Lamborghini driver Andrea Caldarelli felt that Corvette Racing had “pace when it wanted” on its way to winning the GTD Pro class at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Nicky Catsburg, Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia led for large parts of the race before delivering the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R’s first victory in GTD trim at last weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round.
Caldarelli felt that the Florida-based TR3 squad, with assistance from Lamborghini Squadra Corse, “maximized everything” in terms of its own performance but viewed the Corvette as “very tough” to match.
The sole Corvette on the grid received a Balance of Performance adjustment shortly before the final practice session that consisted of it being given an air restrictor diameter increase, equating to around 20 additional horsepower.
Caldarelli described the BoP update as surprising while Corvette driver Catsburg felt it brought the American brand “back into contention” to compete for the win.
“It was a very tough race for sure,” Caldarelli told Sportscar365.
“We were battling all the time with the BMW and the Corvette. I think we maximized everything we had in our pocket. We could see that they had [extra] pace when they wanted.
“It was very tough to catch them. Every time we were getting close to them, it looked like they started to have pace again so it was very tough.
“At least we know that we did almost a flawless race.
“We saw a bit of performance [from the Corvette] out there during free practice. We also saw them in Daytona. I don’t know what really happened with them during the race, but their pace was there.
“So we were a bit surprised about that BoP change. Then in the race, we saw that they were very quick.”
BMW M Team RLL driver Philipp Eng echoed Caldarelli’s sentiments that the Corvette was tough to beat, with the Austrian describing it as “too strong for everyone.”
Eng, whose BMW M4 GT3 was one of the GTD Pro front-runners, commended the Corvette crew on its victory and suggested that the GM brand’s car was the strongest.
The No. 24 BMW that Eng shared with Nick Yelloly and Marco Wittmann was a podium contender for most of the race but dropped out of the mix in the penultimate hour due to gearbox issues.
“It was the first time that we brought it together, because Daytona was not so successful,” Eng told Sportscar365.
“So the team worked their asses off to put it together nicely. It was very driveable. We probably couldn’t have won because the Corvette was really quick, but the guys would have deserved a podium.
“Corvette were strong. But those guys know exactly what they are doing and have very good drivers. They didn’t do any mistakes. For me, they deserved the victory.”
Eng thought that the BMW would not have been able to overcome the Corvette on-track had it maintained its mechanical reliability until the end.
“I think they were just a bit too strong for everyone,” he said. “The Lamborghini was also strong. I didn’t understand the Mercedes’ performance; they were really quick in some of the stints.
“I think we probably would have given [Corvette] a hard time but, ultimately, I don’t think it would have been enough.
“We had a few intense stints. I had one or two against Nicky [Catsburg]. I would rather have him as my teammate! He is super fair, but I just know how strong he is.
“It was very intense: one time we jumped them on the pit stop and we were in the lead. It was really good fun.
“I think ultimately, if it would have really come down to the wire, my feeling tells me that they would have had the upper hand.”
Catsburg suggested that the track at Sebring suited the GTD version of the Corvette C8.R better than Daytona, where both entered cars ran into problems.
He indicated that the BoP tweak helped bring the car back into the frame after it finished near the bottom of the GTD Pro pile in the first three practice sessions.
“I think the nature of both tracks… Daytona is a lot about going in a straight line and on the banking,” said Catsburg. “We had no top end there. This was very difficult.
“In Sebring, this was always going to be a bit easier than Daytona.
“But at the start of the weekend, we really, really struggled. We got a little break, which definitely helped us and brought us back into contention.
“It was not easy at all. It was really tough on the tires and a long time in the middle of the race.”
Identifying how the BoP adjustment affected Corvette Racing, Catsburg said: “I would say it gave us some lap time.
“It’s always difficult to say because you never really know where you are until you’re in the race.
“In practice you don’t know what people are doing in terms of fuel loads and quali runs or race runs. It’s difficult to say in terms of lap times. I wouldn’t know, but it’s power. It always helps.”