Antonio Garcia comes from behind to win GTLM at the 65th running of the Sebring 12 Hour race
Antonio Garcia in the # 3 C7.R Corvette pulled off an upset against a juggernaut of mid-engine turbo V6 Ford GTs and the new mid-engine Porsche 911GT. The mood was positive but reserved as you can tell from Oliver Gavin in this pre-race video. The Corvettes had qualified 3rd and 5th.
Less than 2 hours into the race Corvette fans watched in dismay as the # 4 was pushed behind the wall. An overheating problem from what must have been really serious like a cracked block or cylinder head could not be fixed. The odds of a strong finish, let alone a win, were now cut in half.
The # 3 ran among the leading Ford GTs for a big part of the race, cycling through a series of pit stops for refueling, tire and driver changes. Thanks to a wealth of experience with a host of conditions at Sebring, Corvette engineers had an edge. They dialed in a set-up that translated to pit strategy that helped win the race. The crew performed flawlessly and there were no mistakes by drivers Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller.
Had the Ford team thought better and hedged their bet, a variety of strategies would have proven more effective against a single car.
A big break came as darkness began to fall. A 40-minute full course caution allowed the # 3 to gain 3 positions from 6th to 3rd as a result of another exceptional pit stop.
The # 3 came in for a final stop with about 70 minutes to go. Garcia strapped into the car, exited with the lead and held off the field for a miraculous run to the finish. Arguably the best drive of his career.
The entire team watched anxiously and cheered as the race wound down to the finish.
As the track cooled the # 3 Corvette actually worked even better, gaining time over its pursuers. GM team manager Doug Fehan puts it best: “winning is 25% car, 25% driver, 50 % luck and 100% teamwork”.
The Corvette has now won Sebring 11 times including the last 3 years straight.
Photos courtesy of Jan Magnussen, Richard Prince, Nigel Dobbie, GM and others
Next race is the Streets of Long Beach Sat April 8 hosted by Indy Cars
The crowds that pack the pre-race grid are a Sebring tradition
So is the Corvette Corral shown here in 1967 now going on more than 50 years