Gavin, Milner, Fässler take 0.034-second victory in No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R

Gavin, Milner, Fässler take 0.034-second victory in No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R

Daytona Beach, Fla. (Jan. 31, 2016) – A 24-hour race came down to 0.034 seconds Sunday as Corvette Racing won the 54th Rolex 24 At Daytona when the team’s pair of Chevrolet Corvette C7.R race cars finished 1-2 in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class.

Closest finish in Rolex 24 race history

Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fässler drove the winning No. 4 Corvette C7.R with Gavin holding off teammate Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R. The two finished side-by-side with Gavin taking the checkered flag by a matter of inches. Each of the Corvettes completed 722 laps for 2,570.32 miles. The margin of victory set a Rolex 24 record.

“We thought this was going to be a great weekend because we had a couple of additional competitors in the series this year,” said Mark Reuss, General Motors Executive Vice President, Global Product Development. “I'll tell you, this is the second year in row we placed both Corvette C7.Rs on the podium. I couldn't be prouder of the team because they all worked so hard. They know how to win because it is a great team, and it is a great car. Honestly, that is what it is all about. It was an outstanding weekend.

“This is Daytona Rising right here,” Reuss added. “I just couldn't be prouder of everybody, our drivers and team members executed with perfection.”

Second straight Rolex 24 win for Corvette Racing and third since 2001

It is the second time Corvette Racing finished 1-2 in class at the Rolex 24; the first came in 2001 when a pair of Corvette C5-Rs placed first and fourth overall. This was the first Rolex 24 victory for the Gavin-Milner-Fässler trio.

The No. 4 Corvette C7.R also took an early lead in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup’s GTLM standings. The competition is a four-race series of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s four long-distance events with points for segment winners that go toward an end-of-season championship.

Garcia, Magnussen, Rockenfeller second in No. 3 Corvette

The No. 3 Corvette C7.R also won the DEKRA Green Award for best performance combined with fuel efficiency in the GTLM class.

Both Corvettes showed impressive reliability and performance throughout the race. The final three hours told the story, as the No. 4 Corvette rebounded from a pitlane penalty with a strategic plan that allowed Gavin to drive the final one hour, 45 minutes on one pit stop.

He made the winning pass with 35 minutes left and had to contend late with the hard-charging Garcia, whose No. 3 Corvette was on a slightly different fuel strategy. It stopped three times in the final two-and-a-half hours. Rockenfeller drove a three-hour, 20-minute triple stint before handing off to Garcia for the end of the race. He pitted for the final time with 37 minutes left – 12 minutes later than Gavin. With a tank of E20 and fresh Michelin tires, Garcia re-entered the race third but moved up to second with 26 minutes left.

He steadily reeled in Gavin, and the two Corvettes were nose-to-tail with 10 minutes left. Garcia moved ahead with a late-race pass into Turn 1 on Gavin, who battled back at the exit of the corner to retake the lead.

"Today was an exciting day as our Corvette Racing team won the iconic Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona for the third time in six attempts,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “It was extra special with a 1-2 finish in front of all of our Corvette fans.

“Watching the No. 3 and No. 4 C7.R teams race to the end was thrilling for all of us and I’m sure for our fans as well,” Campbell added. “It was an exciting finish, and we're so grateful there were so many Corvette owners here and watching from around the world cheering us on.

“The entire Corvette Racing team did an exceptional job of executing all day long, and our powertrains delivered the right combination of power, durability and efficiency,” Campbell said. “They got the job done. I am so proud of them.”

Both Corvette C7.Rs took turns leading in GTLM in the opening 12 hours. Milner drove two triple-stints into the night while Gavin and Magnussen battled in the opening hours. Even near the 20-hour mark, the top five in GTLM were within a minute.

The next event for Corvette Racing is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida on March 16-19 from Sebring International Raceway, were Corvette Racing also is the defending GTLM winner.

Tommy Milner, No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C.7R

Tommy, what was the difference in the Corvette today that made the Corvette the class in the field and the car to beat?

“I think it was just our ability to drive the car at the limit every lap and do it comfortably and not sort of put ourselves in a position where we were fighting the car too much. I think we all had our gripes with the car in places, but the car was comfortable to drive the whole race. I mean, the guys worked super hard for us in the pits just making small tweaks however they could to make the car better.

“At the end of the day, I know Oliver before he got in the car he was kind of humming and ho‑ing a little bit about getting in. He was a little bit tired and things like that. I didn't give him a pep talk so to speak, but I tried to cheer him up a little bit. And I know (Doug) Fehan gave him a little bit of a pep talk, basically, and here he is now. Beating our teammates for giving us all heart attacks.

I think my dad, and my sister and my family were texting me saying, ‘Thanks, Oliver, for just about killing me (laughing).’”

Oliver Gavin, No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C.7R

Oliver, I must say, that was some of the most intense racing we've ever seen here in the Rolex 24. It had to be really intense from the cockpit. what was your strategy going into the final 10 minutes of that race?

“Don't let him by. It was going to always be intense because we're teammates. The cars are very equal. I know Antonio really well. We run all the time together and we're good friends, and I've raced with him for many, many years. I know how smart he is in the car, and I knew he was going to be looking for a weak spot and he would just try and pounce at the right point. Just that one lap coming down into turn one and coming off the tri‑oval, and he got really good tow by me and he was by me, and he left his brake just a tiny bit too late as he went into turn one. He was almost on the lock stop sideways and he just lost the rear of the car. I managed to sneak back the inside, and he was really close as we came off the corner.

“But we didn't touch. All I could think about was my boss, Doug Fehan and what he would say if we did touch. But, no, it was all good and clean.

“Then on the last lap I was thinking I had just enough on him, but then he towed up behind me. It was like the line was just going away from me. I couldn't get to the line fast enough. I've just seen a picture of it, actually, and it was pretty close.

“So, yeah, obviously thrilled, thrilled to get the victory. My first one here. Great to share it with these two guys; Tommy and Marcel drove brilliantly throughout the race. And it was an amazing effort by everybody at Corvette Racing, and I'm thrilled to be able to stand on the top step there and get an amazing victory here.”

They made a big deal on TV that you guys were given clearance ‑ the two corvettes were given clearance to race each other at the end. where does that come from? Who says go ahead and race each other?

“It comes from Doug Fehan, our boss, the program manager. As soon as Antonio had passed the Porsche, I asked my engineer, I said how's this going to work? And my engineer then said, okay, Doug Fehan has said that you will race and you're clear to race clean and fair, but don't touch one another and certainly don't take one another out.

“We've raced like this many years now, and I've already said that to race against Antonio is a pleasure. He's an amazing teammate. I knew I was going to have my work cut out to beat him, and I suppose that does make it a little bit sweeter for me that we've come away with the win.

“It was all full clearance, the race. So that's always fun to see. And like Marcel says, it's what the fans want to see is great racing.”

Talk me through that battle at the end.

“It was crazy. Antonio (Garcia) was coming so quickly. I think he had fresher tires. He has been so good in this car for the last couple of years and I knew I was going to have a battle on my hands. Then when he caught me and we got in a bit of a tow. He tried to pass me around the outside of Turn 1 and he was almost on the lock-stop sideways. I was still trying to get the spot back. It was as close as it possibly could get to us touching. He is a fantastic teammate and an amazing guy. I wouldn’t really want to race anybody else. I am just thrilled for everybody at Corvette Racing and our C7.R. Tommy (Milner), Marcel (Fässler), all the guys at Corvette Racing. Just a brilliantly, the whole day, it’s been tooth and nail the whole way with Ferrari, BMW, Ford, it’s been extraordinary.”

What makes this win so special?

“It’s very special. I’ve had atrocious luck here in the past. My best result was last year, a third place. So for me to get a win here today is just amazing. I’m just so thrilled and happy for everyone – the whole team.”

Oliver, we saw during the last laps and GTDS that a lot of cars had fuel consumption problems and slowed down. Can you tell us about your fuel consumption? It seems you were pressing all the time and you had no problems at all on fuel consumption?

“I think we had stopped the last so we were good to go till the end. Didn't have a problem. Just the way that the strategy worked out for us, it was good. I think that the 3 car did have a problem with fuel pick‑up, so they weren't getting all the fuel out of their tank, and that's why they had to stop again. So that was unlucky for them, but somewhat a lucky break.”

Oliver, it seemed that the vibe on the grid pre‑race was really strong, and i assume some of that might be because there were a lot of new cars here. I'm curious, did having new cars here interest you at all just from a car perspective or is it just totally as a racer perspective wondering what they've got?

“I think it's fantastic for the series. I think it's fantastic for all of us. We, as a team, Corvette Racing have embraced the Ford coming into the series. It's a fantastic car. It's a proper effort. Their car was very fast today when we got out there on track against it, you could see it's still got great potential.

“I think the GTLM class is amazing. It's a wonderful class to race in. All-pro drivers, all-pro teams, factory efforts. The cars look great. I think it's great to see how they've been developed aero‑wise. They're really sexy, and great for the fans to look at. They're aggressive. They're a lot of fun to drive now. They're really, I think it's a really great step forward. So, yeah, very happy.”

It is a great class. Congratulations Oliver and to the others. Olly, could you talk from your perspective about the bump and run with the Porsche down in the west horseshoe towards the end?

“Yeah, so, Earl (Bamber) and I were racing hard, and there had been a couple of spots and times where I'd got on the brakes and Earl was able stop his car quicker than I was, and I just managed to miss him. But the one time into Turn 5 I knew that we were quicker. Our car was better, and it was getting towards the end of the race. We know that it's going to be the gloves are off.

“So I just left my braking a little bit too late. He opened the door just a tiny amount, so I just stuck my nose in. Yes, we had some contact and it nudged him wide. I was given a warning by the officials, and if he wanted to do the same back to me they wouldn't necessarily do anything about it.

“I think it's all part of racing. When it's that close at the end of a 24-hour race, you're racing for the Daytona 24 Hours. It's not just a club race or whatever. It's big international Sports Car Racing. There is an awful lot riding on it for everybody involved. Whether it's the team, the drivers, the manufacturers. The drivers end up getting a very nice Rolex watch, so that was foremost in my mind.”

Any surprise that the GTLM podium is filled with cars that have been here before that aren't necessarily new and you wouldn't expect to have teething problems?

“Yeah, I suppose so. It's always nice to come with a somewhat proven package. I think that was a confidence for everybody at Corvette Racing coming into the season that, yes, we've got a great base, with got a great car in the C7R. It was strong last year at this race. It was strong at Le Mans last year. It was strong at Sebring.

“We know that with our updates, aero updates that we were going to be strong. But the rest fundamentally was very much the same. Whereas a number of manufacturers have come in with some very different and unique cars. And there are going to be some teething problems, and they, I'm sure, will be extremely strong at different points in the season, and they will be a serious thorn in our side.

“So, yeah, you can't rest on your laurels. Yes, we've won, but the work now is straight on to Sebring. We're testing there in about a week's time, so there's no sitting back and just resting on it. We're flat out with the testing still.”

Marcel Fassler, No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C.7R

Marcel, how nervous were you during those closing laps?

“I think I lost two of my years in my life. No, it was just thrilling. I could not see anymore to the TV. If I checked the watch, it was always the same time on it. It felt like it never stops. Yeah, it was just amazing to watch actually this nice battle. It was really great motorsport what we could see, especially in between teammates. It was really great to see that.

“Luckily Oliver did a good job out there and he brought us the win. It was really, really exciting. But it's not easy to watch as a teammate in the pit to see that it's going that close.”

Brian Hoye, Crew Chief, No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R

How proud are you of this team?

“Oh my gosh. I just can’t believe that we were racing that hard to the end. Nobody was holding back. We had all the GM and Chevrolet leadership here; we had Mark Reuss, Jim Campbell and Mark Kent. We put on a great show. It’s is so hard to have everything sink in because nobody has really slept since yesterday morning when they got up. It takes a while to absorb it, but it just feels fantastic.”

Mike Rockenfeller, No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R

“To be honest, it was a great race for all of us - the fans and the team. For us drivers, it’s a bit bittersweet. To lose a race by that amount especially after we had led for quite some time and had the pace today to win. But we had some issues; we had to pit earlier that planned a few times, so we had to do an extra stop. As we know, it counts when the flag drops at the end and we were just a little bit behind. Congrats to the other three drivers and the whole Corvette Racing team. For me, the first experience of a race event with the team was great. A 1-2 finish at Daytona… you can’t ask for more. Well I could ask to have the watch! I don’t so that’s a little frustrating. But looking at the big picture, this was absolutely fantastic.”

Jan Magnussen, No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R

“It was a fantastic race all day long. The team performed all year long. We managed to improve the car through the race through small changes and adjustments. It put us in a position to be fast at the end. We stayed out of trouble to make sure we had a good and fast Corvette at the end. A photo-finish like that… wow that’s unbelievable and crazy!”

Antonio Garcia, No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R

“The whole race was nearly perfect for us. We only had a couple ups-and-downs, like when I got turned around by another car. With 70 minutes to go, we got a fuel alarm that we thought was wrong. But later on we discovered that we weren’t using all our fuel in the fuel cell. It put us back on strategy, and that was why I had to push a lot late in the race. Before my last stop, I knew I had to build a big enough gap where I wouldn’t be too far behind the lead when I rejoined. I almost achieved that. The last stop was good and put me in a situation to gain back track position.

I still had to get around the Porsche and catch Oliver. We had a really good setup and car. I was proud and happy to have the chance to battle for the win with Oliver. It was one of the best races I’ve ever had. Oliver is very experienced and didn’t make any mistakes, even though I was really pushing him very hard. We put on a mega show for all the Corvette fans. It is amazing that we have a Corvette 1-2. I feel very good about it. I’m happy for Oliver, Tommy and Marcel. We’ll be ready to fight back at Sebring.”

Corvette Racing

Gallery: Corvette Racing at Daytona: Historic 1-2 finish for Corvette C7.R at Rolex 24