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Corvette Drivers Not Concerned by Reduced GTLM Season Grid

No. 4 Corvette drivers reckon GTLM field quality won’t drop despite fewer factory teams…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy are unconcerned by the prospect of a reduced GT Le Mans grid in this year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The withdrawal of Porsche’s two-car factory program at the end of last year and uncertainty about whether BMW Team RLL will contest the upcoming season has left Corvette as the only manufacturer team currently confirmed for the full 2021 campaign.

Porsche will still be represented on the grid by a full-time privateer entry for WeatherTech Racing and Proton Competition, while Ferrari squad Risi Competizione has committed to this month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona season opener.

Although the full-season GTLM car count is set to be at its lowest figure since the post-merger IMSA championship launched in 2014, the drivers of the No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R are confident that the quality of the competition won’t be negatively affected.

“With this GT class, as always there are ebbs and flows,” Milner told Sportscar365.

“Some years we have nine or 10 cars racing, and some years we have less than that. At Corvette Racing, we enjoy the extra competition that we’ve had for years.

“Missing the factory Porsche team is not ideal, by any means. But it’s certainly no reason to look past the WeatherTech guys.

“There will still be some great drivers looking for race wins, and they’ll probably be going into the year feeling like an underdog in some ways, so they’ll be working extra hard to try to beat us.

“Daytona will be a big challenge, with the cars that are there. That’s our main focus for now.”

Tandy, who was a member of the CORE autosport Porsche factory team until the end of last year, echoed Milner’s sentiments and added that he believes GTLM’s high racing standard will be maintained even under the worst-case scenario of a three-car grid.

“It is what it is, at the end of the day,” said Tandy. “We’re still hoping that BMW will run the full season. This is a potential. But it only takes two cars to make a race.

“It’s great that WeatherTech and Proton have got together and are committed to the full season.

“You take the good years with the bad. I remember a couple of years back when the Fords and the Ferrari were there. It was the best GT racing in the world. Yes, this year there’s a car drop. But it’s not to say that it’ll lead to any less intense racing on the track.

“I’m looking forward to Daytona, for a start, where there’ll be a few good cars and lots of stuff with LMP3 being involved also. And then Sebring as well.

“And then past this, you’ve just got to look forward at what’s in front of you. It’s difficult to know what’s going to happen in the future.”

No. 4 Crew Pushing Teammates “As Much as We Can”

The outcome of the 2020 GTLM season, which saw Corvette’s No. 3 pairing of Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor win the drivers’ championship, has only served to motivate Milner and the No. 4 engineering crew heading into the C8.R’s second year.

Last season Milner and Oliver Gavin, who has been replaced in the lineup by Tandy, finished third in the standings with one victory while their teammates won five times.

“Those guys last year, both Jordan and Antonio, were very consistent,” said Milner.

“We saw sometimes at the start of races, those guys were very quick. It’s just lessons learned from last year, working with our engineer Chuck [Houghton] to try to understand what that was.

“It’s just understanding what some of those deficiencies were in some places, and what they were doing differently. We’ll be trying to find our own way as well, to try to find our own little tricks and secrets here and there.”

Milner, who is entering his 11th season as a Corvette Racing driver, added that the intra-team competition between the two crews has been a constant throughout the program and will continue regardless of which other teams and manufacturers are in GTLM.  

“I would say that the inner team rivalry has grown over the years in many ways,” he said.

“We’ve seen in the past when it was just Corvette Racing in the GT1 class at that time, the racing was still pretty epic.

“Fundamentally, we almost have to race ourselves anyway. Both teams of drivers are pushing each other constantly [even] if we don’t have a ton of competition for the shorter races, so that we’re at the top of our game when we go to Daytona, Sebring or Petit Le Mans.

“So we’ll definitely be pushing to beat those No. 3 car guys as much as we can throughout the year, and certainly the Proton Porsche guys as well.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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