RACING: Can Corvette Racing Secure One Last Championship?
For anyone who follows the Corvette Racing program, it is well known that the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will be the last year that a factory-backed Corvette will participate in the series. This certainty has left millions of Corvette Racing fans clamoring for one, final championship as the Chevrolet/Pratt Miller Engineering duo ride off (both literally and figuratively) prepares for their final race at Road Atlanta in a couple weeks.
Virginia International Raceway (VIR)
Back in August, drivers Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor secures a GTD Pro class vctory during the sixth round of the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech season. This race, which took place at Virginia International Raceway on August 27, gave the team a much needed “shot in the arm” in terms of points standing. Although the team remained in second place (behind the leading Lexus race team), the victory gave the team a much-needed victory and a fair amount of hope for the remainder of the season.
The victory at VIR came on the heals of a devastating finish at Road America on August 6th. Drivers Garcia and Taylor were expected to win at that event too, but a late race drive-thru penalty (that had been assessed when the team missed the rules-mandated minimum fueling time by less than a second), cost them the win and the points that would have come with it. The race at VIR was no sure thing either, with the team dealing with a heat wave that saw air temperatures skyrocket into the upper 90s (degrees fahrenheit) that created challenging track conditions and, arguably, impaced qualifying times. In fact, Garcia, who scored a best lap time of 1:45.133 (at an average speed of 111.972 miles per hour) in the No. 3 Corvette C8.R qualified third, a result that was, in a word, disappointing to the driver.
“These were tricky conditions,” Garcia said after qualifying. “The track is warm, and it was difficult to gauge the lap and the grip together with the setup we decided to go with in qualifying. We probably didn’t do the correct thing. The car wasn’t doing as I was expecting, so that led to a few mistakes. It’s only qualifying but we should be there for the race. We are still close.”
Garcia’s words proved prophetic. Within the first two laps of the race, he advanced to second place where he, and later Jordan Taylor, remained for much of the race. However, the final pit stop for the Corvette Racing program gave the team a narrow time advantage that let them outpace race leader Lexus. With Taylor behind the wheel for the final stint, he had to drive aggressively to maintain the lead yet conservatively enough to maintain the fuel needed to complete the final 54 minutes of the race. Taylor did exactly that and secured the checkered flag with a (more than) two second lead on the Lexus race team.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Fast forward just a couple weeks to September 17, 2023 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Despite a remarkable effort by Taylor and Garcia, the duo only managed to secure an abysmal fifth-place finish in the GT Daytona (GTD) Pro Class during the TireRack.com “Battle of the Bricks” race event.
The day started off with Jordan Taylor securing a less-than-optimal fifth-place qualifying position in class. However, as the green flag dropped, Taylor was able to manuever the No. 3 Corvette Racing C8.R into fourth place before the field was slowed by a the first full course caution. When the class-leading Lexus received a penalty, Taylor was able to move his way into third place and maintain position until it was time to swap seats with Antonio Garcia.
After a quick pit stop, Garcia took to the track but was unable to fend off faster traffic behind him. His time behind the wheel proved challenging, with the C8.R Corvette running off pace with its competitors. With approximately an hour left on the clock, Garcia return to the pits, where he lost position behind several formidble competitors, including the race-winning Mercedes and runner-up Aston Martin. Despite a solid effort by both drivers, the Corvette race car just didn’t have the speed to compete and ended up taking fifth-position in class.
“A frustrating day,” said Garcia after the race. “We had a little bit of track position before the first stop thanks to the slow traffic and Jordan [Taylor] being able to save fuel. Once we went back to green and no one was holding us up, there was no chance to stay with the leaders.”
He added, “The only way for us to create laptime was no traffic and momentum. The others could go whenever they wanted while we struggled to stay up to speed getting through the traffic. And there was a lot of that. Even the GTDs had a pretty easy time getting by. The car was fine and ran well. We just couldn’t fight. I hope that gets better at Road Atlanta.”
If anything positive can be said of the race at Indinapolis Motor Speedway, its that the Corvette Racing program maintained its second place points standing. However, with a sizable points defecit between first and second place in the standings, does the Corvette Racing program have a shot at securing a championship in their final season?
Petit Le Mans – Road Atlanta
The answer remains to be seen.
With a fairly sizable points gap between first and second, Corvette Racing will need to have a strong finish and hope that points competitor Lexus Racing does not. However, given Lexus’s consistent performance throughout the season, Corvette Racing has an uphill battle ahead of them in the final race of the season. Still, Corvette Racing has proved it has the mettle to compete – and finish – strong at Road Atlanta, so it will be an exciting final bout as the two points competitors face off for the final event of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.