CORVETTE RACING AT PETIT LE MANS: Big Heartbreak in 2021 Finale
GT Le Mans championship sweep takes sting out of tough finishes
BRASELTON, Ga. (Nov. 13, 2021) – Corvette Racing had hopes of going out of the GT Le Mans (GTLM) era in winning style, but fortune had other ideas at the 10-hour Petit Le Mans. Despite setbacks to both Chevrolet Corvette C8.Rs in the final race of this year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the program still celebrated a second straight sweep of the full-season GTLM titles.
Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor wrapped up their second straight class Drivers Championship as the No. 3 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C8.R took the green flag for the race start. It also locked up consecutive Manufacturers championships for Chevrolet and the Team title for the No. 3 Corvette squad.
A mid-race accident, however, forced the No. 3 C8.R’s retirement just before the halfway point. Taylor was part of a long train of cars coming to a restart over a blind crest and crashed heavily into another GT car that had spun and stopped only seconds before. He was evaluated and released from the infield care center.
Corvette Racing still had hopes of a ninth Petit Le Mans victory with the No. 4 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Corvette C8.R of Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy and Alexander Sims.
The trio led a race-high 313 laps with all three drivers taking turns at the front of the field. While lacking overall performance, clever strategy and pit work kept the No. 4 C8.R at or near the lead for the first three-quarters of the race. Fuel savings by the Corvette drivers meant shorter fuel fill times, and the No. 4 pit crew helped capitalize by gaining 11 spots during the first six pit stops in the race.
In a fight for track position late and running second in class, Tandy was hit and pushed off-track by the eventual race-winning prototype. The impact broke the left-front suspension of the Corvette with 10 minutes left.
Corvette Racing will return to IMSA in January for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona in the new GTD PRO category. That effort will go along with a single-car entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R – 2021 GTLM CHAMPION TALK ABOUT WINNING YOUR FIFTH CHAMPIONSHIP TODAY.
“A good first lap for sure knowing that we had clinched the championship You forget about that right away because you are in race mode. Everything was running super smooth for the first full stint or half-stint then I was able to save fuel and jump first and second place on the first pit stop. Then it felt the car came back to me and was really pretty good. I saw Nick (Tandy) behind me and we pulled a good gap over the other cars. So I settled in and everything seemed to be going to plan. Actually it caught me by surprise because yesterday the car didn’t feel very good. Somehow we had pace today. It’s just a shame about what happened to Jordan. I could anticipate something happening after the three or four restarts I did because traffic was very severe not only on the restarts but with all the class splits out there. There was a lot of tension you could see out there. As Jordan said, the good thing is he is okay that’s the best thing so what I’m very grateful for.”
ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON: “This year was a really good year. We started by winning the Rolex 24. It felt like a really long time since my last one. It was starting to be a little bit like last year. Corvette was super strong and probably even stronger this year. We just kept doing what we did last year, Jordan and I. We seem to be really good together. Everything was working really good. We just kept doing what we did. We didn’t think about the championship but somehow everything came back to us. Other than this year, my only downside was Sebring. I thought we had a really good race going until six minutes to go. Now for sure I’ll remember this championship. Not winning Petit does hurt, though.”
MOVING TO GTD PRO IN 2022: “We’re definitely looking forward to that. That opens up the opportunity to win this race, for one! This championship has really, really good racing. Getting back to race again at Daytona, Sebring, here and the other good tracks we go to, I’m really happy for that. As you can see today, GTD looks like good fun. I’m looking forward to that, too.”
JORDAN TAYLOR, NO. 3 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R – 2021 GTLM CHAMPION
JORDAN, HOW ARE YOU FEELING?
“Just a little sore, thanks. It’s just really tight, a muscle spasm. I’ll be fine in a couple of days. Thankfully, Corvette, Chevrolet and Pratt Miller built a very strong car that kept me safe. It’s definitely a scary moment when you come over the crest in fifth gear and everyone stops on the other side. It’s something we can learn from in the future on restart procedures. But thankfully I got out of the car and am okay, and we still had another Corvette in the fight.”
TALK ABOUT THE RACING OUT THERE AND SECURING THE CHAMPIONSHIP.
“Like Antonio said, as soon as you start the race, you kind of forget about the championship and go for the win because it is Petit Le Mans. When you come into these events, such high-profile events, it’s unfortunate you have such a mix of drivers and classes that don’t mix well and makes the traffic and the racing so difficult. My first stint was kind of messy with traffic in and out. Then the way it worked we were starting in the back for that restart. The stack-up effect is always there and 10A and 10B, which was way more extreme today. It was unfortunate to catch us out, but definitely amazing to get a championship for Antonio and I and two in a row. Amazing to finish up the GTLM era with two championships like that and I think Antonio is the winningest driver in the class over its existence, so I am proud to have been his teammate for nine of those wins and looking forward to fighting for a third one next year.”
JORDAN, IN YOUR OPINON, WHAT HAPPENED?
“When we were restarting, I don’t know where we were in line, maybe 30th or 35th. The leaders were coming out of 10B and they start accelerating out of the chicane. So they start going and then when you get back to 15th or 20th, they are still braking in the chicane and it starts the accordion effect. We were so far back, we were pretty much flat-out all the way down the back stretch trying to kind of keep up with everyone. By the time we got to the crest, I was behind the 79 or 97 and at that point I’m in fifth gear. I’m just basically following him and trusting him that he knows where he is going and he could see where we were going. As soon as we crested, he went left and I went right. Basically where he had gone turned out to be the only safe place and when I popped up next to him, there were two cars stopped in the middle of the racetrack. I had nowhere to go so I slid into them about 110 miles an hour. Thankfully everyone was fine. The first thing I thought was I thought I broke my back, that is how hard it was and probably hurt the guy in front of me with how hard I hit him directly in the back. Thankfully he was fine.
“I already saw someone already and it is muscle spasms in my lower back. Thankfully nothing right now is too serious. When I got to the medical center, I was the worst one.”
PERSPECTIVE: “This was the first time I’ve had a big crash in an event… we’re a family of racers – my dad and my brother. It’s the first time one of us has had a big accident. It’s always a fear for a family member to get injured. Antonio’s family probably watches at home and they don’t get answers as fast as this if something happens. I knew Ricky was in the 10 car and when I walked over the wall, my first thought was that he was going to drive by this mashed car and he’d be looking for a thumbs up. I knew he’d be freaked out, so it was an emotional moment to be honest. It brings a lot of things back into reality. You’re on track racing these guys and wanting to beat everyone. But as soon as an accident happens, it becomes a lot more human and brings out that back into the big picture. So I want to say thank you to everyone on the team for the safety and the IMSA safety team, as well.”
SEEING YOUR DAD AFTER THE ACCIDENT: “Ricky was one of the first ones I saw on the track. I was on the wall and he was looking for a thumbs up, so I gave him a thumbs up just to put him at ease considering his position for the championship. Then I was carted off to the medical center, where I knew my mom and my girlfriend were outside. I called my mom from someone’s cell phone and told her I was OK and hopefully relay that message to my dad. I saw him about an hour-and-a-half later. He was still crying, which I can imagine. I hated watching him race for the same reasons, and I can’t imagine what it’s like for him to watch his kids every day. Thankfully to this point, it was smooth sailing but in this sport anything can happen. Today was a bit of a reality check for everyone. I’m sure everyone we’ll all be really happy once we get home safely.”
NICKY CATSBURG, NO. 3 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R – FINISHED SIXTH IN GTLM: “The season started amazing with winning Daytona. I think at Sebring we were in a very good position to win the race as well until we were taken out in the last little part of the race. Le Mans wasn’t too bad. So yes I can look back on a good season. And the boys can look back on an even better season because they won the championship. Today was very unfortunate. We are all happy that Jordan is feeling well and got away with just some muscle pain. Of course I would have loved to drive and not sit on the sideline for the whole race, but other than that it was super nice this season and we get to celebrate a championship.
“It is only one-and-a-half months and we are back in Daytona GTD PRO. New challenge and I think the competition is bigger. The field is bigger. That is going to be interesting. I can’t wait to be honest.”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 4 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R – FINISHED FOURTH IN GTLM: “Going into the race I said our biggest competition would be the Porsches because they had such a big advantage in performance. They already had a fast car last year and on paper, they should have been significantly faster which they were as we saw toward the end of the race today. It is kind of a shame for Corvette Racing that this happens. We don’t go into a race thinking we are going to lose. We use any possible advantage we can find, and today we used whatever advantage we could find to be competitive at the end. It was just a little bit too big of a mountain to climb. Then at the end, Nick got taken out by the Mazda. It happens all the time. As soon as we are out of their view they just decide to move over. We can’t just disappear, and it has ruined races for a lot of GT cars over the years. They’re never really ever penalized as much as they should. The race today was a great race for us for most of it. We were able to find ways to keep the car at the front. It didn’t end like we wanted it to, but we can look back on a great season. There were lots of highlights for both the 3 and the 4 car all year. Nick and I both were happy with the last half of the season with three wins in a row. And we get the Manufacturers and Team championships for Corvette and Chevy. I’m happy with all that. It’s hard to reflect on the good when you had a sour end. I’m very, very proud of this Corvette Racing team and proud to be a part of it.”
NICK TANDY, NO. 4 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R – FINISHED FOURTH IN GTLM: “I was passing a GTD car late and the Mazda came through to make us three-wide down the straight into the braking zone in (Turn) 10. I was in the middle and all of a sudden the Mazda decided he would try to take the racing line. He was on the inside and came straight across the track and hit the side of our car and broke the suspension. It’s a shame that the season ends like this. Unfortunately into the night toward the end, I didn’t have the pace in the car to challenge the Porsches. It’s a shame not to finish on the podium, but we have a lot to be happy for this season. We wrapped up the Endurance Cup for the No. 4 car, we won a lot of races along the way and we got Manufacturers, Drivers and Team championships. All-in-all its been a successful season even if it ended very disappointing.”
ALEXANDER SIMS, NO. 4 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R – FINISHED FOURTH IN GTLM: “A large part of today’s race went really, really well. In the first seven hours or so, we were in the mix and showing like we were getting stronger and stronger. We had really good strategy and good pace to make the fuel economy work. We were at the front or near the front most of the time. As the temperatures got really cold, the pace dropped away from us and we couldn’t hang on to the Porsches in the final couple of hours. Unfortunately the race was lost on pace but the final contact on Nick was the final nail in the coffin. I had it happen to me in my stint where a DPi got into me. They just pass three-quarters of the way and then expect you to evaporate. It’s frustrating when we are trying to do our own thing. But I’ve loved the year. It’s been fantastic to drive the C8.R. The team has been brilliant. It feels a bit disappointing because we had a bad Sebring, a bad Le Mans and now a bad Petit Le Mans. But I’ve enjoyed every bit of it except for the results! I’m looking forward to more next year.”
Source: Corvette Racing