ALMS manufacturer, team titles within reach in next-to-last round
DETROIT (Oct. 1, 2013) – Twelve months ago, Corvette Racing and Chevrolet celebrated a championship weekend at Virginia International Raceway (VIR). Now let’s fast-forward to the present day – Chevrolet and Corvette Racing are on the verge of securing a repeat championship titles in the American Le Mans Series... once again at VIR.
The Oak Tree Grand Prix on Saturday, Oct. 5 could see the ALMS GT team and manufacturer championships wrapped up. The two yellow Compuware Chevrolet Corvette C6.Rs have five victories between them: three for the No. 3 of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen – Laguna Seca, Baltimore and Circuit of The Americas – and two for Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette – Sebring and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
All Corvette Racing needs to win its 10th ALMS team championship is for either of the two cars to finish sixth or better in class at VIR. A victory for either Corvette would secure Chevrolet’s 10th manufacturer title with one race left in the season. That’s what happened in 2012 – Gavin and Milner’s triumph landed them the drivers’ championship, Chevrolet clinched the manufacturers’ crown and Corvette Racing wrapped up the team title.
VIR, which opened in 1957, has been a happy hunting ground for Corvette’s stable of four drivers. In addition to his GT victory last year with Gavin, Milner also won in GRAND-AM competition in 2005. The Virginia native made his professional debut in GT racing a year earlier and claimed pole position.
Magnussen also is a past winner at VIR in Rolex Series competition having taken a Daytona Prototype victory in 2007. This will mark Garcia’s fourth straight year competing at the venue, and he posted the fastest GT lap of the race in 2012. He and Magnussen placed eighth in class last season.
ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R
“VIR is a race track that I’ve always liked since I went there for the first time in 2010. Overall, the track has a lot of momentum and flow. The backstraight is the only place where you are not turning and are just going straight. Everywhere else, you need to place the car well. As you go toward the Oak Tree Corner, which sadly is missing the Oak Tree now – and the other side of the track, you have a section of very, very fast corners. The first time you go through there can be a little scary. No matter what car you are driving, you are flat or just breathing a little off the throttle at the last corner. The track is very challenging and very narrow with no room for even little mistakes. There is no runoff. If you crash there, it’s going to be big.”
(More conservative given lack of runoff?) “The thing about the ALMS is that you can’t be conservative. There will always be someone who is not and will be faster than you. You really need to give everything you can even if in the back of your mind, you know you will be in a big one if you go off the track. I like VIR because of that factor. You are willing to nail everything at 100 percent but if you go over just a little bit, it’s likely you will have a big off.”
(Similar to other ALMS venues?) “I would say VIR is a bit like Road America and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. You really need to get in a rhythm, and it takes some time to get to that point. But once you are there, it looks like you are way more relaxed and the level of stress goes a little bit lower. For sure, the first time people race at VIR and go through sections like the esses, it is very stressful. But once you do it flat, you realize it is possible and you relax slightly.”
(Championship thoughts): “It’s a mistake to start thinking about the championship with still two races to go. We’ve seen that anything can happen. We need to remain focused and take care of the next two races. Then we will be champions.”
JAN MAGNUSSEN, NO. 3 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R
“The circuit is pretty narrow with some really, really fast sections. It’s very hard to pass at VIR, especially with the situation we are in with top speed. But we do have a very good-handling car. It will be tough for us to pass anyone but I have great faith in the guys that if we are a little behind, we can turn it around with a minimum of two stops. It’s different from last year when it was a four-hour race. We will have to go there and see if we can qualify toward the front. When we aren’t the fastest car, much more emphasis goes into qualifying because you can control the race from the front. It’s much harder controlling anything when you’re fifth.”
(Championship chase) “The importance of the win at Laguna Seca proved to the No. 3 team that it was possible to win. We had a whole 2012 season where we were fast and had a shot but something would always happen. As a result, we had a season with no wins. We started off at Sebring this year really poorly; Long Beach was a decent weekend but wasn’t great. Laguna proved that if we were perfect, we could win. It turned things around a little bit.
“I have to say that just because we won (in Monterey) that come VIR we would be leading the championship. After Sebring, I wrote off the championship completely. We thought we weren’t going to catch up and just went for wins. Maybe we would risk things once in awhile. Now things have changed and we’re in the lead and have to conserve things to make sure we get points.”
OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 4 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R
“VIR is very much a momentum track, and our cars are very good in those areas and on the brakes. There are a few heavy brake zones around the circuit where our car is pretty strong. It is a circuit that is very challenging and one that is narrow. It usually punishes you pretty badly if you make mistakes. You have to use every bit of the track to be quick but you have to drive it with some respect. It isn’t a place where you can really attack and be very aggressive like Road America. At VIR, you have to turn the dial back just one notch so you aren’t too aggressive. If you are, you’re going off the track, onto the grass and you’re not coming back for quite awhile. Along with that you’ll pick up all kinds of junk and rubbish in the radiator. It will for certain make your race that much harder. With all that in mind, you have to be aware that it can bite you.”
(Championship outlook after COTA) “What happened in Austin was bitterly disappointing. From us leading in the championship and being in control of our title run, now we are very much on the back foot with only two races to go and us having to have other people run into poor luck. For Tommy and I, we won’t necessarily be driving with caution in mind. We really just have to go for it and go for wins over the next two races. We have to try and score maximum points to give ourselves a chance and see how others’ races go. There still is some 12 hours and 45 minutes of racing to go in the season so there is still plenty that can happen. We know from our experience at COTA that it can turn around very quickly. It’s not all lost and the possibility of winning is still there. But it does give us a mountain to climb. We can’t afford to sit back and be content to collect points. We have to maximize every opportunity.”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 4 COMPUWARE CORVETTE C6.R
“The track does have significance in my career. It was where I got my start in professional GT racing. I did my first race there in 2004 with my dad’s team and won my first GT pole – I outqualified Bill Auberlen and Boris Said to do that. It was great to go there last year and clinch my first ALMS championship at VIR where my GT racing career started. That was pretty special to have that connection at a race track like that. It’s a fantastic circuit with a very pretty setting and has a traditional, old-school feel to it. They took a piece of land, put down roads where it looked good, left the elevation changes and didn’t touch much of the surrounding area. That’s how Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is, and that’s how VIR is. I have fun racing on those tracks and have had recent success racing there, so let’s hope that continues.”
(On difference in venues between Austin and VIR) “I would rate COTA and VIR similar in their feel, so to speak. The big difference is that Austin is very wide and spacious with a lot of run-off room, and VIR is very narrow and doesn’t have a lot of run-off. The flow to the racetrack is very similar between the two. Obviously, your heart rate is a little bit higher at VIR; you know that any little mistake will send you off the track. Fortunately there is a lot of grass and not anything solid! But running on grass will slow down your momentum and kill your laptime and lot faster than running on dirty asphalt like at COTA.
(Traffic concerns) “One of my concerns last year was traffic, based on experience from years past. The track was just as narrow as I remembered. But as the race went on and traffic went along, for the most part it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. Everyone played nicely. The way the classes were spaced at that moment suited what the track offered. Yes, there are sections where traffic holds you up, and it is frustrating. You wish the slower cars weren’t there. But I can tell you from experience that there are tracks where it’s way worse than that just because of the nature of the track and how the corners are linked. I didn’t have any real issue last year and I don’t see it being any bigger of a problem this year.”
DOUG FEHAN, CORVETTE RACING PROGRAM MANAGER
“VIR is a venue that promotes fantastic racing. Even with a lap of more than three miles, there is no chance to rest with a great combination of slow-to mid-speed turns early in the lap and then a very long section of high-speed corners and a massive backstretch. As evidenced at all our previous events, the competition in the ALMS GT class is extremely well balanced. Winning here will take a total team effort – the kind of effort that wins championships.”
Team Chevy Racing