DETROIT – Only one more race separates Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen from the American Le Mans Series’ GT drivers’ championship. Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta is the site of the final round of the 2013 ALMS but also the series’ finale as well. The 1,000-mile/10-hour endurance classic has been a staple at Road Atlanta – an hour northeast of Atlanta – since its first running in 1998.
After nine of 10 rounds in this year’s championship, Garcia and Magnussen in the No. 3 Compuware Chevrolet Corvette C6.R lead their sole remaining challenger – Dirk Muller – by 16 points with 24 available to the winner at Petit Le Mans. The Corvette Racing camp is aiming for a second straight clean sweep of the ALMS GT titles.
No duo in the GT class can match Garcia and Magnussen’s three victories in 2013: Laguna Seca, Baltimore and Austin. For Petit Le Mans, they will team with newly crowned GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype champion Jordan Taylor. The group must finish seventh or higher at Road Atlanta for Garcia and Magnussen to win the driving title; they were second last year.
If they do, the duo would succeed Corvette Racing teammates Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner as champions. Richard Westbrook returns to join them in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette; the trio opened the ALMS season with a remarkable, come-from-behind victory at Sebring. Gavin is the team’s winningest driver at Road Atlanta with five victories.
With five wins on the season, Corvette Racing is assured of being the ALMS’ most successful entrant in series history. The list of achievements is remarkable – 82 victories, 10 team and manufacturer titles, and 64 pole positions. All are American Le Mans Series records.
Starting in January, a new era begins with the debut of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – a result of a merger between the ALMS and GRAND-AM. The season will open with the Rolex 24 at Daytona and close with Petit Le Mans.
ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R: (Championship strategy) “We need to keep racing as we have up to this point. We need to use a percentage of caution; we won’t risk as much during the race as we normally would. But in this case, you can’t hold back and wait. If you hold back a little too much, you become vulnerable. We need to keep the same strategy – try to be up front and stay out of trouble.”
“We all just need to stay calm and relax. The key is to remain consistent and keep doing the same things we have earlier in the year.”
(Being successful at Road Atlanta) “The key thing is that we normally have a few more cars and new people running in the race. The amount of traffic rises, as does the risk. Because Road Atlanta is not so easy on traffic due to the layout, you need to take it easy. You also need to have a smart, safe strategy and don’t try to do something out of sequence and completely different than anything from the season.”
JAN MAGNUSSEN, NO. 3 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R: (Championship strategy) “We will have to keep our eye on the ball and win the championship. That’s not to say we can’t go for a victory, but we do need to make sure we get the championship. The situation is looking quite good for us but it is a long race. Our main competitors will be strong but our car is usually excellent as well at Road Atlanta. We need to be clever about it – push when we need to but also smart when need to.”
(Keys to victory) “Because of the race’s length, the team plays a much bigger part. There is a ton of strategy involved and there are more pit stops. Fortunately for us, we have been able to do a really good job at both. The longer distances will suit our team even more and usually we are quite strong. We do put a lot of time and effort into stops and making the right strategy calls.”
JORDAN TAYLOR, NO. 3 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R: “Finishing the last three races in the Rolex Series and winning those races, there isn’t a much better feeling. Having those victories and a championship is the best possible way to come into Petit Le Mans. I’m really excited to get back to the Corvette and the team since the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The No. 3 team has had a great season so far. My job is to help them to win a championship.”
(Taming the track) “Road Atlanta is one of the more traditional courses we have in America. There is a lot of speed, and the track flows very well. It’s a fun track to drive but when you get into a race situation with traffic, it can be frustrating and stressful if you’re stuck behind a slower GT car or trying to hold off a prototype in certain sections. Things can get pretty stressful and it’s easy to lose a ton of time. If you lose a little bit of rhythm or momentum at a place like Road Atlanta – where you are going by rhythm or momentum – you can lose sync of everything and wonder where your lap time went. It’s a big track for confidence and believing in yourself and the car.”
OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 4 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R: “The race really is one of the crown jewels of the sports car racing world. It’s an event many teams from outside the series want to do. A thousand miles around Road Atlanta is a great challenge. The track is fast and unforgiving. It can frustrate you when you’re in traffic, but sometime you can use that your advantage if someone is chasing you. It’s a track that is suited for this race with the fact you go from starting in the middle of the day and ending at night. Those last couple of hours, you know is going to be hard and tough after racing all day. It will be a fine way to finish off the story that has been the ALMS.”
(Adding a Petit Le Mans win to Sebring) “That has to be the goal. We’ve had some ups and downs starting at Sebring. We had a great victory in Canada before things started going downhill for us. When you have three bad races in a year, you have to be super-lucky to come away with a championship. Considering how difficult this class is, you get one ‘get out of jail free’ card. Jan and Antonio played their card at Sebring, but since then they have nailed it every single weekend. They’ve had a very strong season and deserve to be leading the championship with one race to go. Let’s hope they can seal it at Petit Le Mans and get us all three championships again for Corvette Racing. It would be an amazing feat to close the American Le Mans Series with Corvette Racing and Chevrolet as champions in everything we can win.”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 4 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R: “There is a lot to race for, that’s for sure. We can’t win the championship – we’re one point out of having a chance. We’d love to be second in the final standings. But from my perspective I’d rather go for a win at Petit Le Mans – the last ALMS race and one race I haven’t won yet. That’s higher on my list than finishing second or staying third in the standings. It’s a big race – where the ALMS started. Sebring and this one were races coming into the year that I definitely wanted to win. We got Sebring in March and if we can get Sebring, I’d be able to look back on this season and be satisfied with what Oliver, Richard and I have accomplished. There would be nothing better to end the season and the ALMS’ run with a victory.”
(Track characteristics) “Road Atlanta is a track that suits multi-class racing. There is an ebb and flow with traffic throughout the race within our class. It’s one I’ve always enjoyed. It’s incredibly fast and fun circuit. For whatever reason, I seem to get a little more excited for Petit Le Mans. The whole picture of that event makes it pretty special. It’s always well-subscribed by fans.”
RICHARD WESTBROOK, NO. 4 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R: “Petit Le Mans is one of the classics. In the sports car racing world, you’ve got the Le Mans 24 Hours, Sebring and Petit Le Mans. This is where the ALMS started. It will always be a very special event. Any driver that wins it will put it straight away on their CV. Driving a Corvette in Petit Le Mans also is a very special thing. We have a great turnout with the Corvette owners in the Corvette Corral – one of the biggest of the year. So being a Corvette driver at Road Atlanta is an incredibly special thing.”
(Dealing with traffic) “For a driver, and it’s something I have to be mindful of – you have to be patient. It’s a short track with a very large field. It’s easy to get bottled up for half your stint or even your whole stint in traffic. It’s so easy to be caught up in other people’s battles. You need to be patient early and let the racing take care of itself in the last couple hours.
(A good track) “This definitely is a track that suits our car. It’s has a long straight, a really fast section with a lot of high-speed corners. You also have the slow chicane where you are braking from very high speed. It’s a great indicator of how your car is generally because it has a bit of everything.”
DOUG FEHAN, CORVETTE RACING PROGRAM MANAGER: “Over the years, Petit Le Mans has proven to be one of the most exciting events on our schedule. From a driver's perspective, the Road Atlanta circuit presents an extremely difficult challenge featuring a lot of elevation change mixed with very high-speed corners. And none of that is wasted on our fans who truly understand how important this year's race will be to Corvette Racing. We come in having wrapped up both the ALMS manufacturers' and team championships, which leaves the all-important drivers' championship still up for grabs. Jan and Antonio have fought back all year to take the lead in points and Petit Le Mans will decide who goes home with the crown. You can't ask for any more drama than that!"