Corvette Racing looking for sixth consecutive Triple Crown win at Le Mans

Photo: Corvette Racing
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One of America’s fastest production street cars will once again be in the global spotlight as the Corvette Racing prepares for what it hopes will be its ninth career win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 100th win overall for the Corvette program.

Corvette Racing has eight wins in 16 races at Le Mans, making it the top GT team. Plus, it’s looking to pick up where it left off in last season’s 24 Hours event, with Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner winning the GTE Pro class by a five-lap margin in the No. 64 Corvette.

“There is a reason we have won here eight times: we operate as a unified team that focuses on winning regardless of the odds,” Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan said in a media release. “This has the potential to be the hardest-fought GT race in Le Mans history and we at Corvette Racing, along with all our fans, can’t wait for that green flag to drop!”

Corvette Racing is already off to a good start: Antonio Garcia set the fastest time in class in this year’s Test Day in the No. 63 Corvette C7.R, which he’ll co-drive with Ricky Taylor and Jan Magnussen. Meanwhile, the No. 64 Corvette sister car was fourth-quickest on Test Day with Gavin at the controls.

“The Test Day went very smooth and we ran through our program,” Garcia said. “We have to do what we can to make the car stronger because all the other teams will do the same. We’ve had years in the past where we have had a lot of cars.

“But this year is as tough as I can remember. The main thing is that no matter the other manufacturers, you need to win. I’m confident. As a team we won the first two big races of the year: Daytona and Sebring. So I’m hoping to repeat what we did last year and win at Le Mans.”

Corvette Racing is going for its sixth consecutive Triple Crown win, having previously captured the Rolex 24 At Daytona (2015, 2016), Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring (2015, 2016) and 24 Hours of Le Mans (2015). That streak is part of an overall 21-race victory string in Triple Crown events.

“Having a good test with no mechanical issues makes race week that much less stressful,” Milner said. “You can focus on the details of the race, getting all three drivers cycled through and not worrying about finding extra speed.

“That’s what we had last year. We had a Corvette that was comfortable and fast. Jordan (Taylor) came in and was on-pace right away, which is obviously good. Going back there with the same driver lineup leaves us feeling pretty confident that we can achieve that again.”

The six drivers – Gavin, Milner, Magnussen, Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Ricky Taylor – have 52 combined starts at Le Mans with 15 victories between them. Gavin has the most (five, all with Corvette Racing), along with four by Magnussen (also all with Corvette Racing) while Garcia has three (two with Corvette Racing), Milner two (both with Corvette Racing) and Jordan Taylor’s win last year.

“This is my 17th Le Mans and I don’t think there is one that has been the same as another,” Magnussen said. “It is the nature of the race – the track, the weather and your competitors are all different each year.

“We are pretty satisfied following the Test Day. The Corvette showed good speed over one lap but also we did a lot of work on long runs with our race setup. So I feel we are very prepared. The thing about Le Mans is that once you get to the race there are so many variables that are out of your control and are difficult to account for. You have to trust the engineers, crew and your own abilities to make it through.”

Corvette Racing 24 Hours of Le Mans Record

Year Finish Class Car Drivers
2000 3rd GTS Corvette C5-R Pilgrim/Collins/Freon
4th GTS Corvette C5-R Fellows/Kneifel/Bell
2001 1st GTS Corvette C5-R Fellows/O’Connell/Pruett
2nd GTS Corvette C5-R Pilgrim/Collins/Freon
2002 1st GTS Corvette C5-R Fellows/O’Connell/Gavin
2nd GTS Corvette C5-R Pilgrim/Collins/Freon
2003 2nd GTS Corvette C5-R Gavin/Collins/Pilgrim
3rd GTS Corvette C5-R Fellows/O’Connell/Freon
2004 1st GTS Corvette C5-R Gavin/Beretta/Magnussen
2nd GTS Corvette C5-R Fellows/O’Connell/ Papis
2005 1st GT1 Corvette C6.R Beretta/Gavin/Magnussen
2nd GT1 Corvette C6.R Fellows/O’Connell/Papis
2006 1st GT1 Corvette C6.R Beretta/Gavin/Magnussen
7th GT1 Corvette C6.R Fellows/O’Connell/Papis
2007 2nd GT1 Corvette C6.R Fellows/O’Connell/Magnussen
14th GT1 Corvette C6.R Beretta/Gavin/Papis
2008 2nd GT1 Corvette C6.R Fellows/O’Connell/Magnussen
3rd GT1 Corvette C6.R Beretta/Gavin/Papis
2009 1st GT1 Corvette C6.R O’Connell/Magnussen/Garcia
4th GT1 Corvette C6.R Gavin/Beretta/Fassler
2010 10th (DNF) GT2 Corvette C6.R Gavin/Beretta/Collard
12th (DNF) GT2 Corvette C6.R O’Connell/Magnussen/Garcia
2011 1st GTE Pro Corvette C6.R Beretta/Milner/Garcia
14th (DNF) GTE Pro Corvette C6.R Gavin/Magnussen/Westbrook
2012 5th GTE Pro Corvette C6.R Garcia/Magnussen/Taylor
6th GTE Pro Corvette C6.R Gavin/Milner/Westbrook
2013 4th GTE Pro Corvette C6.R Garcia/Magnussen/Taylor
7th GTE Pro Corvette C6.R Gavin/Milner/Westbrook
2014 2nd GTE Pro Corvette C7.R Garcia/Magnussen/Taylor
4th GTE Pro Corvette C7.R Gavin/Milner/Westbrook
2015 DNS GTE Pro Corvette C7.R Garcia/Magnussen/Briscoe
1st GTE Pro Corvette C7.R Gavin/Milner/Taylor
Totals 8 wins 16 starts

 

 

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
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To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

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“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”