Corvette’s close second “hurts” but team “should be proud”

Corvette Racing’s #63 team were left with mixed emotions after falling just 42 seconds short of a debut Le Mans 24 Hours win for the C8.R.

Once the #52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 lost laps with suspension damage, the GTE Pro battle in the 89th 24 Hours of Le Mans distilled to a battle between the #51 Ferrari and the #63 Corvette piloted by IMSA full-timers Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor and regular endurance race third man Nicky Catsburg.

Throughout the cooler conditions of the night, these two cars ran 20sec apart, matching each other’s laptimes, but as the heat rose towards the end of the race, the Corvette’s deficit doubled. Nonetheless, the American car’s performance was particularly noteworthy given that this was the C8.R’s first race at Le Mans, last year’s planned foray to France having been canceled due to travel restrictions induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The drivers could see the positives and negatives of falling 41.686sec short of victory after 24 hours of racing.

“I don't know if I prefer to be two seconds, 10 seconds, 40 seconds or three laps back,” said Garcia who had been wearing a tribute helmet for his late friend and mentor Adrian Campos. “I think it hurts the same!

“We'd been in that 30-second range between the two cars pretty much for 24 hours. I must say it does hurt a little bit. When you come so close, it's difficult. But when you do your best, you run almost a perfect race and someone else does it a little better than you, you have to congratulate them.

“There is nothing we could do. I think we ran a perfect race regardless of our position. We finished second but very close for sure. They just did it 40 seconds better than us. I'm very happy for the team, the #63 crew, Jordan and Nicky - all six drivers had really, really good drives and helped develop this Corvette and for sure all the engineers.

“So even if the #64 had so much trouble, getting up to this point we have all been working together to get the most out of the C8.R. For sure, two of our cars up front would have put even more pressure on the #51. We were both alone so it was a one-on-one fight between Corvette and Ferrari. We were close.

“When you are up on the podium, you always want a tiny bit more. I would have liked to have given Corvette the first Le Mans win in the C8.R. Now we need to wait until next year and work harder."

Taylor, who won Le Mans with Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner in the C7.R back in 2015, shared his teammate’s sentiments, observing: "It's hard to complain with a podium at Le Mans. But when you come this close, it's difficult to take. The Corvette Racing guys did an amazing job. We didn't have any issues with our car. We executed really well strategy-wise and in the pitlane and on the track, there were no mistakes.

“For our first run at Le Mans with the C8. R, we should be pretty proud to come home second against some cars that have run here the past few years.”

Added Catsburg: “This is my third time at Le Mans, and the first two times we finished nowhere. To be in the fight right to the last lap was very cool. It went well. The C8. R was very good. I had some good stints and nothing really bad happened.

“I will go home with some positive feelings. P2 kind of feels like a loss, but on the way home I'll be like, 'We finished P2 at Le Mans. That's not bad!' We had a cool fight with the Ferrari, and I think we did well."

For the #64 team of Nick Tandy, Tommy Milner and Alexander Sims, the race followed the same snakebit theme seen in their efforts in the #4 Corvette in IMSA this year – fast but unlucky.

Ironically, it was the #51 Ferrari that crippled their efforts by thudding into the ’Vette at the start of the ceremonial pre-race lap. The diffuser on the #64 sustained enough damage that it needed to be changed in the fifth hour. Later, the car lost several more laps to alternator, transmission and clutch issues and came home sixth.

“In the end we turned it into a test session in a lot of ways,” said Milner. “We tried to go as fast we could to learn as much as we could about the C8. R and find anything that in future may or may not be a problem. Our focus turned from going for a race win to helping the #63 guys do whatever it took to get them the win. Unfortunately that didn't materialize; I think the Ferrari had just a little bit too much pace compared to everyone else.”

Tandy added: “I'm proud of how we managed to get the speed out of the car. Honestly, it's probably the nicest racecar I've had to drive around this circuit - to be consistently fast and confidence-inspiring... I'm really proud of everyone who worked to give us a car with that performance.”

Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S VP of performance and motorsports described the runner-up finish as “a significant achievement as we debuted the mid-engine Corvette C8.R at Le Mans. To be on the podium… is very gratifying. It's a testament to the hard work and determination of our Corvette production and racing teams.

“The support of Corvette owners and fans from around the world has been incredible. This race result is dedicated to our customers and supporters.”

#64 Corvette C8.R of Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy, Alexander Sims

#64 Corvette C8.R of Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy, Alexander Sims

Photo by: Eric Le Galliot

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