The new Chevrolet Corvette C7.R race teams entered the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship (formerly the American LeMans Series) with the hopes of continuing the legacy of domination that has been enjoyed by Corvette Racing teams and fans for the last 15 years, but things didn’t go as expected in the first two events of the season. Although the #3 and #4 Corvettes were frontrunners and among the fastest cars in the field at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring, mechanical failures forced both Corvette teams to settle for very mediocre results at each of the first two races of the season.
The most damaging mechanical failures for the Corvette C7.R race teams at both Daytona and Sebring came late in the race so with this past weekend’s race at Long Beach being just 100 minutes long – the new Corvette Z06-based race cars had their best chance of nabbing the first big win for the 7th generation Corvette. After all, the Corvettes were easily among the best cars at each of the first two races of the TUDOR season so only having to run 100 minutes instead of 12 hours or 24 hours seems like a combination for success.
The two teams arrived at the Long Beach road course late last week and they did so with a bang as the #4 Corvette C7.R piloted by Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner turned in the quickest time of the first practice session for the GTLM class. The #55 and #56 BMW Z4 entries were the 2nd and 3rd quickest while the #3 Corvette of Jan Magnusson and Antonio Garcia was 4th quickest in the first run. In practice #2, the #4 Corvette dropped to 3rd quickest while the #3 Corvette moved from 4th to 2nd – trailing only the #56 BMW as the top two cars from the GTLM class snuck into the 1:18 barrier.
Things continued to improve in qualifying as the #3 Corvette C7.R dropped down into the 1:17 lap time range – with their quickest lap of the weekend putting Magnusson and Garcia in the pole position for the GTLM class and 9th overall. The #4 Corvette also turned in its best time of the weekend with their first run in the 1:18 range, putting the team of Milner and Gavin in the 4th starting position in class, 12th overall.
This early Corvette domination might seem familiar if you have been following the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship but unlike the earlier races, the mechanical problems for the Corvette teams never happened in this shorter race. The team of Magnusson and Garcia essentially led from start to finish, with just one lap during a driver’s change being led by a car other than the #3 Corvette. Garcia started the race in the car and built a comfortable lead which Magnusson built onto during the second half of the race. Later in the race, the field would get a little closer but the #3 Corvette C7.R drove to a victory of almost 5.5 seconds over the 2nd place GTLM car.
Things were equally strong for the #4 Corvette and Tommy Milner was able to turn in the fastest lap of the race for the GTLM class, but the short race prevented the #4 car from making much ground in the field. Milner was able to move the #4 Corvette into the 3rd spot and was rapidly catching the #56 BMW but time ran out before the Corvette could catch and pass the BMW.
Now that the new Chevrolet Corvette C7.R has claimed its first ever win, the real challenge for the Corvette Racing program is winning a true endurance race. So far, the new Corvette racers have not been able to fight off mechanical gremlins in the longer races so while the C7.R race cars and drivers are blazing fast – they have yet to prove the capabilities in a longer race.