DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – One hundred wins.
It’s a big milestone, and one that Corvette Racing has been chasing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship since the 2018 BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach. That was the storied team’s most recent victory, coming courtesy of the No. 4 Corvette C7.R team and co-drivers Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin.
There may be no better place for the team to get that elusive 100th win than Long Beach, where Gavin and Milner have won each of the past two years in the GT Le Mans class. In fact, the Corvette Racing team has won three of the past five BUBBA burger Sports Car Grands Prix – No. 3 C7.R teammates Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen also won there in 2014.
The team was in position for another potential victory in 2016 before a late-race dustup in the famed Long Beach hairpin gave the win to No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR co-drivers Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy. Overall, Corvette Racing has seven IMSA victories at Long Beach, far and away the most of any WeatherTech Championship team.
“Our success at Long Beach comes down to many things,” explains Gavin, who has a series-leading five victories on the 1.968-mile street circuit. “Fundamentally, Tommy and I have been in the position to win each of the last four years. Yes, things have had to go our way in some cases.”
Indeed, there have been some wacky circumstances. The aforementioned 2016 incident was one. The next year, the No. 3 team was on its way to the win only to get tangled up due to a last-lap incident in the hairpin, which opened the door for Milner and the No. 4 Corvette to take the checkered flag first.
“Three years ago, we were leading with two laps to go and got taken out at the last corner,” Gavin says. “But the last two years, we’ve taken our chances and taken them well. That’s what it’s all about driving around a street circuit – when to risk it, when not to, taking advantage of the mistakes of others and execution.”
On the point of 100 victories, astute fans of Corvette Racing will say, “Hang on a minute, Corvette Racing got its 100th win at Lime Rock in 2016.” And it was the 100th win for the program overall when you count the team’s eight 24 Hours of Le Mans victories.
But a Long Beach win will give the team 100 in IMSA competition, encapsulating the WeatherTech Championship, American Le Mans Series and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.
“It would be great to get another win there, for sure – No. 100 in IMSA for Corvette Racing,” Milner said. “To win three in a row at any track against this level of competition would be a great achievement. It also would be a great way to get ourselves back into championship contention.”
Corvette Racing knows all about contending for a championship, having won each of the past three GTLM titles. The No. 3 team won each of the past two years, while Gavin and Milner brought home the 2016 title for the No. 4 squad.
The No. 4 duo is currently eighth in the GTLM standings, 15 points behind the class-leading No. 911 pair of Pilet and Tandy with two of 11 races in the books. So for them, Long Beach could be exactly what the doctor ordered.
“For me, my success at Long Beach has been a bit of a surprise in some ways,” Milner said. “I’ve never really thought street races were my strong suit. The racing is always fun there, but I always felt more comfortable at other tracks. But I’ve had some of the best outcomes at Long Beach – my first Corvette IMSA win in 2012 with Oliver, and then we’ve been super strong the last four years with the Corvette C7.R.”
“Last year we had a good Corvette,” added Gavin. “We were strong, and Tommy had a great stint at the end. Sure, we got fortunate when two other cars had contact, but that’s one of the reasons we’ve won so many times at Long Beach. We’ve managed to execute passes cleanly and we’ve been smart.
“All it takes is a little bit of contact or a brush with the wall and your day is done. There are no second chances at Long Beach.”