Corvette’s Trials And Tribulations Of The Rolex 24-Hour Race

The delay of the mid-engine C8 means Corvette Racing is going one more year of racing with the venerable C7.R. The same six drivers who competed in 2018 are continuing for 2019. For the four regular-season guys, this gave the Corvette marketing department a chance to utilize each driver’s design skills to come up with some special edition Grand Sports, which were announced at Daytona before the Rolex 24-Hour race.

Garcia, Magnussen, Milner, and Gavin special edition Grand Sports

Qualifying went okay with Jan Magnussen in the #3 Corvette getting a tow around the banking from Olly Gavin in the #4. This yielded the #3 Corvette getting Second place on the GTLM grid for the race, Olly Gavin started Eighth in the #4 car.

The GTLM class all bunched-up at the beginning of the race.

Jan Magnussen in the #3 Corvette C7.R took the GTLM class lead on lap 5 and Olly Gavin moved up to Fifth by the end of the first stint. Then, disaster struck as Gavin made an error in judgement and clipped the #3 Corvette in pitlane during a full-course caution. The contact broke the right, front steering arm of the #3 Corvette. This resulted in dropping the #3 Corvette behind the GTLM class leaders by three laps.

The #3 Corvette C7.R (Left) piloted by Mike Rockenfeller, Antonio Garcia, and Jan Magnussen. The #4 Corvette C7.R (Right) is piloted by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Marcel Fässler.

A Class Of Trials

The #912 Porsche had problems with its brakes in the first hour and the #62 Ferrari spun its tires at the first pit stop, earning a drive-through penalty. The #67 Ford GT with Richard Westbrook at the wheel, made an even bigger mistake and performed an improper wave by, meaning he gained a lap, so he was penalized 3 1/2 minutes. They also had to go behind the wall for repairs in the first hour. The #24 BMW suffered steering wheel problems. It has a special wheel for Alex Zanardi and a more conventional wheel for the other two drivers. The steering shaft connector got bent as the car was dropped off of the jacks during a pit stop, just as Zanardi was trying to attach the wheel.

All of this was most uncharacteristic for the GTLM class. They are normally very professional and regularly, all of the cars are seen nose-to-tail lap after lap, but not this year at Daytona. The result of all this was the #66 Ford GT led the GTLM class ahead of Tommy Milner in the #4 Corvette, the #911 Porsche, #62 Ferrari and the #25 BMW. Tommy Milner then added to the woes for Corvette Racing as he had to do a drive-through penalty for jumping too early at a restart.

Jan Magnussen worked hard to keep the #3 Corvette in the lead. Contact with Oliver Gavin in the first hours of the race meant that the rest of the team would work hard to re-gain it's previous position.

The #3 Corvette with Antonio Garcia at the wheel, and then – Mike Rockenfeller, worked incredibly hard to get its laps back. With the help of some full-course caution periods, they were back on the lead lap by 11p.m. – only to drop back again when the dashboard failed in the car and it ran out of fuel! Waiting to be recovered to the garage, combined with the time required to replace the complete dash cluster meant that they were now seven laps back from the leaders.

The calm before the storm. Each of the Corvettes wore badging denoting the team's previous three championships as well as celebrating IMSA's 50th anniversary.

With rain starting around 5:00 a.m., Tommy Milner was back in the car. Unfortunately, just after 6:00, he had a big accident spinning off-track in Turn 1. The #4 Corvette slid all the way over to broadside the tire barriers, resulting in a lot of damage to the car. Luckily Tommy walked away from the accident. The #4 was recovered back to the pits where the Corvette Racing team rebuilt the car and had it back out on track, now t10 laps behind the class leaders.

When the #4 car returned to the track, the race was still running under yellow flag conditions due to Tommy’s accident. Although this helped minimize the lost time, it didn’t help once they were back on track, as there were no opportunities to gain the laps back. At 7:22, IMSA red-flagged the race because the rain was getting heavier. It stayed like that until 9:00, when the race went back to green, only to be straight back to yellow when one of the GTD Porsches hit a slow-moving Lamborghini, littering the front–straight with debris.

An extremely wet Sunday

IMSA got the race going again, but eventually the heavy rain returned, leaving them no choice but to put out the red flag again. For the record, the #25 BMW won the GTLM Class and the #3 finished Sixth and the #4 Eighth. The overall race victory went to the #10 Cadillac DPi of Wayne Taylor Racing. While the weather and mishaps may have dampened Corvette Racing’s efforts, rest assured there is a long season ahead. Both teams will be ready for the next race at the 12-hours of Sebring on March 11-18th.

About the author

Nigel Dobbie

A certified petrol-head Nigel Dobbie is a native of the U.K. and a long-time Corvette owner. Currently living in the U.S., he drives a 2010 ZR1 and also owns a 2003 C5 Z06 that is currently in its third rebuild, which should end up as an 800 horsepower twin turbo track rat. He is passionate about motorsports, as long as it involves making right-hand turns. Nigel can usually be found trackside with his trusty Canon on any given ALMS race weekend. He is a freelance contributor for Power Automedia.
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