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Z06 GT3.R Corvette Racing Recap: From Pole Position To Looking For Positives

The FIA WEC had their opener in Qatar over the weekend, with mixed results after a strong run from the #81 for pole position

TF Sport at Qatar/Photo Credit: Richard Prince for Corvette Racing via Corvette Blogger

There were many firsts in this FIA World Endurance Championship season opener at Lusail International Circuit in Lusail, Qatar. Most notably, it was the first race for TF Sport under the Corvette Racing banner and the first start as WEC full-season competitors for each of the three drivers of the #82 Z06 GT3.R. Before we get into the details of the March 2nd race, let’s take a look at the team and takeaways from the pole position that the virgin team ripped off.

The TF Sport Team and Their 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

Positives and Takeaways From the Pole Position:

  • Tom Van Rompuy in the #81 ripped off a pole position winning 1:54.372 (105.944 mph)
  • Rompuy’s LMGT3 pole came in his first FIA WEC start
  • Corvette becomes the first manufacturer with poles in three FIA WEC GT classes
  • First pole for new Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.R in initial race with TF Sport
  • Fifth pole position for Corvette brand in FIA WEC competition
  • The result gave TF Sport its 10th pole in WEC competition and its first since the Six Hours of Spa in May of 2023
  • The #81 Z06 GT3.R started 1st, while the #82 started 11th
Photo Credit/Richard Prince for Corvette Racing via Corvette Blogger

Race Summary:

TF Sport, with Pratt Miller Motorsports‘ support, embarked on a new chapter on Saturday, March 2nd, in Qatar. Not only did this race signal the beginning of the FIA WEC season, but it was also noteworthy as it represented the first time GM’s customer car program competed internationally. On a Facebook post, Pratt Miller took “immense pride in being the constructor of the Corvette Z06 GT3.R race cars” and went on to say, “As TF Sport strives for victory in the WEC, it’s important to remember that these cars are meticulously crafted in our New Hudson, MI factory and supported on site by a dedicated team of passionate professionals.”

How They Finished:

  • #82: The trio of Daniel Juncadella, Sébastien Baud, and Hiroshi Koizumi finished 10th.
  • #81: Despite the encouraging pole position, Tom Van Rompuy, Rui Andrade, and factory driver Charlie Eastwood retired with an electrical issue after 177 laps.

Notable Highlights:

  • Koizumi began the race from 11th (after barely missing Friday’s Hyperpole session) and had the most track congestion among all the TF Sport drivers. After just over 90 minutes of track time, he handed over to Baud, the youngest of the TF Sport driver lineup (at 23). Baud was impressively immediately on pace with laps that rivaled his more experienced factory teammates.
  • After 3.5 hours, Juncadella had his first laps in WEC competition and ran 10th to stay in a points-paying position before the driver rotation began cycling through again into dusk. Koizumi drove two stints with his best pace of the race to keep the #82 in the points before his drive time was complete.
  • Baud and Juncadella both recorded respectable stints during intense competition in the middle of the 18-car field.

Comments Directly From The Drivers:

♦ Dani Juncadella, #82 Z06 GT3.R:

I’m not entirely disappointed about the weekend. When we look back, there were zero issues, no reliability issues and no setbacks. We ran a very smooth program. Unfortunately we need to look into improving a little bit the balance for Hiroshi. He struggled in the beginning, and that made our race difficult. There were penalties and some drive-throughs… little things that we need to avoid in the future, but I’m sure we can. All in all it’s a positive start for TF Sport with the Corvette Z06 GT3.R. There is a long way to go in this championship.”

Charlie Eastwood, #81 Z06 GT3.R:

After the dream start to our WEC campaign with Tom getting pole in the brand new Corvette Z06 GT3.R, unfortunately today didn’t go as planned. We had a great start to the race. Unfortunately after ending up a few laps down, we thought it best – as we’re still new to this brand new car – to make a test out of the race itself. As we came in for a stop after my first stint, we realized that we had a problem with an electrical harness and had to retire the car. It was such a high yesterday, but unfortunately it wasn’t the result we hoped for today. Imola is just around the corner, and I know we will come back strong.

What’s Next?

TF Sport’s next FIA WEC race is the Six Hours of Imola on Sunday, April 21. Next week, the team will travel to the Italian circuit for testing as development of the Corvette Z06 GT3.R continues.

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