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Corvette Racing Recap: Positive Steps Forward For IMSA And WEC Z06 GT3.R Teams

We had two races over the weekend, one in each series, so join CorvSport for a quick and concise summary of everything you need to know

TF Sport at Imola! Photo Credit: Richard Prince/Corvette Racing

It’s been a wild ride for Corvette Racing in both series this season. To begin, the Corvette Racing world had to adjust to GM’s transition from factory-backed to factory-supported racing (full CorvSport feature here). Then, to add to the complexity of the season, all the teams were given a brand new race car to learn, the 2024 Corvette Z06 GT3.R.

The learning curve associated with both of these changes led to some teething issues, which have resulted in inconsistent and disappointing finishes. Below the recap of these two newest races, we have a full archive of CorvSport’s Corvette Racing coverage.

1) IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

On Saturday, April 20th, the AWA team, with drivers Orey Fidani and Matt Bell, took their #13 Z06 GT3.R to the challenging Long Beach circuit for the third race of the IMSA season (recap of the first two here). As you may recall, the AWA team is now down to only one race car after an abrupt departure from the series by the #17 (click here for the full story).

Race Summary:

AWA’s Fidani and Bell continued their positive momentum in the new Z06 GT3.R with their best finish of the season, an encouraging 6th place in the GTD class. The duo advanced from 15th in class at the start of the third round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to knocking on the door of a top-five finish in a wild 100-minute race around the Long Beach Street Circuit (which was also the team’s first trip to the historic California circuit).

Image credit: Corvette Racing via Corvette Blogger

Notable Highlights:

  • Fidani began Saturday 15th in class and drove the first 40 minutes (which were his first career laps at Long Beach). He gained a position at the start and two more by the race’s first full-course yellow (after just 12 minutes of racing). Despite falling back a couple of spots, Fidani’s lap times continued to improve once green flag racing resumed.
  • After Fidani made AWA’s first pit stop, Bell rejoined in 14th and was immediately in the thick of competitive racing. He was hit from behind on his out-lap but managed to press on and advance to 11th only a couple of laps later.
  • Savvy driving by Bell got the AWA Corvette into the top 10 as the final turn on the Long Beach circuit was blocked by traffic and stalled cars. After stopping briefly he drove through the chaos and into ninth place. Bell picked up three more spots to sixth before the race’s third and final full-course yellow with 15 minutes remaining.
  • The lead pack of six cars was single-file during the last eight minutes, with the Corvette on the tails of the top five. Bell and the Z06 GT3.R made solid gains through the corners of the circuit despite being notoriously difficult for passing.
  • The gain of nine positions finished off a strong weekend for the AWA duo, with Bell setting the fastest GTD time in Friday’s opening practice (the first for the first-year AWA and Corvette partnership).

Comments Directly From The Drivers:

  • Orey Fidani, #13:

The race went really well based from where we started. The car was mega and easy to drive. We got up to sixth, and we’ll take that. I’m really happy with the finish from where we started from.

  • Matt Bell, #13:

I’m really happy with that result. Our first effort at Long Beach as a team and pulling a top-six out of the bag is pretty strong. It was a great effort by the team. We executed the pit stop really well and jumped some cars. Unfortunately on cold tires on the out-lap, I gave a couple of those up. There was some rough racing from competitors but fair in the end, and I managed to get them back later on. The Corvette was absolutely glued to the track. I think we were the best car around the corners. We were lacking just a little bit of straight-line speed to challenge those top-five guys. But I’m really proud of the effort this week. It’s definitely our cleanest and best week in the AWA Corvette era. A big thanks to the team, big thanks to Corvette, General Motors and Pratt Miller. We’ll keep rolling into Laguna Seca.”

What’s Next For IMSA?

AWA and the Corvette Z06 GT3.R program (including the two GTD PRO entries from Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports) will battle next in the Motul Course de Monterey from WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday, May 12.

2) FIA World Endurance Championship’s Six Hours of Imola

On Sunday, April 21st, in Imola, Italy, the TF Sport team entered their second race of the season at the Six Hours of Imola. First, a quick recap of the drivers from this up and coming team.

TF Sport Drivers:

  • #81 Z06 GT3.R Drivers: Tom Van Rompuy (making his first career FIA WEC appearance), Charlie Eastwood, and Rui Andrade
  • #82 Z06 GT3.R Drivers: Hiroshi Koizumi, Sébastien Baud, and Daniel Juncadella

A full recap of TF Sport’s first race is available here. For a quick review, it was TF Sport’s first race under the Corvette Racing banner, the first start as WEC full-season competitors for each of the three drivers of the #82 Z06 GT3.R, and the #82 finished 10th (while the #81 retired with an electrical issue after 177 laps).

Six Hours of Imola Race Summary/Notable Highlights:

  • Van Rompuy, Eastwood, and Andrade led the way for TF Sport with a 7th place finish in the #81 GT3.R, with the #82 of Koizumi, Baud, and Juncadella right behind them for an 8th place finish. Both finishes put TF Sport into points-paying positions in the LMGT3 class.
  • This was the first trip to Imola for the Corvette program, and TF Sport was one of two teams in the class to have both its cars finish in the top 10. Additionally, Chevrolet was one of two manufacturers to have multiple entries finish eighth or better.
  • The 6-hour race featured seven full-course yellow periods, with two in the opening 40 minutes. There was chaos at the beginning, and Van Rompuy took advantage by gaining four spots in his first two laps. He and Koizumi (who ran as high as ninth after starting 13th) drove nearly two hours at the start, which firmly put both Z06 GT3.Rs inside the top 10 and eligible for points.
  • When Andrade and Baud were up just past the halfway point, both kept their Z06 GT3.Rs on track throughout their stints despite the worst weather of the race.
  • TF Sport elected to be the first LMGT3 team to opt for wet-weather tires. The team made the switch with two hours to go as Eastwood and Juncadella got in their Corvettes. Regrettably, the high level of grip on the track meant lap times didn’t significantly differ between those cars that changed to wet tires and those that stayed on warm, slick tires. The two Corvettes switched back to dry tires just past the final hour, but race traffic and a still-wet surface made it too challenging for the team to reach the top five.

Comments Directly From The Drivers:

  • Charlie Eastwood, #81:

It was a very interesting race. Weather played a massive role in it. The TF guys did a great job in making the right calls. The track has such high grip that even when the guys were on slicks, they were still able to generate a lot of grip and temperature when we were on the wets. It balanced out basically the same although I probably had a nicer experience than they did. All in all, P7 in the end. Not what we want but it was a pretty solid race on our side. We know what we need to get closer to the front.

  • Dani Juncadella, #82:

It was a bit of a wild race for sure. It’s a shame. We were looking very strong in the mixed conditions when the track was very difficult. I made up a lot of ground. We gambled on the strategy with an hour to go because we saw a car in the gravel and I pitted with 57 minutes left, and normally a stint is 45 minutes. So I had to cruise to the end and saved a lot of fuel to make it to the finish. It didn’t pay off this time, but it was good fun out there in these conditions. I enjoyed it and enjoyed driving the Corvette again.”

What’s Next?

TF Sport’s next race in the FIA WEC is the Six Hours of Spa on Saturday, May 11.

Photo Credit: Richard Prince/Corvette Racing

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