In Olympic terms, Corvette Racing drivers Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner won the gold today in the GT class at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge, the sixth round of the American Le Mans Series. Instead of medals, Gavin and Milner were awarded silver trophies and the maximum championship points as they notched their third win of the season in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R.
The pair reclaimed the lead in the driver standings with a .283-second victory over the No. 45 Porsche of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Long, and extended Chevrolet's lead in the GT manufacturer championship. The win was the eighth for Corvette Racing at Mid-Ohio, but the first in the GT class after a string of three consecutive runner-up finishes that began in 2009.
The No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia was running third with 20 minutes remaining when contact with a GTC Porsche punctured the left-front tire and damaged the suspension. The Corvette crew repaired the car and returned Magnussen to battle, but the 12 minutes lost in the pits dropped the No. 3 Corvette to 13th at the finish.
Gavin made the decisive pass for the victory immediately after the final round of pit stops with one hour remaining in the two-hour, 45-minute race. Gavin caught Magnussen on his out-lap and then passed race leader Bergmeister with a daring outside move to notch his third ALMS win at Mid-Ohio and the 37th of his career.
"I had one lap on my new tires, and I caught Jan going into Turn 2," Gavin said. "My crew chief radioed that Joerg was on cold tires and told me to go for it! Last year I passed him around the outside into Turn 4, and I did the same again. I thought I could pull it off, and I'm so pleased that I did."
Bergmeister responded by putting intense pressure on the Corvette as the pair raced nose-to-tail in the closing laps.
"At the end of the race, there wasn't much between us and I got caught up in some traffic," Gavin reported. "It was tough, and those last few laps were really hard. I'm thrilled with the result and what it means for the championship. This is exactly what we needed after a couple of difficult races."
Milner started sixth on the GT grid, but rocketed to third on the first lap. He held that position until the first pit stop at the 30-minute mark as the team got both Corvettes in just seconds before a full-course yellow closed the pits. That strategy vaulted the Corvettes to second and third when racing resumed.
"I had a great start," said Milner, who scored his third career ALMS victory today. "I'd like to say that I planned it, but it was more about being in the right spot at the right time. I gained three spots and then the Corvette crew did a great job with the first pit stop. That was a brilliant call that put me ahead of the BMW. I ran down the No. 45 Porsche, but just couldn't get close enough to pull off a pass. I tried on the restart on Turn 2 and got alongside him, but couldn't make it stick.
"The pit stop and Oliver's out-lap made the difference," Milner explained. "The stop was flawless and that got us ahead of the No. 3 Corvette, and then the No. 45 Porsche. It was a perfect day from the crew – the right calls and flawless execution."
Crew chief Brian Hoye agreed: "Pit stops did make a difference," he said. "We've been practicing over and over, week after week. We knew it was going to come down to a pit stop in one of these races, and the hard work paid off today."
Garcia started fifth but was bottled up at the start as the field raced two-wide around the narrow 2.25-mile, 13-turn circuit. He was seventh after the first lap, but worked his way back to fifth two laps later. Garcia also benefited from quick pit work on his first stop, emerging in third after the pit stop cycle.
"We were packed up at the start, two and three wide, and at that point you are stuck in one line," Garcia said. "An LMP spun in front of us and I lost positions. I made up as many spots as I could, but the Ferrari was very fast and aggressive. A great pit call by the Corvette team gave us the opportunity to run up front again and make a charge on the Porsche. I had a very quick car, and every time they opened a gap in traffic, I could make up time. We got caught in some traffic on my in-lap for the second stop; it was a good call by the No. 4 car to get a clean run into the pits a lap earlier."
Magnussen was in hot pursuit of the Porsche for second place when he was caught out by a GTC driver in Turn 6. "He opened the door and then slammed it shut," Magnussen said. "I came up to the GTC car and he opened the door for Joerg to go through. I was a car length behind and was going through on the same gap, and just as I made the move, he shut the door. I was committed and I hit him. We're racing for positions and running for a championship. We all have to race, and I feel bad for all the guys. I had a great car and great pit stops."
Today's victory gave Gavin and Milner a 12-point lead in the unofficial standings over BMW drivers Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller (93-81). Magnussen and Garcia are one point back (80). Chevrolet increased its lead in the GT manufacturer championship to 20 over BMW (114-94) with four races remaining.
Corvette Racing's next event is the Road America Road Race Showcase at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on Saturday, August 18.
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge GT Results (Top 10)
1. 4 Gavin/Milner, Corvette C6.R, 115
2. 45 Bergmeister/Long, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 115
3. 55 J. Mueller/Auberlen, BMW E92 M3, 114
4. 17 Henzler/Sellers, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 114
5. 56 D. Mueller/Hand, BMW E92 M3, 114
6. 01 Sharp/van Overbeek, Ferrari 458 Italia, 113
7. 44 Neiman/Holzer, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 113
8. 02 Brown/Cosmo, Ferrari F458 Italia, 112
9. 48 Miller/Maassen, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 112
10. 91 Wittmer/Farnbacher, SRT Viper GTSR, 111
Source: Team Chevy