Corvette Racing found itself in the expected fight among GTE Pro cars in the opening six hours of the 86th 24 Hours of Le Mans on Saturday. The action in the category – featuring 17 cars and six manufacturers – was fast and furious with one of the team’s Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs in the thick of things.
Antonio Garcia was back at the wheel of the No. 63 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Corvette one-quarter into the race and in eighth position. All three drivers – Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller – put in double-stints to open the race, which saw the Corvette run anywhere from fifth to 11th after starting from the ninth position.
Garcia was the first driver in and ran as high as fifth during Garcia’s opening run. The team’s second stop cycled Magnussen back to ninth, and he drove a measured two stints before handing over to Rockenfeller, who had to endure two safety car periods in his time.
The periods did bunch up a majority of the GTE Pro field with no less than 10 cars within 15 seconds once the field got going again near the five-hour mark. Both Rockenfeller and Marcel Fässler in the No. 64 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Corvette were in the midst of a huge multi-class fight in which everyone remained unscathed. For the next 45 minutes, Rockenfeller did an admirable job to bring the Corvette to the pits for the handover to Garcia.
The No. 64 trio of Fässler, Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner ran four laps down after a suspension problem at the right-front of the car developed in the opening hour with Gavin at the wheel. He had worked his way up from 15thin the opening laps to 12th before Gavin reporting a strange feeling at the front of the Corvette. He drove two stints before Milner’s first run, and the team brought the car into the garage after Milner reported trouble with the Corvette’s handling as well.
JAN MAGNUSSEN, NO. 63 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R: “I had kind of an interrupted first stint with all the slow zones. I was doing mainly five-minute laps in the beginning. But the car feels good; we’re on the same pace as the leaders and well within the group (of lead GTE Pros cars). I’m very happy with the changes we made to the car from qualifying to the race. There are now 10 cars within 10 seconds (after the second safety car period), so that’s quite extraordinary. The class leader twice picked up the right safety car and put the rest of the class almost a lap down, but that’s the way these things go. Sometimes it works with you, sometimes against you. Hopefully it works for us better later.”
MIKE ROCKENFELLER, NO. 63 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R: “That was quick a tough stint for me. I was quite tense (Rocky’s first race stint in Le Mans since 2012). But it will get better as we get further into the race. I had some understeer in the second half of my second stint which didn’t make it easier for me. It looks like we’re there with the others, maybe lacking just a little bit of pace. We’ll see, there are still 18 hours to go.”
OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 64 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R: “The start was pretty frantic. All of our class was running together with me at the back of the queue. So I could get monster tows down the straights but into the braking zones and you’d have to be super careful not to run into the back of someone. I got by one of the Ferraris and then had some good, fun racing with one of the BMWs. In my second stint, I came into the Dunlop Chicane, just touched one of the curbs on the inside and felt something strange at the right front. As I went down through the Esses, the car started to pull to the right. I lost a little bit of time, and the car was behaving very strangely. I kept the team informed of what was happening but there was still reasonable pace in the car, so we decided to continue. I think maybe something on the pit stop when the car went up in the air, whatever was being held in place by me running around came apart. So when Tommy got in, the car was very, very strange. I don’t know if we still have a full handle on it. We’re continuing to battle with it. It was fun racing, and I enjoyed it. But like the rest of the team, I’m frustrating and disappointed that we’ve had this problem. I don’t feel I drove through there any differently than in the laps before. We just don’t know why we’ve had this problem. It’ll be a big battle for us to get any form of result.”
Source. Corvette Racing