This was only a test – but as the final shakedown before the season-opening 60th Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the two-day ALMS Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway was crucial for Corvette Racing. The Chevrolet team continued to develop its new Compuware Corvette C6.R race cars and integrate its new driver lineups. The team also unveiled its 2012 livery that features Jake, the team mascot, in the striking yellow and black graphics.
Corvette Racing participated in the series' official preseason test with two new chassis, one new driver, and a revised lineup. Twenty-year-old Jordan Taylor of Apopka, Fla., made his public debut as a Corvette Racing driver, sharing the No. 3 Corvette C6.R with co-drivers Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia. Tommy Milner settled in with the No. 4 Corvette C6.R that he now shares with teammates Oliver Gavin and Richard Westbrook.
Announced last month as the third driver for the Sebring, Le Mans, and Road Atlanta endurance races, Taylor adapted quickly to both his new race car and new team. "It's been exciting so far, being teamed with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia for the three long-distance races," Taylor said. "It's a lot of pressure, but also a huge opportunity for me to drive with these guys and to learn from them.
"Every time I get out of the car, I compare the data with them to see where I can improve," Taylor explained. "Yesterday Jan was helping me with Turn 1 and now I'm on pace with the quicker guys. Things are going really well so far!"
The twin Corvette C6.R race cars completed nearly 15 hours of track time without any significant issues. While long runs took priority over fast laps, both Corvettes ran considerably quicker than the 2:01.561 lap time that won the GT pole at Sebring last year. The No. 4 Corvette was clocked at 2:00.700, and the No. 3 Corvette turned a lap in 2:00.799 on the historic 17-turn, 3.7-mile circuit.
"The work that the team has done during the off-season gives me a lot of confidence," said Milner. "I can really feel the results when I drive the car, and that's very encouraging. Every test matters and every outing counts because the racing is so competitive in GT. Everyone at Corvette Racing is looking toward our ultimate goals – winning races, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and winning the ALMS GT championship. Testing here in Sebring with our competitors has given us a benchmark to see how our work has paid off."
Milner's co-driver, Oliver Gavin, agreed: "The new car is very good, and the wider track has helped with the balance," the Briton said. "I would almost say that this GT Corvette C6.R handles like the GT1 Corvettes we raced several years ago. It's simply amazing how the technology, the aerodynamic development, and all of the work done by Corvette Racing's engineers and crew have taken us a step forward for 2012."
Richard Westbrook, third driver for the No. 4 Corvette C6.R, is looking forward to the start of his second season with Corvette Racing at the Sebring enduro. "Everyone has been very determined this winter, and so far, so good," Westbrook said. "The car feels great. It's not just aero, the engines, or one single thing – the Corvette team has taken 50 small items and improved them across the board. As we know, everyone in this class improves every year, so it's going to be tough as ever, but we feel we're in good shape."
Jan Magnussen is equally confident in his return to the No. 3 Corvette C6.R that propelled him to an ALMS championship in 2008. "I'm very positive with everything that we've tried," declared the Dane. "We've gone in a new direction with this car, and when we try something new, we then find another 100 things we want to try! I think this test has been super-productive, and the new car is responding well to the changes we're making. It's always difficult at the Winter Test because the track will be quite different during the Sebring 12-hour race – but I think we are in quite good shape."
Antonio Garcia moves from his role as third driver to a full-season seat in the No. 3 Corvette C6.R. He shared his teammates' optimism after the Sebring test. "We have put all our effort into making this car as fast as possible," Garcia noted. "There have been big changes overall to the bodywork, so there was a lot of work to be done by the engineers and the crew in the shop. We have certainly improved since last year – the question is, how much have the others improved as well? We won't know that until the race, so we just need to focus on our program. I think we will have a very competitive car to fight for victory in the 60th running of the Sebring 12-hour race.
Corvette Racing's next event is the season-opening 60th Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway on March 17.