Gary Pratt, Corvette Racing team principal, says the team can take satisfaction from its recovery drive and the thrilling manner in which the GTE Pro class finished, despite a puncture preventing a ninth class victory for the American squad.
After an early puncture, the #63 car driven by Jan Magnussen, Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia was on an alternate strategy but clawed its way back to the lead, but while dueling for the lead with the #95 Aston Martin on the final lap, Taylor suffered a puncture.
The resulting loss of pace saw the car fall to third as the #67 Ford GT caught and passed the limping Corvette on the final turn of the last lap.
Said Pratt: “It’s always nice to win, but you can’t feel bad about having a great race like that and it coming down to the last lap of a 24-hour race.
“It’s just fantastic racing and hats off to those guys. They did a good job and we were one lap shy.”
Taylor told Motorsport.com: “If you look at our race, we got caught out with a puncture early on, and we lost out twice behind safety cars and that cost us about two minutes, so I think we can be very proud of the way we fought back.
“Everyone executed perfectly to get us back into a race-winning position. It’s just disappointing to come so close, especially after such a long race, where everybody’s worked so hard.
“We knew [in the final hours] we were racing Aston Martin, our guys were strategizing a long time before the end, and we knew they would need a splash [of fuel] and that would get us back the track position so we had our last stop lined up. That’s what really put is in a position to race for the win - they had the last six to 10 hours planned out.”
Taylor said his trip through the gravel at the second Mulsanne corner on the penultimate lap was down to being caught out on worn tires.
He commented: “They were pretty well used up. When the lock-up happened it was so abrupt and unexpected - usually you lock in the second part of the brake phase, but these just locked as soon as I touched the brake, so it caught me off-guard.
“When I knew I wasn’t going to make the chicane I decided just to go straight, try to make the most of it, so I went flat-out through the gravel trap to try to maintain the gap. But at that point I had such a big flat-spot on the tire, and I think I had another tire going down at the same time. It was just a train of unfortunate events.”
Taylor, who has dominated the IMSA Prototype category with his father’s Wayne Taylor Racing-run Cadillac this year, said the battle with the victorious Aston Martin was a clean one, and didn’t think their touch at Arnage caused the last-lap puncture.
“He [Jonny Adam] went down the inside and was never going to make the corner - he overshot it by a big margin. [But] he had to try it, I saw it coming, so I kind of crouched under it. I knew I was going to cross back under.
“I know we touched a little bit at the exit but I don’t think that had anything to do with what happened later on.”
Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. VP of performance vehicles and motorsports, said: “The GTE Pro battle was intense and certainly garnered the most attention of any race that I can recall. While our goal is always to win, it occurred to me that the Corvette Racing team has a never-give-up attitude. That element has been critical in many of the eight class wins in our Le Mans history.
“Jan, Antonio, Jordan and the entire 63 crew held together strong as a team and demonstrated incredible heart and determination all race long.”
The second Corvette, shared by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler finished eighth after a loose wheel sent Milner into a gravel trap mid race, costing the team four laps.