Our year in the brand new Corvette C7.R started off with huge promise. Two of the biggest sports car races in the world were within our grasp – the 24 Hours of Daytona and Sebring 12 Hour – only to see us lose out in the final hour or two. We fell just a bit short but, as a team, Corvette Racing was looking very strong for 2014.
I’ll rewind a bit to the end of an incredible 2013. After winning another ALMS GT Manufacturer’s Championship for Chevrolet, a Team Championship for Corvette Racing, and a Driver’s Championship for our teammates Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, the team focused on a new challenge – building the successor to the dominant Corvette C6.R.
The first C7.R was built and had begun testing as we were finishing out the 2013 season. Initial reports from Oliver and Jan – who had done the first testing miles with the car – were really positive. The car was not only improved in areas where we seemed weak in comparison to the competition but much better overall than our 2013 Championship Winning Corvette C6.R!
After a strong start to 2014, we were confident we had a car we could take us to another Championship – qualifying sessions were super close and racing was a battle right down to the checkered flag. Every year the competition gets tougher and everyone refines every aspect of the race. It was looking to be another super competitive and close championship again in GTLM.
After two close endurance races at Daytona and Sebring we headed to Long Beach for our shortest race of the year – only two hours in the streets. The race was almost won at the start for our teammates who got the jump on a slower Prototype and built a big lead before the only round of pit stops. After a long and hard fight with the 2nd place BMW of my old teammate Dirk Mueller, we took 3rd. A great day for Corvette Racing – the first win for the new C7.R and both Corvettes on the podium to share in the success.
That was only the start for our teammates’ success. They convincingly grabbed wins at Laguna Seca, Mosport and the 6 Hours at the Glen. We, however, struggled for speed at Laguna Seca and Mosport – something that would continue to be an issue as the year would go on. We were running strong at Watkins Glen in the 6 Hour until very slight contact with a slower class GTD car netted me a penalty – which was an incredibly harsh call considering I had basically passed the car.
After the Mosport race, the Tudor Series decided to impose ‘competitive balancing’ to our class by adding weight to the Corvettes and also give the competition the choice of running with either a bigger restrictor for more horsepower or taking weight off. Evidently, our teammates’ winning four races in a row in the Corvette was the wrong thing to do! Being a Corvette, we were also saddled with the ‘balance of performance’, or ‘adjustment of performance’ penalty despite not being the fastest car in three of the four races our teammates won.
After the changes, we were consistently the slowest car in our class and outside of the performance window our own series had dictated. Despite all of the negative effects the changes had on our team, we continued to push forward and do the best possible job we could under the circumstances.Through The Obstacles
Over the next few races, we watched the Manufacturer’s, Team, and Driver’s lead slowly wither away. Antonio and Jan maintained the lead in the Driver’s championship as long as they could despite fighting an obviously uncompetitive car. Then disaster struck for Jan when he had a huge crash in practice at VIR after hitting fluid dropped by another car. He suffered a concussion, causing him to miss the race and split him from Antonio in the Driver’s championship. The VIR race was a low point as we watched as our competition breezed by us and build a solid finish over both Corvettes.
The series decided it was necessary to make one more performance adjustment as we entered the second to last round of the championship at Circuit of the America’s – an adjustment we hoped would get us back into the hunt. That wasn’t meant to be because, after all of the help our competitors we given earlier in the year, the Porsches and Vipers were just in a different category.
Despite all of the hardship we’d faced throughout the year, we continued to persevere and push as hard as we could to get as many points as possible at every round. We had hoped for a better opportunity at COTA to get back into the thick of the battle and scored the most points possible for the weekend.
Now the stage is set for our last race of the season: Petit Le Mans. A 10-hour blast for the chance to battle and steal the championship away from Porsche and Viper. 10 hours to show Corvette Racing never gives up and never goes down without a fight. 10 hours for us in the #4 C7.R to finish the season strong.
Amazingly, Oliver and I still have a chance to win the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup as we enter the last round of four with a one point lead over our competition. The #4 car will give it everything we have at Petit Le Mans for a chance for redemption in a very difficult season.
Photos by Camden Thrasher and Corvette Racing