CORVETTE RACING AT DAYTONA: Rolex 24 GTLM Victory for No. 3 Corvette C8.R
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 31 2021) – For the fourth time in its history, Corvette Racing stood on the top step of the podium in the Rolex 24 At Daytona as Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg won the GT Le Mans (GTLM) category in the No. 3 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C8.R.
The No. 3 Corvette trio led a 1-2 finish for the mid-engine C8.R, which scored its first endurance victory. Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy and Alexander Sims placed a hard-fought second in the No. 4 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Corvette in the biggest race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The two Corvettes combined to lead 716 of 770 laps during Saturday and Sunday around the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway. Sunday’s result came 20 years after the Corvette Racing’s first Rolex 24 win in 2001 and five years after another 1-2 team finish.
Garcia and Taylor each won their third career Rolex 24, and Catsburg claimed his first. The trio also provisionally lead the GTLM Drivers Championship with the victory. A year ago, Garcia and Taylor won five times, claimed the Drivers’ Championship, and helped Chevrolet score its 13th GT Manufacturers title and Corvette Racing its 14th Team Championship.
The two Corvettes were the class of GTLM and ran 1-2 for much of the race. Milner, Tandy, and Sims combined to lead 478 laps and ran out front with 45 minutes left in the race before the two Corvettes made their final pit stops. Taylor and Milner waged a close but clean battle that reminded many of the 0.034-second margin of victory for the No. 4 Corvette team at the 2016 Rolex 24. The two cars swapped spots three times in four laps as they jockeyed for position to capitalize on the then-class leading Ferrari’s final stop with 20 minutes left.
This time, things went the way of the No. 3 Corvette as Taylor led the final 13 laps. Unfortunately, he and Catsburg could not celebrate their Rolex 24 victory with Garcia, who was informed of a positive COVID-19 test following a double-stint with about six hours to go. Per IMSA Event Operations protocols, Garcia was removed from competition for the remainder of the event. Upon consultation with IMSA, the series determined Corvette Racing met all conditions under the IMSA event protocols, which allowed the team to compete in a safe and responsible manner.
Corvette Racing’s next event is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring from Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway on Saturday, March 20.
JIM CAMPBELL, CHEVROLET U.S. VICE PRESIDENT, PERFORMANCE AND MOTORSPORTS: “Winning the opening race in the 2021 IMSA season keeps the momentum going from the end of last season,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president Performance & Motorsports. “What a difference a year makes! I am so proud of the progress Corvette Racing team has made since last year’s race to win the 2021 Roles 24 At Daytona with the Corvette C8.R. It so special to win this endurance race at Daytona for the fourth time in our class.”
LAURA KLAUSER, CHEVROLET SPORTS CAR PROGRAM MANAGER: “What an amazing team effort by everyone at Corvette Racing to get the Corvette C8.R to Victory Lane with a one-two finish in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. It was a hard-fought battle for this incredible result. The months of work and preparation by everyone associated with this program were evident today on both sides of the Corvette garage. This truly is One Team. I’m proud and pleased for the teams, our Corvette owners, and our fans. This is the best possible way to start a new season, and we are going to work hard to capitalize on this momentum.”
ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R – GTLM RACE WINNER: “This is both one of the best days of my career but also one of the most frustrating and disappointing. I did have COVID in late December with some symptoms. I isolated until I fully recovered, and followed all Spanish and CDC protocols to be cleared for traveling. It’s frustrating but there are protocols that are in place for this. It’s painful not to be able to celebrate with Jordan, Nicky, and the rest of the team. We worked so hard over the past months and weeks to achieve an endurance win like the Rolex 24. We didn’t make mistakes, we had a good pace with the Corvette. After winning the championship a year ago, this was the type or result we all wanted for the start of a new season.
“Ever since we started at Daytona with this new car, we knew it would be fast and competitive. Obviously, the preparation we had last year wasn’t enough to win this race. But after the lockdown, that gave us an opportunity to develop the C8.R and we went on to win six races as a team and the championship. Last year, we didn’t manage to win a long race so it was still in our minds to get this, and now we’ve started with a big one like the Rolex. We proved today that Corvette Racing was the strongest team. “I have to say this was a flashback to the 2016 race (a runner-up finish in a Corvette 1-2). It was pretty nerve-wracking when it looked like it could happen again but I’m glad we came out on top this time.”
JORDAN TAYLOR, NO. 3 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R – GTLM RACE WINNER: “It was an amazing day. All 24 hours in this class are always intense. I think every year you kind of forget how intense it is until it starts again. All the cars were within 10 seconds all race long. No one could make a mistake; any little mistake would put you on the back foot. For us, we had a flawless day at Corvette Racing. The No. 3 I don’t think missed a beat the whole race. All the drivers did a perfect job, the team did a perfect job, and it’s great for Corvette Racing to get its first endurance win with the Corvette C8.R. Last year, we won six sprint races and the championship but one thing that was missing was an endurance win. To start off 2021 with the Rolex 24 win is amazing. To do it with Antonio and Nicky… it’s our first win as a trio so that was definitely special and makes us want to be a little more hungry to win the Sebring 12 Hours on our next time out.”
ONCE YOU FOUND OUT ABOUT ANTONIO, WERE YOU CONCERNED YOU WOULDN’T BE ALLOWED TO FINISH: “No, I wasn’t too concerned. Corvette Racing takes safety and health very seriously. The protocols we have are super serious. The drivers don’t really interact. I didn’t see Nicky all race long. We pretty much just pass the car off to the next guy and then we see each other after the race. For me and Antonio, I saw him before the race and that was the last time. We’re always social distancing. We’re always observing the correct protocols. Surface-to-surface, we’re wearing gloves, we’re wearing balaclavas and helmets in the cars. So nothing in the car could be at risk for us. We didn’t have too much concern. We took the lead from IMSA and NASCAR to trust ourselves. We’re here to compete. They gave us this platform to race and to be here, so the last thing we want to do is break their protocols and do something unsafe and unhealthy. We stick to what they say. It’s definitely disappointing and sad that Antonio wasn’t there for the end. He was a huge part of our victory today. He leads this 3 car and has been here for years. He started the race off so well for us. It was sad he couldn’t share it with us at the podium, but we’ll definitely see him in a couple of weeks when he’s clear and we can go celebrate.”
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO NOW: “I’m fine to go sit in my house by myself for as long as it takes and caress my Rolex for awhile! I’ll get tested and make sure I’m safe. I just live with my dog we’ll be alright.”
WILL YOU QUARENTINE? IF YOU WANTED TO DO GO KNOCK ON YOUR DAD’S DOOR AND CELEBRATE WITH THEM, WOULD YOU? “Tonight I probably won’t. Every year after the Rolex, the tradition is our family gets pizza together. I think that one will be broken this year, which is unfortunate since we both won. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. I’ll go home and celebrate in the quiet, make sure I’m healthy and safe, and then I’ll go knock on my parents’ next door and congratulate them when I’m all clear.”
MORE DETAILS ON TEAM PROTOCOLS: “We’re in the same room part of the time, but not for an extended period of time. We wear our masks. Everyone sanitizes when then enter and exit the trailers. Safety is a huge concern. When we meet with the engineers, it’s super brief. It’s actually kind of odd how little interaction there has been in the past year with our engineers. A lot of it is via text, email and exchanges like that. We try to get in a couple of quick meetings throughout the weekend in-person. Even those are quick with masks, and we stay as safe as possible.”
WINNING IN THE NO. 3 CAR ON 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE EARNHARDTS DRIVING FOR CORVETTE RACING: “It is amazing. I think everyone is a fan of Dale Sr., and Dale Jr. When I joined Corvette Racing in 2012, I was in the No. 3 car and obviously the No. 3 is so symbolic and historic, especially here at Daytona. Doing it in a Chevrolet it is super special. Dale Sr. had unbelievable success here at Daytona. Today we were making our passes on the high banks so maybe we had a little bit of Dale Sr. in the car with us this weekend.”
GETTING A ROLEX WIN THE SAME WEEKEND YOUR BROTHER DOES, AS WELL AS COMING 25 YEARS AFTER YOUR DAD’S FIRST WIN: “I didn’t realize it was 25 years. For me and Corvette Racing, it’s awesome to get a win. From a family point of view, it is amazing that my Dad and my brother won overall. I don’t know what that is…like three out of four years they’ve won or four out of five. It is amazing what my Dad has built over there at Wayne Taylor Racing and the success they’ve had, especially at this event. They are so strong in at Daytona and in endurance races. They’ve only had those cars for a month or two to prepare them with no testing except for the Roar last week. I think that speaks volume to the personnel there – the engineers, the mechanics, the crew, and all the drivers obviously did a great job. I don’t think they had the ultimate pace in the race, but it came down to strategy and execution. That is what that team is known for. So it’s an amazing day for the Taylor family. These days are so rare that it’s hard to imagine them; it could easily be the last time it happens that we both win on the same weekend. You have to savor these moments.”
IMPACT ON DRIVER ROTATION WHEN ANTONIO GARCIA COULDN’T CONTINUE: “It wasn’t great news, to be honest. I had finished my triple stint in the morning or whenever it was. I got out and was supposed to be done, go have a massage, relax and watch Nicky and Antonio go race. I was so excited to go just relax and then they said Antonio can’t get back in the car. To be honest, I was in shock. I was like, there is no way. Antonio is our guy and our finisher. That’s who we want in the car at the end. I was so disappointed for Antonio because I know how much this races means to him, how much he wanted to win it and finish the race. It was sad, but thankfully we train well. We have good support from the doctors here and keep us healthy and keep us fit. The physicality of it wasn’t too bad. It was more the mental strain that was difficult.”
NICKY CATSBURG, NO. 3 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R – GTLM RACE WINNER: “It means a lot to win this race, to be honest. Last year I joined Corvette, and they won the championship and races, but every time I was there we didn’t win! So I’m really happy to get this out of the way. I have my win so we can continue doing that! In all seriousness and like Jordan said, the team did an amazing job. The drivers did well, the strategy was nice, the C8.R was great. So it was a great day for us and I’m really proud of winning this great event.”
WINNING IN THE NO. 3 CAR ON 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE EARNHARDTS DRIVING FOR CORVETTE RACING: “To be very honest, obviously I know about Dale Earnhardt and Junior, as well. I didn’t know so much about the history of the No. 3 car. I do now, and it is definitely a special feeling. I am very proud to be part of this. I always dreamed about racing in America. Now I’m here with a big race under my belt now and just looking forward to getting more.”
WINNING AT DAYTONA COMPARED TO 24-HOUR RACES AT SPA AND NÜRBURGRING: “I think it fits right in line with the other big events. It’s a race which is part of this lineup of big races: Le Mans, Spa, Daytona, Sebring, and now I have a couple of them. So hopefully we will do Sebring as well, then Le Mans later in the year. So I am just happy to write this one off the list.”
FINDING OUT ABOUT ANTONIO GARCIA: “I think it was after the 17th hour in the race. I’m not exactly sure, but I think it was the 17th hour. Me and Jordan did the rest of the race. For me, I also tested on Saturday and I tested negative. I will do another test tomorrow before I can go back to Europe. For me, I feel safe and I never felt any threat from his positive result.”
IMPACT ON DRIVER ROTATION WHEN ANTONIO GARCIA COULDN’T CONTINUE: “I fully agree with Jordan. To be honest, I was kind of tired from the triple stints. I also think we are one of the only crews that drives with three drivers, and then all of a sudden we were two. So it is definitely heavy. I must say, in the last bit of the race, I asked if I needed to do another stint and they said, ‘Yes, you need to do another stint.’ I thought, ‘Oh no, here we go again.’ But obviously, it was super nice and we made it happen. We had some support from a physio here. I feel fit actually.”
IT WAS VERY CLOSE WITH THE 4 CORVETTE BEFORE THE BALANCE CHANGED SUNDAY. DO YOU KNOW THE REASONS? “I think the 4 car was better suited to the softer compound tire. I think their car balance was a little bit different compared to ours, and that kind of has to do with what drivers like and what they prefer. Our car really came alive on the medium tire in the warmer conditions. Obviously that is when it needs to be done. I guess we got lucky there. It was super cool to fight our teammates the whole race. I remember in one of my stints during the night fighting Alexander Sims, who I also know from other places than Corvette Racing. I had a good fight with Philipp Eng as well, and it was just super cool to be so close for the whole race. That’s what GTLM is about – close racing and the best race drivers in the world. It’s so much fun to be part of it. It’s such a shame that we are going to have to say goodbye to it.”
ISSUE WITH A SLOW STOP LATE: “The car didn’t want to rev up. It’s almost like we had an engine issue and we weren’t really sure how to solve it. I just kept trying to start it up and eventually it worked. I think we got quite lucky there. A 24-hour race is always big stress on your equipment and material. Corvette Racing builds great race cars, and this one survived and we won the race.”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 4 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R – FINISHED SECOND IN GTLM: “The race for us in the No. 4 Corvette and for us as a team really couldn’t have been better. Maybe on our side it could have been a little bit better in the last two hours… but we had a really, really fast car. We probably we had the car to beat for the first 20 hours of the race. Then the last four hours of the race, for whatever reason, we lost some of that pace in the car. We still did everything right. We had good pit strategy. Alexander and Nick both drove fantastic races. In the end when a yellow bunched us all back up again, the No. 3 car once the sun was beating down on the racetrack, it seemed like they were just a little bit better than us and everybody else. They had a great car at the end and definitely executed in the end. Congratulations to Jordan, Antonio, Nicky and all the No. 3 car guys. They did an awesome job.”
“Certainly it stings a little bit to be that good for that long and not come away with first place. For us, we’ve at times spent time a little bit behind the eight-ball in certain situations. Today we were at the front for pretty much the whole race, so we can be proud of that and all the work and the effort that goes into trying to find what we were missing in the past. We’re just making sure we are doing everything right from every angle. Obviously, we have new teammates, but it’s not just that. They are obviously doing a great job today. I’ve had fantastic teammates in the past with Olly (Gavin) and Marcel (Fässler) and you go down the list… Simon Pagenaud… we’ve had phenomenal guys in the Corvette here. It was good to see the hard work from the crew guys and our engineers… to see the fruits of that labor with the car upfront for so long. We can absolutely be proud of that. We can take that, go to Sebring and get a win there.”
NICK TANDY, NO. 4 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R – FINISHED SECOND IN GTLM: “There are whole loads of positives to take out. After one weekend, I already feel fully part of the team. Not that I didn’t expect to, but I feel part of the team and part of the Corvette Racing family. Of course everyone wants their car to win or their side of the garage to be victorious. We worked with the other drivers and the other crew on the No. 3 Corvette as much as our guys on the No. 4 car. To be part of a winning weekend, it’s been an awesome start. I’m happy to say my first weekend with Corvette Racing has been super successful – first and second in qualifying and first and second in the Rolex 24. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM DAYTONA: “I’m pleasantly surprised how well we gelled and worked together so quickly. From getting an understanding on how the car works and getting an understanding from the engineers of what we like out of a race weekend and a race car. Everything has gelled so smoothly that it makes me excited about the future and what this relationship can build on between us all as part of the team and lead to future successes. As I said, being new to the team but having sampled a faultless weekend with the results over the course of two weeks, I hope it’s a good omen of things to come. It’s obviously awesome to get the first away our endurance victory for the C8.R, and to have a 1-2 and double victory is pretty awesome, and it vindicates all the work that has gone on behind the scenes since last year.”
ALEXANDER SIMS, NO. 4 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R – FINISHED SECOND IN GTLM: “I think it is just massive for the whole team. Yes, from a sportsman’s point of view, there is obviously disappointment it couldn’t be us on the top step. But looking at the bigger picture, it is 1-2o for Corvette and that is what we came here to achieve. I’m just really, really proud of the whole team’s efforts. Having only come into this team as a newbie as such and to be a part of the operation and to be part of the effort here at Daytona was a real privilege. Everyone worked their absolute socks off. I’m really pleased to be a part of it. We come here to win, all of us, but in the end there is only one winner. So if it can’t be you, then you want it to be your teammates so that the team does well. So, it’s a good day.”
(originally published at corvetteracing.com)