IMSA: Chaotic finish sees Corvette snatch unexpected Road America win

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – We wrote this morning that Corvette Racing hadn’t won at Road America since 2008, when Jan Magnussen and Johnny O’Connell did so in the old American Le Mans Series GT1 class in a Corvette C6.R.

Corvette ended its eight-year drought with its second straight and fourth overall win this year with the No. 4 Corvette C7.R of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, Corvette’s first at Road America in the class now known as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Le Mans class, but whose predecessor in ALMS was either GT or GT2.

Gavin hasn’t won at Road America since 2007, Milner since 2008 – then in what was GT2 with BMW. This is also the fifth different GTLM manufacturer to win at Road America in the last five years (Corvette 2016, Porsche 2015, Ferrari 2014, SRT Viper 2013, BMW 2012).

And quite how they did it was an incredible story of its own.

The No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT dominated most of the day in class and Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook looked poised to win their fourth race of the year, all in the last five races.

But courtesy of a full-course caution inside the final two minutes following apparent contact between PC class competitors Renger van der Zande (No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09) and Stephen Simpson (No. 85 JDC/Miller Motorsports Oreca FLM09) at the Carousel, that spiced things up for an incredible final run to the flag in the last six and seven minutes and change.

So at the restart, Westbrook led the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander, the No. 911 and 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSRs of Nick Tandy and Fred Makowiecki, respectively, and Milner in the No. 4 Corvette.

At that moment, Milner and Gavin’s lead in the points would have only been one point, 255-254, over Westbrook and Briscoe. When the No. 4 car ran sixth earlier in the race, it would have made the points deadlocked.

Then things got crazy. Westbrook moved several times while trying to defend the lead on the restart.

Tandy was attempting to deliver the No. 911 Porsche its first win since Long Beach and nearly passed Vilander in the process at Turn 5. But contact between the two cars sent Tandy around on corner exit, and with Westbrook also getting a bit of damage, his hopes took a hit.

Behind them all, Milner and a stealthy John Edwards in the No. 100 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM – a car snakebit by bad luck this year – got around the second Porsche, the No. 912, for position.

With a lap to go it was Westbrook, Vilander and Milner with Edwards fourth and Makowiecki fifth.

Then Milner got Westbrook on the final lap into Turn 5, as Westbrook got hamstrung by PC traffic. And that only became possible after Milner got into second once the Mazda of Tristan Nunez hit Vilander at Turn 1. That took Vilander and Risi out of the equation.

Milner’s pass nets Corvette’s pair an unofficial 13-point lead over Westbrook and Briscoe, with “Westy” limping the Ford home for second.

Edwards came home third, netting he and the No. 100 BMW for he and Lucas Luhr both their first podium and first top-five of the season.

The No. 912 Porsche was fourth ahead of the Risi Ferrari, an unrepresentative fifth for the car driven by Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella.