Since the turn of the century, Corvette Racing has built quite a name for itself at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Seven wins at the race since 2001 will tend to do that for a team.
Hoping to add an eighth victory to that total in the 90th Anniversary 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 22-23 will be the same six drivers who anchored the Corvette Racing team a year ago.
In the No. 73 Corvette Racing C6.R will be Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, and Jordan Taylor. Over in the No. 74 C6.R are Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin, and Richard Westbrook.
Already 2013 is shaping up as a good year for the Corvette Racing team, which finally saw its luck swing at the Twelve Hours of Sebring as Gavin, Milner, and Westbrook took the GT victory in the March race.
“The momentum we gained at Sebring can put us in good stead for Le Mans,” Gavin said. “I think it’s something that will give us a certain amount of confidence, especially coming off the battles of winning the ALMS championship last year. Tommy and I have really established a very good partnership. We seem to work really well together.”
That partnership worked very well indeed at Sebring, where they had to come back from being two laps down – twice – to earn the win.
“We managed, carrying out in that true Corvette spirit of never, ever giving up,” Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan said. “We battled back twice from two laps down to take that victory. That, in and of itself, puts the team in such a mental state, reviving that spirit and rekindling that atmosphere of, ‘We cannot be beaten, we will not be beaten,’ I think, sets a great standard and really gives us incentive and momentum going into Le Mans.”
And speaking of momentum, the drivers of the No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R are also coming off of wins of their own with Garcia and Magnussen winning the most recent ALMS race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May and Jordan Taylor winning earlier this month in a Corvette DP at Detroit’s Belle Isle.
“It feels like a long time already since not having raced,” Garcia said. “But the timing allows us all to prepare well for Le Mans. This time off has allowed the team to prepare the cars very well. It is a race with almost 100 years of history and each year makes the event bigger and bigger. It is the biggest race in Europe and one of the biggest in the world. The team, the fans and drivers all wait for this event every year.”
Corvette Racing will also have the added incentive of wanting to defeat fellow American competitor. Viper won three races in a row from 1998 to 2000 while the Corvette Racing team was getting its feet wet. This year’s race will mark the return of Viper to Le Mans for the first time in 13 years.
“Those early battles were classic battles,” Fehan recalls. “They (Viper) were the gold standard by which all other GT cars were measured. What we learned from our encounters with them was how much more work we had to do, how much harder we had to work, and how much more dedication we had to have in making ourselves get better.”
It’s a lesson well learned, based on the seven wins for Corvette since 2001.
And a lesson that the team knows is not just for the drivers.
“We know full well that each time we participate in that event that we are representing not only Chevrolet and General Motors, but also the United States,” Fehan said. “We understand it and we accept that challenge.”
Photo Credit: Josselin Dutheil