After a drive back from two laps down in the middle of the night – due to a flat left-rear tire and a rear brake change – the No. 3 C8.R moved back to not just contention for the Rolex victory but to the lead just before sunrise Sunday morning.
The chaotic events of the middle eight hours looked like they would give way with a caution-free run of more than five hours into mid-morning. Taylor drove a double-stint for his final laps in the car and led the class multiple times. At that point and with a little more than three hours to go, Milner took over from Taylor and drove two stints of hard, intense racing that saw the Corvette and two other competitors swap the GTD PRO lead.
Milner gave way to Garcia for an even more chaotic final one hour, 45 minutes. The top three cars – the 3 Corvette, the 14 Lexus and 79 Mercedes – swapped back and forth through three full-course caution periods in the span of an hour and 20 minutes before a final 26-minute run to the flag with Garcia coming home second in class.
An up-and-down middle eight hours saw Corvette Racing re-emerge from two laps down and back into contention for a class victory as daylight arrived Sunday. The three Corvette Racing drivers each drove triple-stints through the darkness as they rotated through the C8.R for the second time.
Garcia, who started the race Saturday, worked with the Corvette Racing engineers to improve tire performance through his three stints. By the time he handed over to Taylor a little before the 10-hour mark, the C8.R was in a better state than when Garcia took over as Taylor left the pitlane in the class lead thanks to a solid stop by the Corvette pit crew.
Things began to look dire near the 10.5-hour mark when the No. 3 Corvette suffered a left-rear flat tire just before Taylor came on the Turn 1 speedway banking while running second in class. He nursed the car back to pitlane even as the tire came off the wheel before the Corvette made it back to pit entry.
The team quickly changed tires but had to stop a lap later to change the Corvette’s rear brakes due to damage from the flat tire. It dropped the No. 3 C8.R to two laps down.
Critically, Taylor was able to stay ahead of the GTD PRO leader and not lose another lap before a full-course yellow just before the halfway point of the race. The Corvette Racing crew got a lap back during a pass-around before stopping for fuel and tires, and then the crew changed the front brakes a lap later to return the Corvette to full strength – and the lead lap – with just over 11-and-a-half hours to go.
Taylor gave way to Milner from the sixth position in class about an hour later with the Corvette rejoining in fifth. Less than an hour into his opening stint, the race’s eighth full-course caution drew Milner closer to the front. He ran third in class and seven seconds from the lead as the race entered the final eight hours.
Corvette Racing’s next event in the WeatherTech Championship is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday, March 18.