Corvette Racing has made its annual venture across the Atlantic to Le Mans, France – for the 19th consecutive year – ahead of this year’s running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. First up: Sunday’s Test Day at the 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe for eight hours of track time ahead of the French endurance classic.
It is the only time that Corvette Racing – and the other 59 teams entered for Le Mans – will get on the track ahead of raceweek from June 13-17. It may seem like plenty of time to run through a test program, but eight hours goes by quickly on such a long track, not to mention cycling through each of the drivers during the day.
The Corvette Racing team has been diligent in its preparation for this year’s race after finishing third in the GTE Pro category in 2017. It spent two days at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin earlier this month to fine-tune and analyze setup options, as well as continue testing its race-specific Michelin tire. The spec and tire options for Le Mans – as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship – differ from what the team runs in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
For this year’s race, Corvette Racing is relying on a group of six experienced drivers to battle in a 17-car GTE Pro field that is stacked with the world’s best production-based teams and manufacturers. Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller will team in the No. 63 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R with Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fässler partnering in the No. 64 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette. Five of the six drivers will be present for the Test Day with Rockenfeller having a prior commitment that will prevent his participation.
With eight victories in 18 previous Le Mans starts, Corvette Racing has long been GT racing’s prominent program in endurance racing. That is backed up by eight additional runner-up finishes in the event. All totaled, Corvette Racing has 107 victories around the world and swept the last two Manufacturer, Driver and Team championships in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) category of the IMSA WeatherTech Championship. Gavin and Milner won earlier this year at Long Beach for the team’s first victory of 2018.
Antonio Garcia admits the competition will be tough. “This race will be even more difficult this year with more brands and new cars in our category. In the end, Le Mans is long enough to work your way back if you lack just a little pace. If that’s minimal, then we can still challenge. Lacking more than that at Le Mans can be very, very painful because of the safety car rules and length of the lap. You can run your own race, but as we saw last year you really have to race your competition. Between us, the Aston Martin and one of the Fords, we all went throughout the race without a mistake in the pits or on the racetrack.”
Oliver Gavin added, “We got some decent driving in at Road America for our test, and at the end of things we got some good data and preparation ahead of Le Mans. You’d always like to do more because Le Mans is the one that everyone in our group puts a huge amount of emphasis on. We want to win every race we enter, but this one has a little something extra to it. You are operating at 100 percent the whole way – the drivers, the engineers, the crew, the guys setting the tire pressures, the fuelers… it’s so many people within the whole of the team that make all of this work. Everyone has to bring their A-game. Otherwise, we don’t win. There’s only one outcome that everyone wants from Le Mans: being on the top step of the podium. Anything else doesn’t really matter.”
The 24 Hours of Le Mans will air live on the Velocity Channel and MotorTrend On-Demand with coverage of the Test Day, practice/qualifying and the race on RadioLeMans.com.