Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia said the lack of a safety car stifled their GT Le Mans victory bid during Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Both Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs gambled on a three-stop strategy for the two-hour, 40-minute race, while the other front-runners opted to complete the duration on two stops.
The latter call ended up favoring the No. 66 Ford GT which won in the hands of Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand, who were originally planning to join the Corvettes on the more aggressive three-stop setup.
Magnussen and Garcia ended up finishing third in class after Garcia overtook the No. 25 Team RLL BMW M8 GTE with 10 minutes left on the clock, but the pair felt they had the capability to win under different circumstances.
“I think that everybody was counting on there being a safety car at some point, but then we had none and that was it,” Magnussen told Sportscar365.
“The Ford guys changed their strategy from three stops to two stops, but we got the most out of it with what we had. The situation we were in with our qualifying positions, we had to make a big call and stick to it.”
Garcia explained how Corvette’s near-victory in last month’s Road America round using a three-stop strategy inspired it to try the same at Laguna Seca.
“We knew that on these kinds of race tracks where the tire degradation is high, this can be done,” he said.
“We almost did it at Road America. With the battery change we had to do on the last stop, I think we would have been able to win the race. So we knew that the strategy could work, but everything needed to run really smooth.
“The yellows didn’t play in our favor, but we were also able to go up from seventh to third which is not bad.”
The Spanish driver also reckoned he had the pace to grab second place from the No. 24 BMW of Jesse Krohn and John Edwards, after overtaking RLL’s sister No. 25 machine.
“I probably lost a little bit too much time passing the No. 25 [BMW] because they were together by the time I got to them,” explained Garcia.
“He defended really well, but by the time I got by him, the No. 24 was way too far away for me. I almost got there.
“It was a shame we didn’t get a yellow at any time during the race because that would have put us back to zero and us with 10-12 laps less on the tires. Even for the No. 66 it would have been tough [for them] to retain the position.
“I have to say the No. 66 had really good pace. We didn’t have much for them, so our gamble was for a late yellow and to try to beat them at the end, but it didn’t happen.
“Knowing where we were coming from, we stuck to the plan, I think it was a good call from Corvette Racing.”
Both Corvettes were on the same three-stop strategy, with the team’s No. 4 car of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin also getting past de Phillippi in the latter stages to finish fourth in class having trailed its sister car throughout the race.
Gavin suggested that the No. 4 crew was lining up to challenge the No. 3 but ultimately fell back in the ebb and flow of traffic.
“Jan pitted one lap before and I wanted to push on and do a good in-lap, but I just got smashed into traffic,” said the Englishman.
“That kind of set us off with the No. 3 car, but Tommy did a great job of catching up. Our third and fourth was the result of fantastic strategy and execution by the guys.”
John Dagys contributed to this report