The 24th annual Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta resulted in a rare double-DNF (did not finish) for Corvette Racing.
But by simply starting the final race of the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor clinched a sweep of GT Le Mans (GTLM) class championships for manufacturer, drivers and team in the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R. Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette claimed second in the standings.
The pair of mid-engine Corvettes combined to win seven of 10 GTLM races, including six 1-2 finishes. The title was the fifth in IMSA competition for Garcia, the fourth for Taylor and the second straight for them together in GTLM.
It was also the 15th championship achieved by America’s iconic sports car in GT competition since 1999, when Chevrolet and Pratt & Miller Engineering joined forces to form Corvette Racing. Corvette Racing secured championships in the GT1 and GT2 categories in the American Le Mans Series and continued to achieve success in GTLM since the U.S. sports car merger that created the WeatherTech Championship in 2014.
“This was a challenging season in many aspects, but the competitive spirit within the two Corvette C8.R teams has never been stronger,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president, Performance and Motorsports.
Joined by Nicky Catsburg, Taylor and Garcia won the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. The full-time duo then reeled off three consecutive wins in the summer – two at Watkins Glen International and one at Lime Rock Park – to build an unbeatable points cushion.
“Definitely amazing to get a championship for Antonio and I, and two in a row,” stated Taylor. “Amazing to finish up the GTLM era with two championships like that, and I think Antonio is the winningest driver in the class over its existence, so I am proud to have been his teammate for nine of those wins. Looking forward to fighting for a third (consecutive championship) next year.”
Milner and Tandy added a non-points race win on Detroit’s Belle Isle before putting together their own three-race win streak at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Long Beach and VIRginia International Raceway in the No. 4 Corvette. That was enough to secure a 1-2 for Corvette in the standings ahead of Cooper MacNeil in the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19.
MacNeil, Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet teamed to win a pair of endurance races, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and Motul Petit Le Mans, with MacNeil and Campbell placing first at the IMSA SportsCar Weekend at Road America.
While the 2021 season ended on a disappointing note for Corvette Racing, with both cars retiring due to accident damage, the team was proud to end the GTLM era with consecutive championships.
“Corvette was super strong, and probably even stronger this year,” Garcia said. “We just kept doing what we did last year, Jordan and I. We seem to be really good together. We didn’t think about the championship but somehow everything came back to us. My only downside was Sebring (where the No. 3 car retired with just six minutes remaining in the 12-hour contest), and not winning Petit Le Mans does hurt.”
In 2022, Corvette Racing will field a modified version of the C8.R for Garcia and Taylor in the new GTD PRO class of the WeatherTech Championship while Milner and Tandy will compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship, with both cars to be entered in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“This weekend is one of those reflection weekends where you remember everything you’ve done for the past two decades and what that means,” said Laura Klauser, who is wrapping up her first year as General Motors’ sports car racing program manager.
“There’s a lot of pride,” she said. “We’ve been here consistently for 20 years in some capacity. So, it’s a little bittersweet to say goodbye to something we’ve known and loved for as long as we have (with GTLM), but it’s also exciting to see what the future is going to hold.”
By 2024, Chevrolet will develop a version of the C8.R to comply with international GT3 regulations, and it will offer a turnkey race car to customer teams for the first time in the history of the Corvette Racing program.
“We’ve done different platforms – GT1 to GT2 and through all those – but the concept of what we were doing (as a dedicated factory-supported effort) was always the same,” Klauser said. “Now it’s a different world we’re getting into with GT3 and actually having a proper customer program. I think it’s going to challenge us to think in different ways and to try different things and get more creative. That will be exciting as we develop the car next year.
“IMSA has given us the opportunity to continue racing and to hit it out of the park with our GT3 car,” she added. “We’re really glad we were able to come to a decision together to allow us to transition and we appreciate them giving us this chance.”