Detroit – Corvette Racing and Chevrolet’s Corvette Daytona Prototype teams close the inaugural year of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship this weekend with the 17th running of Petit Le Mans – the annual 10-hour endurance race at Road Atlanta. Saturday’s event has high stakes for Corvette programs in the TUDOR Championship’s Prototype and GT Le Mans (GTLM) classes with championships in both categories on the line.
Petit Le Mans has been a staple of the Corvette Racing schedule as the event was part of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) each year since 1999. Corvette Racing has won the event eight times – a record for entrants regardless of class. On the flip side, the Corvette Daytona Prototypes have raced at the 2.54-mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta circuit just once: in 2013 as part of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. However, all four Corvette DP teams participated in a two-day test at the track in September.
Corvette Racing’s two Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs and five Corvette Daytona Prototypes will be part of a 55-car grid that is set to crown champions in the TUDOR series’ Driver, Team and Manufacturer ranks, as well as the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.
Corvette DP: Chevrolet, Action Express in the Drivers’ Seat
With five victories in the inaugural TUDOR Championship season, Chevrolet and its Corvette Daytona Prototype program can end it in the best fashion possible – with multiple Prototype championships. Chevrolet can clinch the first TUDOR Championship Engine Manufacturer title by having just one of its five Corvette DPs take the green flag Saturday.
Taking the TUDOR title would go along with Chevrolet’s DP manufacturer championships in 2012 and 2013 as part of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. Adding in this year’s victories, the Corvette DP program has won 21 times since its debut a little less than three years ago.
The scenario is similar for Action Express Racing in the Team standings. The No. 5 Corvette DP of Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi have three victories to their credit this year – the Rolex 24 (with Sebastien Bourdais), Indianapolis and Road America. As long as the No. 5 Corvette DP starts the race, Action Express will win its first team championship in Prototype competition.
In the Driver Championship, Barbosa and Fittipaldi each need to drive a minimum of 45 minutes to become eligible for points. As long as they meet that requirement and do not drive for more than seven hours, they will each claim their first professional sports car championships. Should the No. 5 Corvette DP falter, two more Corvette Daytona Prototype teams wait in the wings – the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Jordan Taylor and Ricky Taylor (joined by Max Angelelli this week) and the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP driven by Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante (driving with Mike Rockenfeller at Road Atlanta).
Both the Wayne Taylor Racing and Spirit of Daytona entries have won a race this year. In addition, Marsh Racing’s trio of Eric Curran, Boris Said and Max Papis will contest Petit Le Mans in their No. 31 Corvette DP as will the No. 9 Action Express Corvette DP of Burt and Brian Frisselle and Jon Fogarty.
In the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup – a competition centering on the TUDOR Championship’s four long-distance rounds – Barbosa and Fittipaldi lead by five points over the Frisselles in the Driver category. Action Express Racing’s two Corvette DPs are 1-2 in Team points, and Chevrolet leads the Manufacturer standings. Points are awarded at the four- and eight-hour marks, as well as the end of the race.
Corvette Racing: A Powerhouse at Petit Le Mans
With four GTLM victories this season, Antonio Garcia stands second in the class’ Driver championship heading to Road Atlanta and is seven points out of the lead. His first victory at Petit Le Mans would go a long way in helping score a second consecutive championship – he and Jan Magnussen were ALMS GT champions in 2013. As at Daytona and Sebring earlier this year, the two will drive with IndyCar standout Ryan Briscoe; the Aussie also is entered in the No. 4 Corvette C7.R alongside Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner.
Garcia needs a victory in the No. 3 Corvette and a fourth-place finish or worse by the leading Dodge Viper to claim the championship. In the GTLM Manufacturer standings, the best Chevrolet can hope for is a runner-up championship finish. SRT and Porsche are tied for the lead despite Chevrolet winning twice as many times as either manufacturer.
In the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup, Gavin and Milner lead by a single point over a group of five drivers including Magnussen and Garcia. The gap is the same in the Team standings. Chevrolet is one point behind Porsche among manufacturers.
Corvette Racing’s success at Road Atlanta dates back to 2000 when the team won Petit Le Mans for the first time in the GTS class. It started a nine-year run that saw seven victories in class including a three-peat from 2000 to 2002. The last victory for the team came in 2010 when Gavin, Magnussen and Emmanuel Collard won in dramatic fashion as the class-leading Ferrari ran out of fuel on the final lap – a result of Gavin’s intense pressure over the final stint.
ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R
“Petit Le Mans definitely is a race I would very much like to win. It’s one of the top endurance races in the world and has a great reputation internationally. Corvette Racing has a great history at Road Atlanta; Jan, Ryan and myself would like to add to that this year. The challenge will be very difficult, however. We saw at COTA that our performance is not very close to our main competitors, but the Corvette Racing team has been working hard over the last few months to get the maximum out of the Corvette C7.R. The chances for winning the driver and team championships aren’t very good, despite having four wins this year. Still, it has been a very competitive season and we all will give all we can to end this year on a high note.”
JAN MAGNUSSEN, NO. 3 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R
“Petit Le Mans is one of the events I look forward to every year. I have been part of each one since the first race in 1999, so I know how difficult it can be. It is a very demanding race both physically and emotionally. A lap at Road Atlanta has lots of elevation and directional changes along with some very fast sections and corners – Turn 1 and Turn 12 are two of best and most challenging corners we face. There will be a lot of cars in the race so managing traffic will be important, as will our strategy and pit stops. I’ve been lucky enough to win this race four times, and that’s what was needed for each one. Getting a fifth win would be a great way to close this season.”
OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 4 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R
“I absolutely enjoy and look forward to racing at Petit Le Mans every year. It has long been one of the top sports car races in America from Day 1. There’s always a massive fan turnout at Road Atlanta – especially guests at the Corvette Corral. The track is a huge challenge for a number of reasons. Traffic can a big concern, especially when you have as many cars entered as this year. There are certain places where passing is extremely risky – the Esses is a good example – so you have to be patient and be precise with your overtaking. Driving at night also is extremely challenging as it tends to get dark very quickly. It becomes not only difficult for you as a driver but also tough for your spotter – Brian Hoye in our case. That’s where our Collision Avoidance System comes in handy, both in the day and the night. Having won this race five times before with Corvette Racing, I’d like nothing more than to end what has been a very tough season with another win for myself and for Tommy.”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 4 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R
“Petit Le Mans has done a lot for sports car racing in America and is one of the biggest events in the U.S. It’s a favorite of mine. Driving Road Atlanta with the level of downforce we have on our cars makes it a great track to go to and race for 10 hours. The track seems to lend itself to a car that can take the medium and high-speed corners really well. Turn 1 is incredibly quick. That and the Esses play a big part of your laptime, and getting a good run off of Turn 7 and onto the backstretch is key for your lap in qualifying and the race. Having a car that is fairly slippery is beneficial because that section leads to probably the best passing spots within your class at turns 10A and 10B. It’s a place where you have to balance how much aero you put on the car for that ultimate lap time versus how much drag you have on it.”
RYAN BRISCOE, NO. 3 AND NO. 4 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R
“The hardest thing about this race can be the weather. Last year we had off-and-on rain for most of the day, which made it a challenge. But often the hardest bit is when you get down to the finish and it just goes dark. All of a sudden you’re racing at nighttime, and that place is really, really dark at night. When you have the elevation and cars behind you, all you can see is glare in the rear-view mirrors from behind. It’s a very challenging circuit at nighttime and you have to adjust really well to finish strong there.”
DOUG FEHAN, CORVETTE RACING PROGRAM MANAGER
“Petit Le Mans is one of our favorite events and has been for a number of years. Part of that is due to the success of the Corvette Racing program at Road Atlanta, but it’s also due to the tremendous spectator turnout the race generates. Ten hours around there in heavy traffic – plus going from day to night – is one of the toughest challenges we face. It takes a strong team of drivers, engineers and crew to even be in contention, much less win the race. We’re all confident that we have the right people in the right places to go for our ninth win at Petit Le Mans.”
JOAO BARBOSA, NO. 5 ACTION EXPRESS RACING CORVETTE DP
“Wow, this year has been a dream year. You know we had a couple of races that were not so successful but even in those we had great results. It just goes to show how strong this team has been all year that even when you have a little rock in your shoe, you can still run fast and that is what we did. It was a heck of a year and we are looking forward to finishing at Petit Le Mans.”
JORDAN TAYLOR, NO. 10 WAYNE TAYLOR RACING CORVETTE DP
“It’s really disappointing to be going to Petit with no shot at winning the championship. Our goal now is to secure second in the championship and basically go for the win. Petit Le Mans is a big race for us, we will have a lot of Konica Minolta guests there and we’ll be looking to finish the year strong. We had a pretty good car at Road Atlanta last year. Max got pushed off the track late in the race when we were battling in the top-five. We had a test there recently and made some good improvement to the car, which were utilized well at COTA. We’re pretty confident heading there, after seeing how strong our car was at COTA.”
ERIC CURRAN, NO. 31 MARSH RACING CORVETTE DP
“This year has been all about learning for us in the Whelen Corvette DP. We’ve had a good first year with some solid results, which is all you can ask for in a class this competitive. I’m definitely excited for what the future holds for this Whelen Motorsports Corvette DP program. We benefitted from the two-day test at Road Atlanta and gained some valuable data and feedback for the race. It will be a big challenge with the number of cars entered and the traffic that will present. Our main focus will be to stay out of trouble, keep the car on the track and see where we are in over the last couple hours. With the endurance experience of Boris, Max Papis and myself we should fast and consistent. I’m really looking forward to my first Petit Le Mans in a prototype.”
MICHAEL VALIANTE, NO. 90 SPIRIT OF DAYTONA RACING CORVETTE DP
“We have had a good car in the past so maybe we can have a shot at the win. That race is all about trying to stay out of trouble until the last half-an-hour. The goal will be to get to the end of the race and see where we are. If we are racing for the lead then we will have to go for it.”
JIM LUTZ, CORVETTE DAYTONA PROTOTYPE PROGRAM MANAGER
“Road Atlanta is a great place to close the first year of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Racing for 10 hours there tests every part of a team – the drivers, car, crew and strategy. There are a lot of factors with which our Corvette DP teams will need to contend, traffic and racing into the darkness chief among them. Fortunately all our teams benefitted from our testing there earlier this month, and the data we gained from those laps will be useful in suggesting setups and strategies to our teams. We would like nothing more than to end the season on a high note and win for the first time at Road Atlanta with the Corvette DP.”