Celebrating its 20th season of competition, Corvette Racing has enjoyed considerable success at several venues in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. However, there’s no place like Sebring for the factory Pratt & Miller-run squad.
The team has claimed class victories 11 times since its first Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring triumph in 2002, when Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and current driver Oliver Gavin took the GTS win.
Next month, the team will be seeking its fourth consecutive Sebring GTLM victory.
It won last year with Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R, two years ago with Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler in the No. 4 car and in 2015 with the No. 3 Corvette co-driven by Garcia, Magnussen and Ryan Briscoe, who now drives the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT.
“Sebring certainly holds a lot of great memories for Corvette Racing, some very interesting memories, some not so interesting,” said Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan. “Early on when we started here, this was our Bermuda Triangle. Back in 1999 and 2000, we couldn’t do anything right here. No matter what we did, it turned out to be disastrous.
“But as usual, we kept our shoulder to the wheel, heads down and have developed a pretty good relationship with the track right now.
“The cars like it here. This is a very difficult racetrack from the standpoint of durability and reliability, everybody knows that. If you can win here in 12 hours, you can win anyplace with the car. The drivers like the track because it’s fast.
“It takes a great deal of skill and experience to be able to run the full 12 hours without hitting anything, without breaking anything and without running off the racetrack.
“I think when you put all those things together, that has really contributed to our success here. Just the fact that we’ve been here, this is our 20th year here, when you have that level of continuity, it certainly serves as a great benefit when you’re going up against the competition.”
While Sebring is the venue where Corvette Racing has had the most success, the team also owns eight class victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Sebring has long been considered by many to be one of the best racetracks in the world to prepare for Le Mans. But Fehan offers a word of caution.
“There are people who say Sebring is a great prep for Le Mans, and I think certainly it is,” he said. “But Sebring is its own unique challenge. We don’t come here focusing on Le Mans. We come here focusing on Sebring. The minute you lose sight of what’s going on here is just the same time you’re going to have a serious amount of trouble.
“You need to be prepared for this event and this event alone. Don’t. Lose. Focus. This racetrack is so unique in so many ways.
“You can have a setup here on a Thursday afternoon test session and it’s the best setup you’ve ever had and you can show up on Friday morning with a test session and it’s like you’ve never been here before and nothing has happened to the track. The temperature’s the same, it looks the same, you’re always chasing it here.
“That’s the challenge that not only develops the car, but it helps develop the team. You’ve got to understand what Sebring is. It is totally unique. There is no other place at which we race that is like Sebring, that is why it requires the level of focus that you have to give it.”