Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia is fresh off winning the GT Le Mans Class at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and now the Spanish driving ace is looking forward to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring this week. Known by his teammates at the Matador and the King of Spain, Garcia has really come into his own since becoming one the four full time drivers for Corvette Racing in 2012.
In this IMSA Driver Spotlight, Garcia talks about winning the Rolex 24, the keys to success at Sebring and being a new father.
How did it feel to win the Rolex 24, after what appeared to be a flawless performance for the team?
“Winning the Rolex 24 was one of the goals we set out this year for Corvette Racing. We wanted to get there and fight for the win, and the amount of preparation that went into race was evident. We saw that we had the pace right away in the early stages of the race. The main things for us were to know how the track would develop and how the race would develop. Those were important so we could plan in advance some changes we might need to make on the car and consider the strategy as well.
“At the end of the day, that was the race was all about. It was a pretty flawless performance for the entire 3 car team. Everyone worked perfectly – the engineers, crew, and Jan and Ryan. They took risks when they had to do. It was great teamwork all around. At the end of the day, we had to be clever and not overuse the car to have a shot at the end. Because Jan and Ryan saved the car throughout, I was able to drive at 100 percent for the last three laps of the race. Out of the 700-something laps, those three were by far the most important ones.”
After narrowly missing out on the championship last year, do you think the strong start to the season will help your title bid?
“It’s such a big race and the most important race we do in America. The Rolex 24 is one every driver, team and manufacturer wants to win. I feel fortunate to have won it a second time and for the first time with Corvette Racing.
“In terms of points, every single win helps. But as we’ve seen the last two years, Jan and I started really bad in the first two races. We ran well but had some bad luck and misfortune. For sure it would help if the Rolex 24 was worth more points than any other race. But with the TUDOR Championship points system, the key thing is consistency. That’s what we need to work toward throughout the rest of the year. We’ve started in a really good position – both the 3 and 4 car have started great for the manufacturer, driver and team championships.”
Have there been any improvements to the Corvette C7.R this year? Where do you see the biggest strengths with the car?
“The key thing for this season is knowledge. That’s the biggest development piece we have. Last year we came into Daytona with very little knowledge about our Corvette C7.R. Now after a full season with it, we have much more data and knowledge. All of that is helping us develop a more reliable and faster car. For example at Daytona, we knew how the car would change throughout the race. That’s only possible if you really know the car you’re driving.”
What are some of the keys to success at Sebring?
“It’s definitely not like Daytona where you need to stay on the lead lap in order to contend at the end of the race. At Sebring, the setup is more complicated. The track develops very roughly and you need to follow the track in order to be successful. The 12 Hours is difficult because you can have very high temperatures midway through the race and you end up at night with the temperatures. You need to predict what the track will do. That’s the key thing; the track changes a lot and traffic is difficult. You have to be ahead of all those.”
How has life been for you as a father? Less sleep, but surely a very good experience?
“It’s definitely been a life-changing experience. It has meant a lot of changing my everyday life when I’m at home. But it is worth every minute. I’m really proud to be a father and to have Maria.”
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