Corvette Racing’s previous Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona winners are expecting it to be even more difficult to avoid trouble in this year’s race, due to the increased numbers of prototypes and drivers with little experience of endurance events.
Antonio Garcia, whose C7.R won the GT Le Mans class at this race in 2015 along with Jan Magnussen and Ryan Briscoe, said: “This year, the traffic will be different with a lot more prototypes than we have seen in the past… Traffic will get crazy, especially with the number of rookies at this race – many who are experienced in other races but they are still rookies here.”
Magnussen echoed his partner’s thoughts, before adding: “It takes a lot of respect for each other out there to make it through without getting involved in incidents that end up costing you a trip back to the garage or even worse. It will be a tough year in that regard.
“Having now done three days of practice with this field, there is a feel of people not being as patient as they need to be. That can prove costly in the race.”
Gavin, who shared the winning #4 Corvette with Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler in 2016, said: “Yes, the banking is wide and there is usually room to maneuver… but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any contact. There will always be incidents here. Yes you want to stay in touch with the leaders in your class, but you have to keep your car clean.
“With the level of talent in the Prototype category but the lack of experience of some of the really fast guys, it’s going to be pretty intense… You’ll have to have eyes everywhere.”
Milner described the fine line that drivers would need to tread to stay in the fight at the front of the class, while also avoiding accidents.
“More than ever, we are going to have a super-competitive fight in GTLM; that will take the majority of our focus,” he said. “But we’ll be crossing our fingers not to get caught up in someone else’s accident.
“Being aware of all the new content and taking some extra caution around them at times could be beneficial. At the same time, you don’t want to do anything that gets you out of position with the leaders, so there is going to be a very important balancing act in this year’s race.”
The #4 car’s third driver for endurance races, Marcel Fassler, said that restarts had the potential to be particularly troublesome for GTLM drivers due to the characteristics of the Michelin tires.
“Definitely having a number of inexperienced drivers in the other classes is something you have to pay attention to,” said the Swiss ace. “For example, on restarts we know we have a bigger advantage with our Michelin tires in that they heat up much easier and faster than the prototypes. That can easily lead into mistakes, so that is an example of needing to concentrate fully during each of the 24 hours.
“Most importantly is having a car that is in one piece for the last two or three hours when the race is decided. This is always the key point. It’s easier to say than to do! But it’s how we have and continue to approach this race.”