Antonio Garcia admits that several times he almost lost control of the #3 Corvette C8.R as he and Jordan Taylor scored their fifth win of the season at Charlotte’s rain-soaked Roval.
Taylor, who took pole for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round at the sinewy 2.28-mile road course that also incorporates part of the Speedway’s oval, held onto the lead at the start of the wet race. However, on Lap 4 he had to cede the lead to Jesse Krohn’s #24 BMW M8, and briefly gave up second to Frederic Makowiecki’s Porsche which then crashed.
Under the subsequent yellow, the two Corvettes and two BMWs pitted, and swapped drivers, and Garcia resumed in second, nursing his fuel consumption while also keeping John Edwards in the #24 BMW in sight. On Lap 47, with 20 minutes of the 100-minute race left to go, the Corvette moved to the front once more and Garcia survived a late-race restart to claim his and Taylor’s fifth victory in the eight races held for IMSA GTs so far this season.
“It was super, super stressful,” commented Garcia afterward. “Even if it felt like I was just following the #24, I was really hanging on. I probably crashed four or five times, just like everyone else!
“Jordan gave me some very good indications before he jumped out and before we went green to give me confidence in following the BMW. They were really strong right away, but I didn’t give up. As soon as I felt like we stabilized on lap times, I kept pressuring him and using traffic to close up.
“As soon as I saw they were struggling a little bit with tires – especially the 24 – I stayed patient even when the #25 (the other BMW of Bruno Spengler and Connor De Phillippi) was coming. I saw my opportunity and went for it.
“I don’t know if it was risky move or not, but at that point I didn’t think about the championship. I wanted to win the race. As soon as I got past, I put my head down, tried to open a gap and it worked.
“It was very difficult at the beginning. There was a massive river going across at Turn 3, and I almost lost it two or three times there. The conditions definitely improved, but lap by lap you know where to place your car, and following someone opens the water a little bit for you. Once we got into a rhythm, the track improved for sure but it started to rain at the end. Being in the wet in the dark also makes it difficult to spot standing water.”
Garcia and Taylor have now extended their GTLM Drivers’ Championship lead to 24 points over their Corvette Racing teammates Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin with three rounds to go, including next weekend’s Petit Le Mans.
However, Milner and Gavin – who won Sebring’s 2hr40min race in mid-July – were unlucky again at Charlotte. Milner was running fourth in the closing stages, very close to the two BMWs ahead, when the car suddenly snapped out of control on the banking of the oval, causing the American to have a sizeable shunt. The team believes it was the result of right-rear suspension failure, but thankfully Milner was swiftly assessed and released from the infield care center. Given the early exits of the two Porsche 911 RSRs, he and Gavin were still classified fourth.
“I didn’t have any indication at any point that there was something going wrong,” said Milner afterward. “Everything felt totally normal up until it wasn’t. I had almost finished on the banking, which is more G-loading than Daytona.
“At first I thought I lost a tire, like it just overheated or something like that for how quickly it went around. The first indications were that wasn’t the case. The track had some pretty gnarly weepers in the seams of the race track that would get you a little bit loose sometimes, but it was never really a huge deal. Upon further inspection it looks like once the car got back to the trucks, we did have something at the right-rear and the wheel came off.
“Fortunately this is a really strong and safe Corvette that we have and it held up really well. Selfishly I’m glad it is nothing I did wrong, but that doesn’t change the outcome. There is still a lot of work for the guys to get the car fixed and get ready to go to Petit Le Mans in less than a week. I feel bad for the guys for the amount of work they have to do.
“Obviously the first thing we do as a team is figure out what the failure is, how it happened and make the necessary changes to prevent that from happening again. The guys will go through that in the next couple of days and come up with a good plan.”
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