New Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs to take on racing’s most demanding venue
Corvette Racing and its new Corvette C7.R race cars are about to undergo the ultimate challenge in road racing. The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is America’s oldest sports car race, and the 62nd running of the Florida classic is set for this weekend. It’s also an event that is rich with Chevrolet and Corvette history.
You could say that Sebring is the spiritual birthplace of the modern-day Corvette Racing program. A Corvette raced for the first time in its history at the 1956 Sebring 12 Hours and placed ninth overall. Almost 60 years later, Corvette Racing will go for its ninth class win at Sebring since 2002 – this time with the brand new Corvette C7.R. The production-based racer is Chevrolet’s entry in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Sebring is the second round of the inaugural TUDOR Championship. As at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, each of the Corvettes will have three drivers each. Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen – last year’s American Le Mans Series GT champions – will team with IndyCar star Ryan Briscoe in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R. Defending Sebring class winners Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner will share the No. 4 entry with Robin Liddell.
Gavin, Milner and Richard Westbrook overcame early electrical issues and came from two laps down to win last year’s race in their Corvette C6.R. Ahead of this year’s race, Corvette Racing has tested the C7.R at Sebring on multiple occasions, and for good reason.
Sebring International Raceway pounds race cars like no other race track in the world. The facility sits on the site of Fort Hendricks - a World War II airbase that was used as a training ground for American B-17 bombers. Part of the circuit – most notably Turn 16 through the exit of Turn 1 - uses the old concrete runway and taxiway, which makes up some of the roughest sections of racing surface anywhere in the world. It’s part of what makes Sebring physically the toughest venue in endurance racing.
The new aluminum frame – 40 percent stiffer than the C6.R – should be a huge benefit over the bumps at Sebring. The direct-injected engine offers better fuel economy, a critical element in long-distance endurance racing. The advanced aerodynamics on the C7.R compliments both the stability and efficiency factors.
ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R (On recent IMSA test at Sebring): “It’s always good to be on track, especially after what happened at Daytona. We spent time learning more things and anticipating any problems that may pop up. We would have liked to have more time on track, but in the end we came out with a good amount of mileage on both cars and a lot of data to analyze in order to have a very good car and maximize what we have at the moment. We still need to develop the car a little bit more but when we get to Sebring, I feel we will have 100 percent of what we need to be successful.” (Sebring challenges): “Sebring, although it is half of a 24-hour race, is very hard on everything – equipment, the drivers and everyone on the team. Fortunately we have a lot of background on this race. It’s not like Daytona where we were anticipating what would happen in that race. Here, we need to translate everything we know from the C6.R into this new car. From that respect, things should be a little easier but Sebring is always different and a few surprises may be in store with a new car.”
JAN MAGNUSSEN, NO. 3 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R (Race outlook): “I know the team made some good improvements on the car. I don’t know if we are exactly on pace compared to the Porsche, which I think is probably the fastest car. But I think we are a step closer than we have been. It’s still very early days. If we keep developing the car, we will be very close. I’m a positive guy and always have high hopes. Sebring, being a long-distance race, is about speed but it’s also about other stuff. And at Corvette Racing, we do all the other stuff really well.” (First Sebring experience): “My first experience at Sebring in sports cars was in the original Panoz GT1 car. It was a bit of an eye-opener coming from Europe and smooth tracks to come to Sebring. It was quite shocking actually. But I’ve come to love the place. It’s really a fantastic event. I only got to do an hour in 1999, and soon after that we DNF’d with a tire blowout and a big crash. It took me a long time to have any success at Sebring, and it was only when I joined Corvette that I started having a shot at winning and finally winning it in 2006.” (Sebring challenges): “There is going to be a lot of traffic, more than we’ve had in a long time. It will be incredibly challenging, even more than Daytona. But the event itself, it’s the same things you deal with every year – making sure the car makes it to the end, stay out of trouble and go as fast as you can without risking too much.”
RYAN BRISCOE, NO. 3 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R (Testing and outlook): “It was a good opportunity to do a lot of miles at Sebring. We worked on the balance of the car and mileage. At the end, I was happy with how things went. Sebring is quite different than anywhere we will race. It’s a lot harder on equipment and is a lot more physical to drive. There are a lot of bumps and a lot of very challenging high-speed corners. It’s one of my favorite tracks to drive. It’s an old-school track and that’s why I love it. “The cool thing with Sebring is that half the track is rather smooth and the other half is on the old airport section with all the bumps. That is the great challenge of the track in setting the car up and adapting your driving style to go quick all the way around. The track does change from corner to corner.” (Working at night): “The biggest thing that stood out to me in my first Sebring is how dark it gets toward the end of the race. I don’t know what time it starts to get dark but the last two hours or so is pitch-black! That’s the big difference from Daytona, where the whole track is very well-lit. At Sebring, there are no track lights. The only light you get is from your headlights or the campers on the side of the track. You get some hardcore fans there like at Turn 10. When it’s dinner time, you can smell the barbecues going and you really get a sense of the atmosphere. I love doing the Sebring 12 Hours and can’t wait to do it in a Corvette. There are a lot of intense Corvette fans who come to the race. It’ll be great getting to meet them in the campsites!”
OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 4 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R (History at Sebring): “Certainly Sebring feels like a home event for us. We’ve competed in the Sebring 12 Hours for the last 15 years. I’ve had many great experiences there and worked through many different scenarios – from leading the race comfortably to chasing the race throughout like we did last year. We came away with winning it by a couple of seconds over the Ferrari. Tommy finishing the race was super-exciting and was a real grandstand finish. It’s certainly one I’ll never forget.” (Change in the air): “Sebring will have a very different dynamic to it this year because the lead class is different now in the TUDOR Championship. The lead prototype class is slower than the prototype cars that ran with us the last several years. Consequently, the cars coming up to lap us and pass us will happen less frequently. There still will be that need of being mindful and watching the faster cars coming up behind us. Our Collision Avoidance System is going to be useful for that. But the race will have a different feel for it in the way you react to those faster cars, what they can do and the pace they will run. Everyone will have to have a reset on that to find out where the prototypes are quicker than us. At Daytona, we were as fast as anyone on the infield section of the track. I don’t believe that will be the case at Sebring though. The prototypes that were a little lacking in the infield will be able to get more performance from the extra downforce they have and aerodynamic benefits. It will be a race, as it always is, of being sensible, fast and having a very good strategy. It takes a great team and having a strong, reliable car.”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 4 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R (Testing and outlook): “On the whole, the test was good for the team. My first experience with the C7.R was at Sebring in December so it was good to go back and build on what we learned there and at Daytona. It was good to have our competition there to see how we stack up. It’s always helpful to have that good indicator to see how you’re doing compared to them. It looks like the Porsche is awfully quick and they’ll be tough come race time. But we learned quite a bit over those two days. When we put it all together it’ll get us closer to the Porsche.” (Looking back to last year): “That was definitely a great memory – chasing down the Ferrari for multiple hours and then having it culminate at the end over the last couple stints. It was definitely a moment that will stand out in my mind and in my career. It gives me that little bit of extra confidence going into this year. As times goes on, you get a better handle on race tracks, and when you have a race like that, in some ways you feel kind of invincible and things go right. You trust the car, and it’s easier once you’ve had an experience like that to get back in that mindset. Hopefully we don’t have to go a couple laps down and chase down the leaders again like we did last year. We hope we’re in the hunt there for the whole race and able to contend the entire race… and not just the last two hours! But it was a fun moment. I wouldn’t mind having to go through that same process again if it means another win!”
ROBIN LIDDELL, NO. 4 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R (Testing and outlook): “The test went really well. Obviously we got a lot of track time and running in both cars. We learned a lot and it was a good test from a team point of view. I thought it was very productive and we’re in a good spot heading into the race. “Sebring is a technically unique challenge, as we all know. It’s not a race I’ve done a lot of times. I’ve only done it three or four times, so I know the event well but I’m not as intimate with it as I am with Daytona. It’s track where you need to get comfortable on to build a rhythm. Most people can’t just go out there and nail it straight away. Even those that are going quick and going well take a little bit of a settling in period. It’s just because of the uniqueness of it and all the little variables that go into Sebring.” (Keys to success):“It’s a track that is quite easy to over drive. To me, the main key is getting your braking right. If you can do that, everything else pretty much falls in line. If you get your braking ever-so slightly wrong… most of the corners are short-radius. You have Turn 3, Turn 7, Turn 10, Turn 13 – most of them are exit-critical corners. If you get the entry a little wrong because you made a slight mistake under braking, you’re going to cost yourself at least a half-second. And with 17 corners, it’s very easy to lose a couple seconds even if you only make a couple errors. For me, it’s not one or two specific keys. You need to have a good, comfortable car with good high-speed balance for Turn 1 where the track is bumpiest. Then you need to have good braking and good traction for the slow, 90-degree corners where you need to get out of there effectively.”
DOUG FEHAN, CORVETTE RACING PROGRAM MANAGER “Simply put, there’s no race in the world quite like the Sebring 12 Hours! The length of race is daunting on its own. Add to that the most unique racing surface we encounter and you have a physical and mental challenge not found anywhere in motorsport. Both car and driver are subjected to an incredible pounding for 12 relentless hours. History tells us that success at Sebring is based heavily on survival and that is why it has become one of the world's most iconic race events and a great proving ground for the 24 Hours of Le Mans."
Team Chevy Racing