Photo: Richard Prince/Corvette Racing

Corvette Racing continues its endurance race roll at Sebring

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Last year, Corvette Racing secured the first two legs of an endurance race triple crown sweep at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida.

They then completed the 2015 triple crown sweep at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the blue riband event for the team, except with the No. 3 Corvette C7.R unable to start (renumbered No. 63 at Le Mans per the class number system) and the No. 4 Corvette C7.R (renumbered as No. 64) claiming an emotional victory as the lone Corvette standing.

What that’s then done is propelled the No. 4 pairing of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner into the stratosphere where now they’ve captured a triple crown of their own: they won Le Mans and have now opened up the 2016 season with wins at Daytona and Sebring. They won Le Mans with Jordan Taylor and that trio will be set to defend that; meanwhile Audi factory driver Marcel Fassler has been part of the opening two U.S. race wins in 2016.

So now Gavin and Milner are in the position where teammates Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia were this time last year – winners of the opening two IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races but hopeful that this won’t be the end of their winning run.

“It’s the perfect start, really,” Gavin said Saturday night. “It doesn’t get any better than this. It’s a great head start in the championship.

“But there will be many more bumps in the road from here. Long Beach is very different. In terms of enduros, our next big one is Le Mans… and that’s our biggest race of the year.”

Milner’s drive Saturday at Sebring was excellent, particularly when he took on wet tires early – then watched as Fassler and Gavin handled the tricky middle portion of the trace – and then went back in to the finish. Fassler actually hit a sign at one point, and a portion was wedged into the car – but it wasn’t bad enough to take the car out of contention.

“I’d had one big moment in Turn 1, as it was snappy on exit, and I got on the grass and hit a Tequila Patron banner which stuck to my nose a bit and gave too much temperature to the engine,” Fassler said. “After that, it was full of sand. It was a tough stint for me. I hate to do mistakes.”

Despite the sign contact, the car rolled on.

“At the end there, as the night started to fall, the last three hours, I don’t know if I’ve had a car that good,” Milner said.

“It was difficult there with all the cautions and having the field bunched up. I’d had a 20-second lead, then another caution came out, and then I don’t think I had a big gap again. It wasn’t quite as good again. The last 15 minutes we had the yellow flag and all the GTD traffic. They were racing hard and fair. Once I got through all them, there weren’t any issues behind me.”

Gavin took time to praise the Corvette Racing team’s Sebring preparation and Milner’s drive.

“Sebring is a good track for Corvette Racing. We test here a lot. In the last four months, we’d been here twice so for five or six days. So a lot of good preparation,” he said.

“Today again showed the class and strength of Corvette Racing. With the weather, through tire choices, and with keeping the thing on the road. We dealt with very difficult conditions. (Fassler’s) our new lucky charm.

“But hat off to Tommy today. He got us in the lead the first few hours. The car wasn’t showing that much pace. But it’s wonderful to get two in a row.

“In 12 months, we’ve won 60 hours of racing. So we’re very pleased with all that.”

The win was a nice tonic after the No. 3 car got collected into Turn 1. Magnussen was on the outside and passing Lawson Aschenbach (incidentally, who drives a Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in the Pirelli World Challenge for Blackdog Speed Shop but was in his No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS this race) before Kevin Estre made it three-wide and then proceeded to take out the No. 3 car.

The No. 3 car limped back to the pits and resumed, ending ninth. On the chance the No. 3 car wins this year’s GT Le Mans class title by a point, you could look back to this race and see that this is where there was an extra point gained.

NBCSN will present ‘Race and Sports in America: Conversations’ Monday

NBCSN
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With motor racing reckoning with its own issues of diversity and equality, “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” will tackle the topics of social justice with several athletes. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Monday, July 13 on NBCSN, Golf Channel, Olympic channel and on regional sports networks.

The roundtable discussions will be hosted by Damon Hack and feature Charles Barkley, Steph Curry, Jimmy Rollins and Ozzie Smith in one segment. The other segment will include Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Lynn, Troy Mullins and James Blake.

Race has been a major topic in motorsports this year.

NASCAR banned the Confederate flag at its race after lobbying by Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in the premier Cup Series. In Formula One, six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton has joined Black Lives Matter marches in London and also formed a panel on diversity. The lone Black driver in F1 also led 14 of 20 drivers taking a knee before the season opener in Austria.