ALTON — Corvette Racing kept its winning streak alive Saturday with Antonio Garcia taking the victory in the Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway in Alton.
The win by Garcia and teammate Jordan Taylor in Saturday’s Michelin GT Challenge gives Corvette Racing their third straight GT Le Mans classes win since the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship resumed in July. Only at the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona in January did Corvette Racing not post a win.
This win was likely the most uncomfortable victory Corvette Racing has experienced this season.
Both Garcia, in the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, and Nick Tandy, driving the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR 19 for Porsche GT Racing, experienced problems late in the race, but Garcia managed to hold on and survive despite problems with a rear diffuser.
Tandy, who at one time held an 18-second lead over Garcia in the late stages of the race, had to make an unscheduled pit stop to change a cut flat left rear tire. That gave Garcia the lead on lap 74, and he drove the Corvette across the finish line 3.521 seconds ahead of Bruno Spengler in a BMW M8 GTE in the first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to be held this season without fans in attendance.
Tandy, driving the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR 19 for Porsche GT Racing, finished third, 4.2 seconds behind Garcia and less than a second behind Spengler in a valiant effort in which he trimmed almost 14 seconds off of the deficit he encountered to Garcia after the unscheduled pit stop.
Garcia admitted he and co-driver Jordan Taylor did not have the best car at the end.
“When I jumped in (the car for the final stint), the race was pretty much done,” Garcia admitted.
“I could only keep the pressure on the 911, but at the end, we both caught problems at the same time. I thought it was terminal because it (the car) was vibrating really bad. But once I got used to it and knew it wasn’t interfering with the performance, I know I could handle it.”
Garcia said the vibration of the car caused by the rear diffuser was “scary.”
“It was very scary because I would have had an entire lap with the vibration,” he explained,
“It took me about 3 or 4 laps to be cautious, but once I figured out what it was, I picked up my pace and made it a little more difficult for them. I’m happy traffic wasn’t very bad at that time, and I was able to keep the gap.”
Tandy and his co-driver, Fred Makowiecki, who had started on the pole, had the strongest car, leading 64 of the race’s 85 laps around the 3.27-mile VIR circuit.
Makowiecki, the pole winner, took the lead on the opening lap and led the first 27 minutes of the two hour and 40-minute race before he was forced to pit to have his crew replace a cut left rear tire.
He got back in synch with the race’s frontrunners by taking on fuel only during a sequence of pit stops during the race’s second caution period. Tandy took the lead from Garcia’s co-driver, Jordan Taylor, on lap 54 and held it until he was forced to make the unscheduled pit stop and give up the lead to Garcia on lap 74.
Spengler inherited second place and barely managed to hold off Tandy on the final lap to garner the runner-up finish.
“I’m very happy to bring this podium for Conner (co-driver Connor De Phillippi),” Spengler remarked.
“They are fighting day and night, the RLL team. It’s my first podium for IMSA, and I hope more will come.
“It was super exciting,” he added.
“At the beginning of the race Connor did a great job putting on the pressure. It wasn’t a winning pace that we had today. But we had to be consistent and minimize the errors.”
“We definitely had the pace to be in the mix this weekend,” De Phillippi noted.
“We weren’t able to fight for the win. It was just really about surviving.”
Taylor, who has 24 total IMSA wins, was happy with his team’s victory.
“Amazing day for Corvette, the fourth win of the year and the third one for us,” Taylor said.
“We kind of focused on our own race, and it came to us from attrition and not making many mistakes. We had a hiccup in the pits at the beginning, but we were able to overcome that.”
Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner finished fourth in the No. 4 Corvette C8.R, just over 75 seconds behind the race winner. Earl Bamber, driving the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR 19 for Porsche GT Racing, finished fifth, three laps down, and Jesse Krohn, driving the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE, rounded out the GTLM class field, finishing sixth, 19 laps down.