Corvette Racing Victorious in Long Beach for Sixth Time
Final corner shenanigans prevented a Corvette 1-2 finish in wild street brawl race on Saturday.
This weekend, we took the opportunity to head down to Long Beach for the always phenomenal Grand Prix weekend, and as luck would have it, Team Corvette took the checkered flag in the lead of the GTLM category. There was plenty of bad luck to go around, however, as it was Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner’s #4 Corvette that won out, even though the #3 Corvette had been leading until the final hairpin corner exit where they were held up by a crash they were not involved in. It was one of the wildest finishes we’ve ever seen in a motorsport event, and we feel bad for the #3 drivers, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia.
This was Oliver Gavin’s 4th victory at Long Beach and Tommy Milner’s second (they won together here in 2012), while Corvette Racing has taken 6 Grand Prix victories at Long Beach. It’s safe to say the team knows how to win this one. On Saturday, however, race strategy and outright speed were far less important than keeping the car out of trouble. Corvette’s biggest competition at the circuit from Ferrari, Ford GTs, and Porsches all suffered major contact-induced damage. This was a 100-minute knock-down-drag-out race that saw a new caution come out about every 8 or 9 laps.
This was a 100-minute knock-down-drag-out race that saw a new caution come out about every 8 or 9 laps. At about the 45-minute mark, the faster of the two Porsches was hit from behind by a BMW, knocking its rear diffuser completely off the car, destroying their aero. On the very first lap, the leading GTLM-class Ferrari 488 clashed with one of the prototypes and broke its suspension, knocking them out of the race altogether. In that same incident, one of the Fords loosened (and later lost) its front bodywork, and the #3 Corvette just barely scuffed its nose, which didn’t ultimately hurt its pace all that much.
Garcia and Magnussen had a phenomenal recovery run to the front, setting up a Corvette 1-2 finish with about 10 minutes to go with the one good Ford in third. A bone-headed final corner divebomb move from Lexus’ Robert Alon in one of the lower GTD classed cars ended up with three cars in the wall at the exit of the corner onto the main straight. When the two Corvettes came upon the scene, they fanned out side-by-each to prevent the Ford in third from slipping through into the lead somehow. Unfortunately, the inside lane cleared itself up long before the outside lane did, leaving the #4 car sitting stationary, helpless as the rest of the field streamed by single-file. You really need to watch, if nothing else, the final 10 minutes of the race, which is available in its entirety on YouTube.
Post Race Quotes:
Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports –
“After a hard-fought battle, it was rewarding to see Tommy Milner roll the No. 4 Corvette C7.R into Victory Lane today at Long Beach. Tommy and Oliver Gavin overcame adversity early in the race to be there at the end to capture the win. While the outcome of the late local caution was frustrating, it is the never-give-up attitude of everyone at Corvette Racing that continues to result in these exciting races and finishes,” Campbell said. “We had two strong race cars today and look forward to the next race at COTA.”
Oliver Gavin, Driver, #4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R –
“This was a very bizarre day and finish. We will take this victory, and we’re glad that Corvette Racing and Chevrolet have won again at Long Beach. It was just a very unfortunate way that it worked out for Antonio and Jan. We’ve all raced together for so many years now. It’s definitely not the way Tommy and I would have liked to have won. But at the end of the day, a victory is a victory. The good thing for Tommy and I is that it has gotten us back in a good direction heading to COTA for the next round.
“The start was pretty interesting. Coming down into Turn One, it looked like Jan had been jumped by a couple of cars. On first laps here, you’re always looking to see who has their tires up to temperatures, who is using a little bit of extra road and who is taking chances. When I came to Turn Five, the Patron car was already backward going over the apex curb. Knowing that the camber falls away, I knew everyone would be going outside and into the wall. Three of us managed to avoid any contact and got through. From there, it was a lot of insane racing. “Yes it’s a 100-minute race but some people were trying to win it with 75 or 80 minutes left. My goal was to keep the Corvette clean and hand it off to Tommy at the appropriate point whenever the team called us in. We managed to do that and our crew managed to get us out and in front of the cars we felt we were racing. Even past that point, the race kept getting turned on its head. You never knew which way it was going to go.”
Tommy Milner, Driver, #4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R –
“It was a weird race today for sure. There was a lot of giving and taking throughout the day. As for the finish, I’ve never seen things work out that way for me or anyone else for that matter. You feel bad for the No. 3 guys, for Antonio and Jan. They had a great race and did everything right. It was just unlucky to lose it that way in a big pack. You need luck in racing sometimes, and today we had that on our side. It feels good for us to get a win and to get points for our No. 4 Corvette and Chevrolet.
“We were a bit behind at one point and it didn’t look like our strategy would play out for us. All those cautions allowed the cars who pitted early could make it on one stop for fuel. Our hope was to get past them if they had to make a late splash for fuel. That didn’t happen. I was hoping for another yellow to get us bunched back up again, which is what happened. I had 13- or 14-lap newer tires and I was able to get around the 24 and I went door-to-door with the 67. That allowed Antonio to get out in the clear, and then so was I. He was quick but then his tires started to go away. In that situation, getting by him was going to be really tough.
“In the last corner at the end, my first reaction was that the race was over. Antonio had a gap over me and also over the 67. I figured it would end up like that but I heard on the radio that there was another crash at the hairpin. At first the track was clear and then it wasn’t. I was in that exact situation earlier in the race and went to the outside; it didn’t work and I lost a spot there. I went to the inside this time, and it opened up. When I got out of the hairpin, I saw green but thought the race was over until they told me on the radio that we had won. It was definitely an unusual way to take a victory. Now we have to regroup as a team and get ready for the next race at COTA.”
Antonio Garcia, Driver, #3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R –
“I’ve never been part of a finish like that. It’s for sure very difficult to go through; I’m very confused with how the officials judged both incidents in the last corner. Our No. 3 Corvette team did everything we needed to do in order to have the best chance at another victory. I don’t understand the ending and unfortunately for us the results are what they are. All we can do is put ourselves in position to go for a win the next race in Austin.”
Jan Magnussen, Driver, #3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R –
“The start was unfortunate. I didn’t get a good getaway. I kind of got swamped going into Turn One. Then I was just in the wrong place going into Turn Five when the Ferrari got it wrong with one of the prototype. I got caught up in that and set put us back. We were on a different strategy from there. Our team did a fantastic job. It just an unsatisfying result.”
[Photos: Bradley Brownell / Quotes: Corvette Racing]