was at stake and how big of a deal this race is for Corvette Racing and to Chevrolet. To have everyone here and seeing the history of the team at this event… the success is kinda down to your hands in that last couple of hours when you are in the car. I wanted to do my job well and hit my marks and not make mistakes. I had an amazing battle with Tommy (Milner)… super respectful.”
That battle was won by Taylor as he drove around the outside of Tommy Milner in Turn 1 during the final hour of the race. Jordan would hold off Tommy for the remainder of the race, which found the two cars only three and a half seconds apart after 24-hours of racing! The rest of the field was on the heels of both cars throughout the race, but a strategy of making the most of a late yellow flag never materialized and teams had to come in for fuel, giving Team Corvette a resounding lead late in the race.