Tommy Milner made a late pass for the lead and then held on for the final 15 minutes as the No. 4 GT Compuware Corvette C6.R won the American Le Mans Series GT class 61st Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway on Saturday, March 16, 2013.
The No. 4 Corvette C6.R – driven by 2012 Drivers’ champions Milner and Oliver Gavin, and Richard Westbrook – overcame an early electrical issue and two key penalties to win the 2013 ALMS opener. It is Gavin’s fifth victory at Sebring; Milner and Westbrook each recorded his first.
“What an incredible effort by Corvette Racing; these guys never gave up,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice-President for Performance Vehicles & Motorsports. “They came from behind multiple times. It was a focused team effort, with great driving and great calls in the pits, and great pits stops, and they delivered a big win. I’m proud of them.”
The No. 3 GT Compuware Corvette C6.R – driven by Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Jordan Taylor – retired with just over three hours remaining due to an overheated gearbox. The team, which also experienced an electrical issue early in the race, finished in 11th place in class, 120 laps off the pace in class.
Milner took over for Gavin with two hours to go and the No. 4 Corvette C6.R the No. 62 Ferrari F458 Italia by about one minute; when he pitted with an hour remaining, he was about a half minute behind.
“Those guys had an unreal pit stop at the end,” Milner said. “We were about a minute back and then 35 seconds at the next pit stop, and then we were 14 seconds back. And once I got to see him, I thought, ‘Here we go. I’ve got a chance here.’ Once I got close to him, he went wide in one and I knew he was pushing hard and he kept making mistakes, and that was it, that was the moment.”
“Really, it came down to when Tommy got on the back bumper of the leader, and that’s when I thought this is when we can really make this happen,” Gavin said. “Tommy was relentless – chasing him down, chasing him down, putting the pressure on. It was a spectacular victory for everybody at Corvette Racing. I’m really delighted.”
Gavin qualified second in the No. 4 Corvette C6.R, and on the very first lap gained the lead. The team was still out front in its class when, nearing the race’s third hour, Westbrook reported that smoke was coming from the dashboard.
“It was clear that we had a good car from the beginning, and then when I had that problem with the dashboard, which put us two laps down – it took a few yellows and some great stints by these two to get us back into position on the lead lap,” Westbrook said. “The pit stops and Tommy’s stint was just amazing at the end, and on balance I thought we deserved it, and we did it the hard way.”
Corvette Racing, which last year won the ALMS Manufacturers’ and Team championships, earned its ALMS-leading 78th all-time victory.
“You can’t start a better way,” Gavin said. “We had a very good year last year in the championship. We didn’t have a great Sebring last year, but this win just puts us up there straightaway, leading the championship off the bat. Tommy and I just sort of picked up where we left off last year, which is exactly what we wanted to do. Proud of all the guys at Corvette Racing today. They nailed every single stop. It was spectacular to watch.”
The No. 3 Corvette C6.R started fifth but experienced a couple of problems early. Garcia accidently ran into the back of a slower car which was in the middle of the track, and incurred a 60-second penalty, then he reported problems with downshifting. Starting on lap 20, the car three times came in for repairs – which included changing the gearbox, steering wheel and electronics.
The car is very, very good, it’s just a shame that we’re so far back,” Taylor said after his first stint. “We have a very competitive car.” The team used its remaining time on track as a test session before its night ended early.