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Corvette C7.R Wins Rolex 24 at Daytona’s GTLM Class by 0.478 Seconds!

Walt Thurn Mar 6, 2015
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Corvette Racing has a long history of competing at Daytona International Speedway. They debuted their C5-Rs at the 1999 Grand-Am Rolex 24 Hours. This was followed with a second-place overall finish in 2000 and a First place overall finish in 2001. 2001 was the last time Corvette Racing competed at Daytona until 2014. Starting in 2002, Grand-Am created two new classes, Daytona Prototype (DP) and GT. The C5-R was not eligible for the GT class, so Corvette Racing competed in the American Le Mans Series (AMLS). When ALMS and Grand-Am merged at the end of 2013 it was renamed the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship (USCC). One of the classes the USCC created was called GTLM (Grand Touring Le Mans). The Corvette C7.R is eligible for GTLM and they were competitive when they returned to Daytona in 2014, but teething problems kept them off the podium.

Corvette Racing came to Daytona in 2015 determined to capture a GTLM Daytona victory. Ten cars were entered in the GTLM class, and Oliver Gavin in the No. 4 Corvette C7.R captured the class pole with a 1:43.488 lap. His pole time was 0.407 seconds quicker than the second place Ferrari. Gavin thanked Corvette driver Jan Magnussen after he secured the pole, “Jan towed me around and helped me get the pole position.” The quickest Corvette DP this year was fourth fastest with a 1:39.568 compared to last year’s Corvette DP pole position of 1:38.270. A Honda and two Ford Prototypes were quicker this year. The difference in this year’s lap time compared to last year’s was due to subtle changes in the BOP (Balance of Performance). The other three Corvette DPs qualified 7th, 9th, and 24th.

The green flag fell for 53 competitors under cool, sunny skies at 2:10 pm. At the end of the first hour Ford DPs were First and Second with a Corvette DP in Third. Corvette C7.Rs were First and Second in GTLM. The battle among the 10 GTLM entries was intense. Pit stops for DP and the GTLM entries took place every 42 to 50 minutes. The Corvette C7.R’s superb pit crew were able to add fuel and change four tires in under 1 minute, 15 seconds. An unfortunate pit stop occurred for the No.31 Whelen Corvette DP at the 1-hour, 23-minute mark when they had to go back to the garage to replace the steering rack. When they resumed racing they were in 51st position, 13th in DP.

Action Express Prototype Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 2/18

The Action Express 2014-winning Daytona Prototype (DP) Corvette is being pushed to Rolex 24 grid. The bodywork has been revised this year to mirror the C7 street car. Driver Joao Barbosa qualified Fourth, missing the pole by 0.374 seconds.

By the fourth hour, the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP was in the lead and setting a quick race pace. The No. 3 Corvette C7.R led GTLM in 13th place overall after starting 29th. Gavin lost 15 seconds when he was hit by a Prototype Challenge entry at Turn 4 and spun off course. Corvette DPs began to show their speed by the end of the eighth hour. They held the top three positions (No. 10, No. 5, & No. 90). However, the No. 01 and 02 Ford EcoBoost DPs were close behind. As the race neared the ninth hour, the second place No. 5 Corvette DP ground to a halt between Turns 3 and 4. The Corvette DP was towed back to the garage for repairs. A loose fuel pump wire was discovered and it took three laps to make a repair.

After 14 hours, a Ford DP (02) led, followed by a Corvette DP (10), a Ford DP (01) and a Corvette DP (05). The No. 25 BMW GTLM held a 0.339-second lead over the No. 3 C7.R Corvette. The No. 31 Whelen Corvette was now up to 8th in DP and 14th overall. After another quick Corvette Racing pit stop, No. 3 driver Ryan Briscoe reported, “I’m really impressed with the GT Le Mans class and how competitive every car is. Right now I am happy. We have not had any crashes or damage, so that is the important part.” Shortly before, at the 15-hour, 28-minute mark, both Corvettes pitted for new brakes. The No. 3 crew completed their work in 2:25 and the No. 4 crew took 2:52. This change put the BMW into the GTLM class lead.

Late in the race drama hit the front-runners. At 18 hours, 4 minutes, Gavin made contact with a Prototype Challenge contender and damaged his C7.R’s left-front fender. This put the No. 25 BMW into the GTLM lead. Gavin pitted for 3:30 to have the damage repaired. Shortly after Gavin’s incident, the leading BMW entered the Turn 8 Bus Stop chicane too fast and ripped the rear bumper off as it left the track. This gave the GTLM lead back to the No. 3 Corvette driven by Jan Magnussen; the BMW resumed the race in Third. The Corvette DPs were First, Second, and Fifth. The drama for the No. 4 C7.R continued at the 20-hour mark when Tommy Milner collided with the No. 66 DP exiting Turn 6. This caused extensive damage to the C7.R’s right-front fender and bumper. The Corvette Racing crew replaced the nose and fenders in a little over seven minutes. However, the No. 4 team lost three laps to their teammate and the pesky BMW.

As the race drew to a close, the battle for the overall lead was between the No. 02 Ford DP, No. 10 Corvette DP, and the No. 5 Corvette DP. The Ford DP led the No. 10 Corvette by 0.33 seconds. Suddenly, at 23 hours, 49 minutes, the No. 10 Corvette pitted for an unexpected driver change because driver Jordan Taylor exceeded his four-hour driver time. Because of this rule infraction, they were dropped to the back of the field. This infraction gave the race win to the No. 02 Ford as the No. 5 Corvette DP did not have the pace to pass in the closing minutes. The Ford DP won by 1.33 seconds over the No. 5 Corvette DP and the No. 90 Corvette DP was Third. The No. 3 Corvette was Fourth overall and First in GTLM, finishing just 0.478 seconds ahead of the Fifth place No. 25 BMW. The No. 31 Whelen Corvette DP finished an impressive Sixth. Fortunately, Corvette Racing earned the C7.R an impressive Daytona victory. In addition, this team won the DEKRA Green Challenge Award for their Rolex 24 race performance. This award is given to the most environmentally clean, fast, and efficient GT Le Mans competitor. Hopefully their victory will kick-start them towards a 2015 GTLM championship.

Oliver Gavin Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 3/18

Oliver Gavin takes the green flag at 2:10 p.m. for the start of the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Gavin, driving his GTLM No. 4 Corvette C7.R, holds a small lead over the No. 51 Ferrari 458. Gavin was 25th quickest and captured the GTLM pole position.

Visit Florida Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 4/18

Before the race began, The No. 90 VisitFlorida.com DP Corvette was moved to the 24th starting position. The organizers made this change because driver Guy Cosmo was a late addition to the team. Once the race began, the No. 90 quickly moved up to Fourth position.

Number 5 Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 5/18

The No. 5 Corvette DP sweeps through Daytona’s high bank Turn 12 in Fourth position four hours into the race. The team’s new 2015 sponsor is Mustang Sampling, who provides industrial sampling equipment (i.e. natural gas) to the liquid and gas industries.

Number 3 Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 6/18

The No. 3 Corvette C7.R is shown in Third position in the competitive GTLM class late Saturday afternoon going through Daytona’s Turn 6. A steady pace and quick pit stops slowly moved the Corvette up the leader board.

Whelen Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 7/18

The Whelen Corvette DP enters the Turn 7 banking in 51st position, 13th in DP. Driver Max Papis was forced into the garage after 1 hour, 21 minutes to replace a steering rack. The No. 31 ran flawlessly from then on and finished Sixth overall, Fourth in DP.

Number 4 Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 8/18

The No. 4 Corvette C7.R exits Turn 6 holding down the lead in the GTLM class. Co-drivers Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Simon Pagenaud swapped the class lead with the No. 3 Corvette during the early part of the race.

Honda Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 9/18

The race pole winner, the No. 60 Honda HPD Ligier JS P2 slowly passes the GTLM-leading No. 4 Corvette exiting the Turn 11 Bus Stop chicane. The top speed difference between the Prototype and GTLM racers is slight.

Number 10 Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 10/18

The No. 10 Corvette DP co-driven by Jordan Taylor, Ricky Taylor, and Max Angelelli was the car to beat. Near the end of the race the organizers discovered that a driver exceeded his driver-time limit. This dropped the No. 10 from Third overall and Third in DP to 52nd overall and 16th in DP!

Barbosa Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 11/18

At 10:52 p.m. (8 hours, 42 minutes) Joao Barbosa suddenly came to a stop between Turns 3 and 4. The No. 5 was towed to the garage where the team discovered a loose fuel pump connector. The team lost three laps before the repair could be completed.

Turn 3 Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 12/18

As the No. 4 Corvette enters Turn 3 it holds Fourth position in the GTLM class. After 9 hours and 30 minutes of racing a total of 40 GTLM lead changes had taken place, giving the First-to-Fourth place light on the rear window a real workout.

Pits Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 13/18

Throughout the Rolex 24 the Corvette Racing crew performed flawlessly. Here, the No. 3 Corvette exits the pits in the middle of the night after a typical pit stop for fuel and four tires.

Bmw Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 14/18

By 9 a.m., the Third place GTLM BMW was looking for a way past the battered Second-place Corvette. The left-front damage on the Corvette occurred at the 18-hour, 14-minute mark when Gavin, on cold tires, hit the back of a Prototype. The fix was affected with racer tape.

First Second Place Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 15/18

After 23 hours of hard racing this is how close the First and Second place Corvette DPs were running together. The evenly matched Corvettes kept swapping places until the No. 10 team discovered it exceeded its driver limit rule. The No. 5 finished Second overall while the No. 10 was classified in 52nd.

Finish Line Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 16/18

The winning GTLM Corvette crosses the finish line a mere 0.478 seconds ahead of the Second place BMW. Perfect pit work and top driving efforts from Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, and Ryan Briscoe brought Corvette a sweet victory. Other than dirt and grime, the No. 3 was in perfect condition.

Winners Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 17/18

Winning drivers (from left) Ryan Briscoe, Jan Magnussen, and Antonio Garcia celebrate their picture perfect First place in GTLM, and Fourth overall, at the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona Victory Circle.

Trophies Corvette C7r Wins 2015 Daytonas Gtlm Class 18/18

First and Third place GTLM Corvette drivers display their trophies. From left, Third place co-drivers Simon Pagenaud, Oliver Gavin, and Tommy Milner and First place co-drivers Ryan Briscoe, Antonio Garcia, and Jan Magnussen share the Victory Circle podium.



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