Note also do not forget this Saturday’s IMSA Chevrolet Sports Car Classic Detroit Grand Prix
The Corvette Racing band is back together for the first time in three months with the team channeling all its efforts into another shot at a class victory at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Two of the familiar yellow Corvettes are part of a seven-car entry in the GTE Pro category for factory and factory-supported teams.
This will be the second time at Le Mans for the mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette C8.R after a runner-up class finish in its debut last August.
The program is going for its ninth class victory at the French endurance classic.
This year’s race is back in its traditional June spot with the race set for June 11-12. The biggest change from last year’s event is that all public-facing events are back including scrutineering in downtown Le Mans, pit walks and autograph sessions and the Friday drivers’ parade.
Before practice and qualifying gets under way, though, first comes eight hours of track time Sunday during the annual Le Mans Test Day.
It’s the one opportunity for the 62 cars entered in the race to get much-needed track time ahead of Wednesday’s first practice and qualifying sessions.
Time is critical given the unique nature of the circuit 8.47 miles of asphalt featuring a mix of permanent racetrack and public roads through the French countryside.
The Corvette Racing lineup in each of the two C8.Rs remains the same as a year ago. Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg primarily competing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will team in the No. 63 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Corvette and hope to improve on their second-place showing from a year ago. Already, the trio has a blue-riband victory together in at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in a GT Daytona (GTD) PRO version of the C8.R.
On the other side of the garage is the No. 64 Mobil 1/SiriusXM C8.R of Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy and Alexander Sims. Their entry is a full-time one in the FIA World Endurance Championship a first for Corvette Racing. It’s already been a successful run for Milner and Tandy with a runner-up finish in the Sebring 1,000 Miles.
The duo stand third in the GTE Drivers World Championship with Le Mans being a double-points race.
That makes it even more important for the No. 64 Corvette to show well at Le Mans and keep the other manufacturers off the top step of the podium as well.
The plan of having a Corvette full-time in WEC was focused around optimizing the team’s chances at Le Mans. Corvette Racing’s last win at Le Mans came in 2015, although the team has been agonizingly close to getting its ninth win there since with a second- and third-place showing in the years since.
The WEC Corvette has given the entire Corvette Racing team much-needed insight and data on a wide variety of items that will be key at Le Mans.
Things like pit stop procedures, tire selection and performance, and racing rules in a variety of scenarios make this the most prepared that Corvette Racing has been for Le Mans in what will be its 22nd appearance in the race.
One of the most key benefits is that the No. 64 Corvette can focus more on race setup and development on the Test Day while the three No. 63 drivers can get used to the GTE version of the Corvette, which features more power, no ABS system and Michelin tires specifically designed for the C8.R. In IMSA, the GTD PRO Corvette runs on a common Michelin tire that is available to all teams.
Corvette Racing will contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 11-12 with the green flag set for 4 p.m. CET and 10 a.m. ET. MotorTrend TV will air the race live with the MotorTrend App adding coverage of official practices and qualifying on June 8-9. Live audio coverage will be available from Radio Le Mans starting with Sunday’s Test Day.
ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 63 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R:
“Le Mans shouldn’t be too different this year. It would be way different if we were running the GTD PRO spec. We are going back to our regular GTE setup in the C8.R, and I’m looking forward to that. Part of it won’t be ideal as Jordan, Nicky and myself will need to readapt to that car a little bit.
Having the 64 car in the WEC will help the whole team, though. We will need to get up to speed at the start and maybe the 64 car will start some development early on.
We’ve done this race so many times and have raced the GTE spec so many years that it won’t take much to get on the pace.
To be honest, it is more difficult to drive the IMSA car compared to what we have driven for the last 15 years!
“It’s been too long since I have won Le Mans. We’ve been on the podium several times and could have won all those. That also tells you that you’re one of the most angry people because coming in P2 or P3 is not ideal, especially if you have a chance to win. In these races, only one car can win. If you give it everything you had and you didn’t win, then someone did it just a tiny bit better than you.
Last year, I think we had everything lined up. The pace was great but we didn’t have enough to gain those 20, 30 and 40 seconds to get ahead. It seems like very little over a race distance but we know that’s how Le Mans works. Every second you lose is very difficult and gaining that back in GTE Pro is a tough task. We need to be the ones leading and let the rest catch us. I think that is what works best at Le Mans.”
JORDAN TAYLOR, NO. 63 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R:
“I got to do some tire testing with Nick (Tandy) a couple of days after Sebring in the GTE car. But I still think it’s going to be a big adjustment for us going back to that, especially with it being such a tight schedule on the race week. There is such limited time to get three guys through the car with such a long lap and adding in the car development we want to do.
Hopefully we can hit the ground running and get comfortable right off the bat to get into development. So it will be a little bit more of a challenge but having the 64 guys over there all year in WEC takes away some development time, so hopefully that will help us when we get there.
“It’s frustrating to look back at last year to know we did nothing majorly wrong, didn’t make any mistakes and still came up short. That part is frustrating but I think we can rely on the fact that we did a perfect race. We can have that confidence going back this time. We’ve developed the car further than where it was last year for the first time with the C8.R.
We did miss a lot of practice on the 63 side throughout the beginning of the week so I think we were behind the eight-ball a little bit compared to the other car once the race started. So we maybe were missing a little bit of performance on our own. But going into this year with what we learned last year and the confidence of a good race we had, we know we are going back with a stronger car and good position.”
NICKY CATSBURG, NO. 63 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R:
“Having now done Le Mans with Corvette Racing, I can go into the weekend a little more relaxed.
I know how the team operates and even the most basic things where I stay and where I sleep, how processes work.
From that point of view, I will be a little more relaxed going into the event. In terms of race prep and how we are going to execute, I don’t think there is anything different than the previous year other than the fact that everyone has a little more experience with the C8.R at Le Mans and in the WEC. I feel we should be pretty well prepared.
“There is some mojo from our win at Sebring. The car felt really good last year at Le Mans. Maybe Ferrari had a little bit of the upper hand, but I feel like this year we should be in a better position. The only downside is the 63 car guys have driven the car less in GTE spec.
The last time I drove a car without ABS was Petit Le Mans in the Corvette. That’s a bit of a handicap but we’re all more than capable to make that adjustment and be ready for it. I’ve always been going back and forth between GTE and GT3 whenever I would come race in the States last year.
You’d always have to take some time to adjust to the car. Really the biggest difference is the ABS, and I honestly prefer a car without ABS. We’re all in the same boat and we can all do this, for sure. Le Mans is one of my favorite events of the year. The track obviously is fantastic and abnormal in that way. I really, really can’t wait!”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 64 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R:
“Winning obviously is the goal. I feel like every time we’ve been to Le Mans, we’ve done all our due diligence beforehand in testing to show up as competitive as we can be. Having some experience this year in WEC and data running on this tire will be helpful for the entire team. From that perspective, this will prove to be very helpful. We’re going to be as prepared for Le Mans as we can be.
We saw last year that the car already was fast and competitive. Hopefully with the potential for more data for the ACO and FIA to compare our cars, the balance is as good as it can be for a good GTE Pro race for 24 hours. Based on the pace we’ve show in the WEC and last year at Le Mans, I think we have a great Corvette.
“Running WEC doesn’t change anything for me in terms of preparation. No matter what, we finish the race and we finish as strongly as we can. It hasn’t been in the past where if we can’t win then we park it. It’s not our mantra at Corvette Racing. We race hard to the end no matter what our position is. Now that we have some concerns for points in the full WEC championship, we’ll race with that in mind.
But it doesn’t change the fact that winning Le Mans would be the crown jewel for this season. This is how we’ve always raced and it won’t change. It just means that the points at the end of the weekend will mean a little bit more.”
NICK TANDY, NO. 64 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R:
“Le Mans is Le Mans. It’s always been its own event. Now it’s a part of our championship and a double-points one at that. So it takes on extra significance now for us this year, at least on the 64 side. One of the reasons we entered the WEC is that it gives us more preparation, information and experience of the series’ rules and regulations.
It’s things like pit stop sequences, maximizing strategy information and bits and pieces that are different from series to series. We have more information about what we can do better going into Le Mans. We’re coming into Le Mans with the best level of preparation that Corvette Racing has ever had.
“Certainly from the crew and engineering side, everyone on our side is ready to go with what we’ve been working on for the last six months effectively. When the track goes green for the Test Day, we’ll be ready to go and crack on with our performance work. When we’ve been there before as a single event, it does take a little bit of time to get into the differences where the guys are running the car being on the pit wall, people worried about making regulation errors in the pitlane or things like this that we aren’t used to. From that point of view, this is one of the key points of running the full championship.
The more experience you have, the better it is. Past that, everyone on the 63 side have all been here and done this many times. It’ll be the first time that we’ll run the low-drag aero kit so the car will be a little different than what we were used to at Spa. The other good thing is that we have last year’s experience and data to look back on. We’re not coming into this with a brand new car.”
ALEXANDER SIMS, NO. 64 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R:
“The fact that this will be a bit more familiar to me will be a nice thing. The biggest factor me is the length of time that it’s been since I was last in the car at Petit Le Mans. That likely will be the biggest challenge to get on top off… just to get back in the swing of things. I’m fortunate that I am doing some GT racing at the Nürburgring this year, so I’ll have driven a GT car but not the Corvette. That’s really the main thing getting back into the swing of driving the C8.R.
To be fair, the last time at Le Mans and by the time the race came around, I felt fully in tune and that’s the aim again this year.
“There is plenty of track time available but I need to make sure I do my homework and work very hard to get up to the required level that I expect from myself and that the team deserves from me. That will be the main point of focus for me early in the week. I go back there with reference points from the car from last year in terms of my driving.
I kind of know what to expect in terms of how the car should feel, driving lines and all of those things that I don’t have to learn again.
It’s a slightly more manageable task than last year.”