Corvette Racing Wins Long Beach ALMS
Gavin and Milner Score GT Victory on Streets of Long Beach; Magnussen and Garcia Finish Fourth in Battered Corvette
LONG BEACH, Calif., April 14, 2012 – Corvette Racing drivers Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin won a hard-fought battle in the streets of Long Beach today, claiming a GT class victory in the second round of the American Le Mans Series. The pair completed 84 laps on the 1.968-mile temporary circuit in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R, finishing 4.26 seconds ahead of the runner-up No. 56 BMW. Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen brought their No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R home in fourth place after a first-lap accident left their car battered and bruised.
The win was the first for the Milner/Gavin driver combination, and Milner's first career ALMS victory. "Finally a win!" exclaimed the 26-year-old racer. "I've been racing in the ALMS since 2006, and I've had podium finishes and great races. I felt confident that we had a car today that would be competitive and comfortable to drive. We were racing hard, but I kept a gap around me and it worked out well this time. Today the Corvette Racing team had the best combination, and I'm very happy to be part of that."
Milner started the No. 4 Corvette third on the GT grid after qualifying was canceled due to rain. He avoided a first-lap chain reaction accident that damaged the sister Corvette C6.R, and then set off in pursuit of the class-leading No. 56 BMW. Milner passed for the lead at 24 minutes into the two-hour race, and then surrendered the point to the No. 01 Ferrari before the first and only pit stop. Gavin drove the second stint, moving from third to first with 45 minutes remaining after passing Scott Sharp's Ferrari and Dirk Mueller's BMW.
"Tommy did a brilliant job of staying out of trouble at the start, and that was the key to our race," Gavin said. "If he'd been caught up in all of that, we'd have been struggling. Tommy did all the hard work at the start and he handed the car over to me in perfect condition. The car was spectacular straight off the truck thanks to the work of the Corvette Racing engineering team and crew.
"I managed to get past the Ferrari pretty quickly and caught up to the BMW. Dirk was making it a little difficult, but I got on the inside and squeezed through. After that it was all about looking after the tires. Michelin did a fantastic job and we're very pleased with the tire performance. I'm delighted to be in the car with Tommy for his first ALMS win."
Garcia started the No. 3 Corvette C6.R from second on the grid, but had yet to drive a lap at Long Beach on a dry track. When a pair of prototypes tangled on the first lap, the closely following pack of GT cars accordioned. Garcia made contact with the car ahead of him, and was in turn hit by the car behind him. The chain reaction accident left the Corvette with a damaged front fascia, a missing hood, a broken rear wing, and a cracked diffuser. In spite of the altered aerodynamics, Garcia ran second for 12 laps before ceding the position to Milner.
"Everything was a little wild, especially with me not knowing the track very well," Garcia said. "I don't know how much losing the hood hurt us, but I was struggling with understeer. The Corvette is a very strong car – that's a good thing."
Garcia handed off the battered car to Magnussen under a full-course caution shortly before the halfway point. After challenging the No. 56 BMW for second, Magnussen was passed by the No. 01 Ferrari in the closing minutes.
"The car was a handful, but we hung on to the end," Magnussen said. "When I got in the car I was as fast as anybody, but I got caught up in a lot traffic. The aero downforce was gone after the first-lap incident – I made the tires last for a long time, but I was fighting hard with the BMW and in the end I didn't have anything left. If the car hadn't been damaged, we'd have been in with a good chance for a win."
The victory was Corvette Racing's first in the GT category in Long Beach, and its fourth since the team moved from the GT1 class in 2009.
"We felt very good about our baseline setup going into this event," said Doug Louth, Corvette Racing engineering director. "We didn't make any significant changes all weekend. The car engineers, Chuck Houghton and Kyle Millay, made major gains with our street course package at Baltimore last year, and today's result was a continuation of that success.
"Track conditions were a challenge early in the race with only one day of running," Louth noted. "The Long Beach circuit historically changes over the course of the weekend and tire performance and wear improve. After the track came in, we were good to go – our Michelin tires did the trick. All four drivers were exceptional today – especially Antonio, who had never turned a lap here in the dry until the first lap of the race."
"Today's race underscores just how good the engineering team and crew are at Corvette Racing," said Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing program manager. "We had absolutely zero track time in the dry, yet both cars moved immediately to the front. That is a testament to the quality of this team."