Talented Quartet Sharing the Same Equipment Makes for Tight Competition
By Jeff Olson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s always advantageous to have fast teammates. But when those teammates are your competition, the dynamic becomes more complicated.
Take the situation at Corvette Racing. The team’s two entries and four drivers are again fighting for the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class championship in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and, per usual, the fight is close and intense.
“I’d say it’s fun, but it’s stressful at the same time,” said Jordan Taylor, who drives the No. 3 Corvette Racing C8.R with Antonio Garcia. “There are no team orders of who will win the race. They let us race on track, but obviously any contact will be frowned upon. We had a head-to-head battle at Daytona, and the last couple of weekends have been head-to-head. The guys in the (No.) 4 car are professionals and two of the best in GT racing.”
As it stands after four of the 10 WeatherTech Championship events paying season-long points for the GT classes this season, Taylor and Garcia lead Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy, who share the team’s No. 4 Corvette C8.R, by 156 points. That lead was increased by successive pole positions and wins at Watkins Glen International by the No. 3 Corvette. In both races, the No. 4 wasn’t far behind.
The Corvettes are being pursued by the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19, whose full-season driver Cooper MacNeil is just 39 points behind Milner and Tandy. The No. 79 Porsche won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in March with MacNeil and co-drivers Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet but was derailed early in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on June 27 by a fire in the car.
The frustrating part for Milner and Tandy is knowing they’re on pace with the No. 3 car but not achieving comparable results.
“We’re doing everything right with the things we can control with the strategy,” Milner said after last week’s IMSA WeatherTech 240 at Watkins Glen. “Nick did an awesome job at the start to get us out front. It’s just not going our way right now. It’s tough, but I’m proud of the guys. I know they’re bummed. We’ve been fast and done everything right that we can control. We haven’t had the luck.”
He’s hoping the luck returns July 16-17 for the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut. The event will feature the GTLM and GT Daytona (GTD) classes, giving the GT classes a rare opportunity to enjoy top billing. It also amplifies the battle within Corvette Racing.
“(It) is difficult because they have the same car and same tools as you,” Garcia said of the No. 4. “I’m very happy for Corvette to go 1-2. We’re looking forward to the next few races, and then Le Mans is coming closer (Aug. 21-22, where both Corvettes and the Porsche will compete in the famous 24-hour race). We’re looking forward to that, too.”
With anticipation comes the knowledge that their teammates are likely their primary challengers.
“It’s great to have that rivalry, but it’s difficult when you’ve got such great drivers in both cars,” Taylor said. “You’re competing against the best in the same equipment. We’ve come out on top the last two races, but just as easily those guys could have won as well.”
Live coverage of the Northeast Grand Prix begins Saturday, June 17 at 3:10 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold’s TrackPass and IMSA Radio (XM 202, SiriusXM Online 992). The NBCSN telecast begins at 5:30 p.m.