DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Antonio Garcia, one of the GT Le Mans class winners from the 59th Rolex 24 at Daytona, tested positive for COVID-19 and missed a sizable portion of the event’s closing stages as a result.
The 40-year-old Spaniard co-drove the No. 3 Corvette C8.R alongside Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg, but was pulled from competition shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday morning.
That left Catsburg and Taylor to finish the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic as a duo, with Taylor rallying the entry back from a drive-through pit penalty for the eventual class win.
Sunday marked Garcia’s second Rolex 24 win in the GT Le Mans class, following his triumph in the 2015 edition of the event. It was his third Rolex 24 class win overall, as he was part of the Brumos Racing Porsche team that took the overall victory in 2009.
Due to the positive test result, Garcia was not present for any post-race festivities, including the television interviews on NBC and the traditional victory lane photos.
Roughly 10 minutes after the conclusion of the race, Corvette Racing officials released a statement regarding Garcia’s absence from the car in the closing hours.
“As part of international COVID travel protocols, all drivers and team members traveling in and out of the US are required to take a COVID test before and after any race activities. While Antonio Garcia tested negative in preparation for his arrival for the Rolex 24, we have received notice that he has now tested positive in preparation to depart the country,” read the Corvette Racing statement. He was immediately pulled from competition upon notification of the positive test result and, although he wasn’t experiencing any symptoms, will no longer participate in any additional race activities at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“Upon consulting with IMSA and its Event Operations Protocols, the series determined Corvette Racing met all conditions under the IMSA event protocols that allowed it to compete in a safe and responsible manner,” the statement continued. “We have notified crew members and others who had contact with Antonio and will conduct testing with racing team members after 72 hours, per CDC guidelines.”
IMSA officials released a short statement regarding the situation after the race Sunday.
“Following the guidelines outlined in the Event Operations Protocols manual, Corvette Racing alerted IMSA that driver Antonio Garcia tested positive for COVID-19, the IMSA statement read. “We wish Antonio well in his recovery.”
Garcia is a 16-time class winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship since joining Corvette Racing in 2014.
He’s also a three-time GT Le Mans class champion (2017-’18, ’20), including co-driving to the series title last year with Taylor in the debut season for the mid-engined Corvette C8.R.
According to Garcia in a Spanish-language post on social media Sunday evening, this is his second positive COVID-19 test result in two months.
Garcia wrote that he tested positive and was symptomatic back in December.
Speaking to the media in a post-race availability Sunday following their win, both Taylor and Catsburg said they felt safe throughout the Rolex 24, despite Garcia’s positive test.
“Corvette Racing and Pratt and Miller take safety and health very seriously, so the protocols that we have are super serious,” Taylor said. “The drivers don’t really get to interact even in a 24-hour (race), I didn’t even see Nicky all race long. And pretty much just passed the car off to the next guy and see each other after the race.
“So for me and Antonio … I saw him before the race, and that was the last time. Even then we’re always social distancing. We’re always taking the correct protocols,” Taylor added. “Surface to surface, we’re wearing gloves, baklavas, helmets in the car, so nothing in the car could be at risk for us. So for us, we didn’t have too much concern. We took the lead from IMSA and NASCAR to trust ourselves. We’re here to compete. They gave us this platform to race and to be here.
“The last thing we want to do is break their protocols and do something unsafe or unhealthy.”
Catsburg, a Dutch driver, noted he tested negative Saturday and planned to undergo an additional test Monday before traveling to Europe.
“I feel safe and never felt under any threat from his positive result,” Catsburg said.