It was a day for the record books for Chevrolet and Corvette Racing at Virginia International Raceway, as the American manufacturer and its factory squad wrapped up the GT manufacturer and teams’ championships in Saturday’s Oak Tree Grand Prix.
A third place finish for the No. 3 Corvette C6.R of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia was enough to give the bow-tie its record 10th championship, and second consecutive in the highly competitive GT category. The Pratt & Miller squad also clinched its 10th teams’ title, remarkably in only its 15th year of ALMS competition.
“This means everything to us,” said Corvette Racing team manager Gary Pratt. “Our number one goal when we start at Sebring is the manufacturers’ championship. Once we get that, we go on to the drivers and team championships.
“Chevrolet expects a lot out of us, and we just try to deliver. There is a lot of good engineering and a great group of mechanics and crew chiefs that execute in the shop, in the paddock and in the pits. Sometimes it looks easy but it’s really not.”
Saturday’s race was a perfect example, as the pair of Compuware-sponsored Corvettes started near the rear of the GT field after struggling in qualifying, which included an accident by the No. 4 car of Tommy Milner.
Both cars, however, climbed their way back into the fight and recorded third and fifth place finishes, respectively, in the penultimate ALMS round. The result was enough to eliminate BMW and Porsche from the championship chase.
“We were eighth and ninth on the grid, and they were many out there who would have written us off,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “We have been in that position before.
“The beauty of continuity and keeping a team together over the years is that you develop an inner strength that galvanizes the team to an extent that makes you literally unbeatable.
“This is a team that does not give up despite all the odds. We took a car that qualified eighth and ninth, but ran up front with both of them. That is a testament to the team Gary, the drivers and the crew.”
The only GT championship still on the line heading into the series-ending Petit Le Mans is the drivers’ title, with Magnussen and Garcia holding an 18-point gap over BMW Team RLL’s Dirk Mueller.
The duo, who will be joined by newly crowned GRAND-AM champion Jordan Taylor, will need to finish eighth or higher to take home the final ALMS GT drivers’ title.
“Now we go to Petit Le Mans with a good margin,” Magnussen said. “We can relax a little bit, and the pressure is on the 56 car to win or finish second. If we score even just a few points, I think we will have it.”