Chevrolet, Corvette bring driver, team and manufacturer championship lead to COTA debut.
DETROIT – Corvette Racing’s chase for another American Le Mans Series championship next moves to Texas for the eighth round of the ALMS season. As was the case three weeks ago in Baltimore, Corvette Racing hopes the two biggest stars of the weekend are its two Compuware Chevrolet Corvette C6.Rs.
Corvette Racing’s stable of four drivers comes to Austin with two victories each on the season. Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, defending ALMS GT champions, lead the drivers’ standings with wins at Sebring – with Richard Westbrook – in their No. 4 Compuware Corvette to open the year and another victory at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia took their first victory together in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette at Laguna Seca. They won the most recent ALMS round at Baltimore to move within two points of Gavin and Milner in the championship.
With four victories, Corvette Racing heads the team standings, and Chevrolet is in control of the manufacturers’ race. There are 64 points available over the remaining three rounds.
This weekend’s race marks the first for the ALMS at Circuit of The Americas. Corvette Racing is one of the few teams that have logged test days at the venue, having spent time there in late 2012. The trip not doubt will prove beneficial as Corvette Racing can spend more time on engineering and strategy rather than establishing a baseline setup once testing starts Tuesday.
ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R - “It will be difficult and different. Teams in the ALMS are used to running through the same schedule of events. With new events, the team becomes a bigger part of it. It’s true we had a couple of test days late last year, but in the end we don’t know what to expect. There have been some races there and maybe the track has changed a little bit. Now it’s up to the team to judge what will be the ideal setup to start the weekend and develop a program to approach the race.
(The layout) “If I were running the Formula One season or more of the European season, it would be just another track and similar to many there. I knew from the past a few of the tracks designed by the same person. When you go around COTA, it is a combination of Turkey, Bahrain and Shanghai together. But because we don’t have tracks like this, it’s different and it’s great to have. It is good for everyone. Maybe it takes away a little bit of bravery because of the run-off areas, but I think everyone will be very close because of that. It will be challenging for sure.”
(What type of car should the track favor?) “I’m not sure. It has long sections of medium- and high-speed corners. Maybe Mosport is similar with very long, fast corners, and the Viper seems to be competitive there. For sure, because it’s brand new it will depend on how the teams perform before the race and leading up to the weekend.”
JAN MAGNUSSEN, NO. 3 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R - “Obviously it’s a fantastic facility and really shows that it is a Formula One track. The layout and all the facilities around it are absolutely top-line all the way through. It is interesting for us to go race. There aren’t that many facilities like this in the world, so I’m sure the whole team is looking forward to going there and see what we can do.
We had a test there in December and obviously we can’t say how we are going to do. We will have to wait until we get to the weekend to see where we are in terms of the competition. I think with the long straights, we may encounter a little of the same issues as at Road America and Le Mans where our top speed may not be good enough.”
(Finding a line) “The section from Turn 3 to Turn 10 is one long, continuous series of corners. If you mess up one, you will mess up the rest because you are now off-line for the entry to the next one. I can see a lot of scrapping going on there, especially with the prototypes and trying to stop them from passing you in a place that puts you off the line.
I can see some issues running different categories but it will be the same for everyone. It is a new track and no one has a lot of experience there. I’m sure everybody will be experimenting with setups to get the most out of the cars.”
(The championship chase): “I’m very happy and surprised that we are where we are. I have to say that after Sebring, we scored zero points which put us 24 behind the No. 4 car. At that point, I thought the championship was over for us. We could try for some wins and make the most of it, but I didn’t think that with three races to go we would be two points back.
For us, I don’t know if it changes anything in the way we are going to approach the weekend. What we have been doing is very consistently scoring good points. We’ve won the races we can and scored as many points at races where wins weren’t on the table. That is what we need to keep doing and how we will win this championship.”
OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 4 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R: “It is the most recently built big racing facility in the United States and built to Formula One spec. It’s impressive and a great track. It has a number of challenges and a couple of different personalities. From Turn 1 to Turn 10 is all high-speed, long-duration corners. You need a car with a lot of downforce to get through there quickly. Then it goes from there to basically a circuit of very long straightaways and hairpin turns.
That’s all about straightline speed and braking. Getting back to the pit area, you’ve got a very long right-hander and then a quick left-hander where you go into another hairpin to the frontstraight. You could run a low-downforce setup or a high-downforce setup and maybe make either work there. We will have to wait and see when the time comes.”
(On last year’s test) “It’s a place where all the drivers when we tested there got quite a thrill from driving. It was a big challenge to figure out different ways of getting around there and different lines you could take going through turns 2, 3, 4 and 5. We were all comparing notes and found out we were doing it all differently. We need to see how that turns out and figure out the fastest way through there before raceday. It should be a great facility to race at.”
(Finding balance) “You’d always err on the side of having a bit more downforce than not. You’re going to sacrifice a little too much on the first part of the track but it’s something the engineers will look at and try to figure out through assimilation. We will take the lead from them.”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 4 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R - “The facility is probably the best in the United States. With catering to the F1 crowd, it’s fun for us to go and race on that track. Everything about it is first-class, and it’s a joy to be there. From all the comfort side, it’s all great. As far as the track goes, it’s also a challenging venue and one that’s fun to drive. There is lots and lots of elevation change. From nearly every perspective, it’s a great track.
We don’t know how it is going to race yet. We had two LMP cars that ran with us when we tested there last year and got some indication as to what the traffic will be like. There may be some areas where it will be tough to let faster cars go by. But that’s part of the challenge. We have some baseline to go off of, so we’re a little ahead of the game compared to some of our competitors. Hopefully it gives us a little bit of an edge and advantage once the race begins.”
(Preparing for a new track) “With the way the modern F1 tracks are – the ones I’ve driven on, at least – they are wide enough that it allows you to play around with your line and take some unorthodox lines in some cases to find some speed in certain areas. Each of our drivers went through and tried to figure out the fastest way around. What the fastest way is by yourself isn’t always going to be the fastest way with traffic and trying to get by someone.
In many places, the track just has one line like the first turn, the exit and the esses. But when you get to the last three-quarters of the track, there are quite a few lines you can take to get through the slow stuff. It allows you to play around with being faster in the first two corners while giving up the exit. It will be a challenge for anyone who hasn’t been there – to figure out what’s best for their car. But also once we get to the race, trying to figure out where we can make passes. It is a big challenge because no one in our class has raced there.”
DOUG FEHAN, CORVETTE RACING PROGRAM MANAGER - “Circuit of the Americas ranks as one of the finest road racing facilities in the world. So to say we are excited to be part of this event would certainly be an understatement. Aside from the formidable 20-turn, 3.4-mile circuit itself, what makes this race even more difficult is the fact that no ALMS teams have raced there, as yet.
I think that situation tends to accentuate a team's engineering capabilities, and I know all our guys are looking forward to demonstrating what they can do. With three races remaining in our quest to repeat as ALMS driver, team and manufacturer champions, it is paramount that we finish strongly here. It should prove to be just another epic ALMS GT battle.”