Antonio Garcia said the battle for GT Le Mans class honors in Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen was a “flat out fight” from the drop of the green flag.
The Spaniard and Corvette Racing co-driver Jordan Taylor scored their first class win since the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, surviving an intense battle with their sister No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R of Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner as well as the pair of Team RLL BMW M8 GTEs.
While having claimed pole, an accident by an LMP2 car in the split start made it “a little confusing” to Garcia as he drove through debris and ultimately lost the position to Milner prior to the first of four full course cautions.
“From that point on, it was a flat-out fight with our teammates and the BMWs,” said Garcia. “There was no time to rest. At times we were behind and at another times we were ahead.
“With about 2:30 left, the two BMWs went on a different strategy so we had to cover them.
“We split ours with the 4 because we had to do it. That put us ahead of them at the time but they got ahead when the last pit stop came.
“We had the pace and knew it was going to be not only a lot of fast laps but also to manage tire wear and tire temperature. Stints here were very hard on the tires.
“The 4 car lost some pace at the end. I don’t know if they had some trouble. It would have been nice to get a Corvette 1-2 but in GTLM you cannot miss a thing.
“As soon as you start losing time, other cars are on you.
“Even at the end, it felt like I had a comfortable margin over John (Edwards) of about three or four seconds. Then all the classes got together with about two laps to go – DPis, GTDs, LMP2s, LMP3s and us.
“Fortunately there were no crashes and no yellows, and I managed to stay ahead and bring home a victory.”
Garcia said he had a number of close calls while in traffic.
“I had a three-wide I think with the 48 with Kobayashi or whoever was driving going into the grass on my right,” he said. “I was just praying that any car wouldn’t hit me.
“That was the thing there… to stay calm but be aggressive because the No. 24 was there right behind me.
“Initially I played it a little bit safe but when I saw him coming, I knew I had to go.
“That is the classic thing. We saw this at Sebring already. With all these classes, and the way we do these restarts with all the LMP3s going ahead of us, it creates some difficult situations on the track.
“But when you have that many classes on the track, that is the way it is. You need to live with that and play it smarter than the rest. It’s not only about being fast but being smart enough to clear everybody.”
The win for Taylor marked his first career at Watkins Glen International in one of the few tracks the second-generation driver hadn’t visited victory lane before.
It also extended his and Garcia’s points lead in GTLM to 81 points over BMW’s Augusto Farfus, Jesse Krohn and John Edwards, who are only Michelin Endurance Cup entrants this year.
“Watkins Glen has always been a big one, the Six Hours especially,” said Taylor. “I finished second back in 2011 with Autohaus where we probably could have won the championship with that win.
“It’s been a long time coming, but it is great to be back here with Corvette Racing.
“The first time here with the C8.R and with testing, to come out here and win the race, and have a possible 1-2… it was just an unfortunate event there for the No. 4 there at the end, but I can’t be prouder of the whole team.”