IMSA Spotlight: Tommy Milner
Driver, No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R
Are you still on a high after claiming GTLM class victory at the Rolex 24?
“Yes absolutely. Looking back on the last 12 months, winning at Le Mans and Daytona… it seems a little surreal. It still hasn’t quite sunk in. Being able to win those in a six-month stretch is pretty special.
“For me, Daytona is especially important considering what that race has meant for my dad and his team. It was one that escaped us both for a number of years. We came pretty close last year, and we were all excited and ecstatic to finally get the win this year.”
What was it like sitting in the pit lane watching Olly and Antonio battle for the win in the closing minutes?
“Everyone talks about how every driver wants to be in the car at the end like that. Usually it’s for moments like that when you don’t have to watch and see what’s happening on the TV screens. It wasn’t really looking that good for us with about two to three hours to go.
“My emotions turned from being OK with a podium even though we had led the most laps; it felt a little disappointing because it just felt like an uphill battle. But as the race played out, things turned in our favor.
“It was almost impossible to watch the last 30 minutes. In our situation, I was privately hoping the team would tell them not to race and hold formation! But in the end, it all worked out perfectly. You can think about all the things that could have happened if things went wrong. But it all went right and was some of the best racing we’ve seen in our class in years, which is saying something. We were really happy to be the ones celebrating and getting a Rolex.
“You’re just in the moment in those last laps. You look at the TV screens at corners ahead to see what kind of traffic is coming up and a couple of screens behind to see who is coming. You hope that those traffic situations play out in your favor but you also know they could hurt you. It’s so hard to watch and sit there; you’re thinking about all the ways that things could go wrong and all the ways it could go right.”
Where does the Daytona class win rank in your career?
“It’s so hard to stack them against each other. If you look at the sports car world, Le Mans is up there and Daytona is up there and Sebring is up there. For me, Le Mans was always the biggest because that was the one race that was always high on my dad’s list of trying to win there.
“He never had that chance. He also had a lot of success at Daytona with a long history there. I always thought of those races as a kid and thinking about how much it meant to my dad. I would say Le Mans is just a tick above Daytona but certainly getting a Rolex at the end of it makes it that much sweeter. It always adds a little bit of incentive for us drivers.”
Can you share the story about where your winning Rolex watch ended up going?
“It was nothing that I had planned beforehand. When I got the Rolex on the podium, I had a funny feeling that the watch wasn’t mine. I didn’t even look at it until the next morning. I kind of looked at it and it still didn’t feel like mine. I started thinking about what it’s taken to get to this point.
“Dad has had a bit of a rough go the last couple of months with my stepmom passing away. The more I thought about it, I decided I wanted to give it to him. He had given both my sisters a Rolex for their 30th birthday, and he gave me a black-faced Daytona watch on my 25th.
“I’ve got mine that he gave me as a gift so I wanted to repay him for everything he’s done for me. All the opportunities I’ve had ultimately started with him. I’m hoping that this isn’t the only I win there, though! I’d love to get another and have it for my own one day!”
Corvette Racing is coming off testing at Sebring. What was the focus of the test and do you feel prepared going into the 12-Hour?
“We had a really good test. The car was fast and most of all comfortable to drive. It’s quite a different experience driving there compared to Daytona, which is way less physical than Sebring. Now we’re seeing how the updates to the car with new aero are coming to fruition.
“The cornering speeds are quite high, which is fun for us as drivers to have a car that is quick in the fast sections but makes a ton of grip in the low-speed parts. We were able to get Rocky and Marcel some time in the car at Sebring because it is quite a different experience driving it in full downforce trim compared to a low package at Daytona. As you’d expect, they took to it pretty quick.
“It was a good chance to get them comfortable with themselves so they can hop in and go. Between that and some other items on the list to check off that we were able to get through. We’re definitely coming from a position of strength just because we have some knowledge on these cars from previous years.
“We’ll have to work extra hard to keep any advantage over our competitors. We’ve explored a lot of avenues and options to make our cars quick, and there’s more to go. Their potential is maybe a little bit higher than ours, so we’ll keep working at it and making progress.”