Elkhart Lake, Wis., – The Road America Road Race Showcase was going Corvette Racing's way for the first three hours, but the final 60 minutes saw a reversal of fortune for the Chevrolet team. After running at the front from the start of the four-hour race, the Corvettes were shuffled down the finishing order in the closing minutes.
Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner finished fourth in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R after their pit stop strategy was undone by an ill-timed yellow flag. Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia were sixth in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R after Magnussen was hit from behind in the final corner while running third. The victory went to the No. 55 BMW driven by Bill Auberlen and Joerg Mueller by 2.631 seconds over the No. 45 Porsche of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Long.
"We saw one of the most interesting final hours of racing in this team's history," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "We had what we thought was a very successful pit strategy planned, but coming out of the last yellow, the BMWs were first and second and the No. 3 Corvette was third. The BMWs went from being out of contention to running at the front with yellow flags and pit stops. It was unfortunate for us and fortunate for them. We've won races that way, and this was one that we didn't win."
Magnussen was running fourth when racing resumed with 20 minutes on the clock after the race's fourth full-course caution period. He passed the No. 01 Ferrari of Johannes van Overbeek in Canada Corner on the restart, and set out in pursuit of the race-leading BMWs. He made his move in Turn 1, but Joerg Bergmeister slipped through in a cloud of tire smoke to take second. Just as the checkered flag flew, contact with the No. 01 Ferrari in the final corner spun Magnussen off the track.
"I passed the No. 56 BMW in Turn 1 with a move similar to Laguna Seca where I towed up behind a prototype," Magnussen said. "He went to the inside and I followed. Suddenly the prototype stopped, I flat-spotted my tires and lost a lot of speed. Joerg got by, so I was still in third and I was going to try to salvage a podium finish, which would have been good for Chevrolet in the manufacturer championship. Then in the last corner, Van Overbeek drove into the back of my car. I'm very disappointed, and I'll leave it at that."
Magnussen's incident with the No. 01 Ferrari is under review by race officials.
Gavin drove the first stint in the No. 4 Corvette, Milner the second, and then Gavin double-stinted to the finish. The Englishman moved to second at 2:21 into the race, and held that position for nearly an hour until the third pit stop under caution. Gavin lost positions due to a balky door latch, but there was a bigger problem: The BMWs and Ferrari had pitted just before the yellow, gaining track position. Gavin was seventh after the pit stop cycle, and had to battle his way forward.
"During the last stop we had a problem with the door and lost positions," Gavin said. "All of a sudden we were caught in a mess with traffic and issues everywhere. To top it off, the No.56 BMW was forced wide in Turn 5, I tried to get a run on him, and we banged doors coming through Turns 6 and 7. Going down the hill into Turn 8, he was defending and it seemed to me that he braked early. I caught his right-rear corner and turned him around. I certainly didn't intend that to happen."
Gavin started the No. 4 Corvette third on the GT grid and Garcia started fifth in the No. 3 Corvette. Gavin held his position through the opening laps, then passed the pole-winning No. 44 Porsche on the fourth lap to take second behind the No. 45 Porsche of Joerg Bergmeister. Garcia was boxed in at the start and slipped to seventh, but moved up a spot on the seventh lap.
"At the start, we were bottled up behind some LMPC cars, and I managed to hold my position in the mad scramble," Gavin said. "Antonio was alongside me, and tried very hard to avoid hitting us, which cost him some positions. I was a bit quicker than Holzer, and I got past him in Turn 5. I thought perhaps I could challenge Joerg, but as the stint went on, I ceded the position back to Holzer because there was no sense in taking risks that early in four-hour race."
Garcia was one of the first to pit at 43 minutes into the race, and when the first full-course caution began shortly afterward, he moved up to second in the order as the leaders pitted. When racing resumed, Garcia grabbed the lead on the restart. Gavin pitted under the yellow flag and handed off to Milner, who emerged in fifth after the pit stop sequence.
"On the start, I took the wrong line again, like Mid-Ohio, and lost several positions," Garcia said. "It's difficult for a driver to give up a position, but I avoided contact with the No. 4 car, which was important. I started to put pressure on the No. 01 Ferrari and No. 17 Porsche, but after 10 or 15 laps the tires started to lose grip and we pitted early. The BMW followed us in, and I was anxious at the start of the second stint about the setup. The car was really good on the new tires and I passed for the lead after the caution. Then there was a point when there was oil in the Kink, so I decided to be cautious and let the BMW pass. The car stayed very consistent and we could run to our strategy."
Milner drove the second stint in the No. 4 Corvette, then handed it back to Gavin. "Today the car wasn't very comfortable for me," he reported. "We made some changes along the way and I think the last change was better for the car. Oliver was more comfortable so we decided that it was best for the championship to keep Olly in the car as long as possible. I did my time in the car and then turned it over to him. It got a little hairy at the end. It wasn't our best race, so now we just have to move on."
With 58 minutes to go, the third full-course caution tightened the field. Both Corvettes pitted under yellow, with Magnussen and Gavin staying in. The two BMWs and the No. 01 Ferrari pitted just before the yellow, gaining track position. When racing resumed, the No. 3 Corvette was fifth and the No. 4 Corvette seventh. Minutes later, the fourth caution set up the shootout for the checkered flag.
Gavin and Milner now lead the GT driver championship by 17 points in the unofficial standings over teammates Magnussen and Milner (105-88). BMW drivers Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller are third with 81 points, and Sharp/van Overbeek fourth with 80. Chevrolet leads the GT manufacturer championship by 10 points over BMW (126-116) with three races remaining, followed by Porsche (103) and Ferrari (100).
For the fourth time in 2012, the No. 3 Corvette C6.R won the Michelin Green X Challenge in the GT class with the best score for clean, fast, and efficient performance.
Corvette Racing's next event is the Baltimore Sports Car Challenge presented by SRT on Saturday, Sept. 1.
Source: Chevy Team Racing