Magnussen & Garcia in # 3 Corvette poised to win 2017 IMSA GTLM Drivers Championship
By finishing 4th at Laguna Seca, the # 3 Corvette needs only to start the final race to win the GTLM Drivers Championship. The green flag drops for the Petit Le Mans at 10 am on Saturday Oct 7 at Road Atlanta. Chevrolet also leads the Manufacturer’s Championship by four points.
Planning on breaks, strategy and luck as outcomes, the Corvette Racing Team elected to qualify in race set-up mode.
That strategy put both cars behind most of the GTLM field at the start.
The big break came when # 67 Ford GT Richard Westbrook hit # 25 BMW M6 Bill Auberlin, both title contenders, about 1 hour into the 2 hour-40 min race.
Lead race engineer Kyle Millay lost no time calling in Antonio Garcia for tires and fuel. When the race resumed Garcia was up 5 spots to 2nd. Given the priority on earning points vs winning, the # 3 team played it safe by staying ahead of its closest contenders. At the end, 4th place did the trick.
Later on, Magnussen skirted disaster by dodging the GTD # 80 AMG of Mike Skeen who only seconds before was spun out entering the blind downhill Corkscrew turn. Call it good luck as the flaggers had no warning of the incident that took place out of sight just beyond their position.
The # 4 of Tommy Milner was the victim of bad luck on the first lap. A GTD Lambo was shoved into the rear under braking for the Andretti hairpin turn. The undertray diffuser was dislodged which gradually worsened the handling.
The problem was finally corrected only by a later stop to replace it.
John Edwards and Martin Tomczyk, non-title contenders in the # 24 BMW M6 won the race which all but assures the title. The # 912 Porsche, another contender, was penalized for making repairs when the pits were closed.
In what could be the curtain call for the C7-R, it will go down in history by winning consecutive championships in 2016 and 2017 against considerable odds thanks to the best team money can’t buy.
When the mid-engine C8-R appears and with all due respect to the Corvette Racing Team, a lot of fans are hoping a new policy will prevail allowing privateer Corvette racers to compete in IMSA GTD, PWC and other series.