Corvette Racing scored two top-five finishes at Long Beach on April 20, 2013, to maintain a share of the lead in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) Manufacturer Standings through the first two races of the season.
Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin, drove the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R to a fourth-place finish in the GT class in the two-hour Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit. Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen finished fifth in the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R.
“As we saw in qualifying, the cars are just so close in performance,” Milner said. “We were in a good spot, but just a little unlucky there.”
Milner, who earned his first career ALMS race at this event last year, qualified sixth and had driven up to fourth when the team pitted with just over an hour remaining, and changed drivers. During the exchange, the team had a difficult time securing the steering wheel.
“Pretty much our race was so dictated by that pit stop where I got in and really just struggled to get the wheel on,” Gavin said. During the stop the team also experienced some trouble with one of the tires, and “the wheel got spun around and I was then trying to find the point where it had to slot on, and it wasn’t so easy to see. By the time I got it on, everybody else had finished up their pit stops and we came out pretty much at the back.”
Garcia, meanwhile, started fourth and quickly moved toward the front.
“Everything went to plan, basically,” Garcia said. “We knew how usually the first lap works here. I basically put pressure on, and the two cars in front of me both went off so I kind of made myself a little bit of a gap and made a pass on both.”
But, a series cautions slowed the No. 3 Corvette C6.R’s momentum, and brought pit strategy into play.
“All of those yellows – especially that first one, it was like flipping a coin,” Garcia said. “I think it was the right call to stay out, but then with all of these yellows coming after is where being in the lead wasn’t such an advantage anymore.”
The No. 3 Corvette C6.R was running second when the driver change was made.
“It started off pretty well,” Magnussen said. “I think the way the strategy and the pit stops worked out really hurt us. It seemed like everybody else was trying to salvage something and kind of went out of sequence and gained really well on it, and we lost on it, unfortunately. We were struggling a little bit too much right there at the end with grip.”
With less than 15 minutes remaining, Gavin passed Magnussen for fourth place.
“It was another learning lesson for us,” said Gavin, who teamed with Milner and Richard Westbrook last month to win the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. “It was good just to score the points in the championship, to get fourth place, I’ll take that every day with how rough that race was. It was pretty nasty at times, and difficult, and traffic was hard. There was plenty of bumping and banging, and you just have to try and keep the car clean. There were a number of times where I thought, ‘Oh, this could get pretty messy here. We’re going to lose a corner off the car.’ Or, it was just sliding and sliding and you were just hoping that it was going to stop sliding before we ended up hitting the wall, and fortunately it did.”
The No. 55 BMW Z4 GTE won the race, followed by the No. 56 BMW Z4 GTE, the No. 91 SRT Viper GTS-R, and the two Corvettes.
Unofficially, Chevrolet and BMW share the Manufacturers Standings with 34 points apiece.
“Those guys battled the whole race,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “I would say tires were a factor throughout the race. It was tricky out there. I commend the whole Corvette Racing team for really staying focused and driving toward the front. You know, a couple of cars in front of us were a little tight on gas. We didn’t get them today, but it was a good points day and momentum in the season continues. So, on to Monterrey.”
The ALMS season resumes with Round 3 on May 9-11 with the American Le Mans Series Monterey (Calif.) at Laguna Seca, where Gavin and Milner won last year.