Antonio Garcia thought his chances of victory in the Michelin GT Challenge were over, having encountered an aerodynamic issue with his Chevrolet Corvette C8.R just as he assumed the lead of the race.
The Spaniard took his No. 3 Corvette to an unexpected victory Saturday at Virginia International Raceway — Corvette Racing’s fourth IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship class win in a row — after a left-rear tire issue for the leading No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR-19 of Nick Tandy.
The issue for Tandy, which forced the Porsche to pit lane with 18 minutes to go, came exactly at the same time as the No. 3 Corvette’s diffuser came loose while on the front straight.
“It was literally when I was watching the 911 going by the pit lane. At the same time I had a massive vibration,” Garcia explained.
“Initially I thought it was a tire blowing up… I thought it was terminal because it felt really, really bad. But once I got used to it and it wasn’t really interfering with the performance. It was definitely loose.
“I had enough of a gap to the BMW, like 12-13-14 seconds, with that I could manage that in a way. It was very, very stressful to keep going and not knowing what would happen if it would fall off.
“Luckily the C8 is very strong in those conditions and I’m sure the engineers thought about that.”
Garcia, who had a hefty lead over the No. 25 Team RLL BMW M8 GTE of Bruno Spengler at that point, said it took him a few laps to get back into the groove, knowing he’d be able to limp home with the damaged car.
“It took me three or four laps to be cautious,” he said. “But once I realized it was hanging on, I stepped up my pace a little bit more and tried to make it difficult for [the BMW].
“About 200 km/h, the whole car was shaking. I knew it was coming from the back but even the front end was moving.
“Luckily I think we lost a tiny bit of rear floor so maybe that full vibration [was reduced] a little bit. But definitely the grip wasn’t the same.
“We were maybe a little faster down the straights; who knows.
“It was kind of challenging to drive. But once I found out what line to use and to keep the tires on the ground, it went my way.
“I was very happy that traffic wasn’t very bad at that time and I managed to stay ahead. Luckily we had that gap, so I’m very happy.”
It marked Garcia and co-driver Jordan Taylor’s third GT Le Mans class win in the last four races and their second straight after taking top class honors at Road America on the final lap.
Taylor, who drove nearly two hours in the car on Saturday, said it was like a race of attrition, with nearly every GTLM car hitting trouble at one stage or another.
“It felt like an endurance race with all the issues everyone was having,” he said. “Lots of guys were making mistakes on track, going off, pit stop issues, tire issues.
“For us it was just damage control and minimizing mistakes, which was out of character for IMSA [teams] to see that many issues happening.
“I think we had the least amount of mistakes and that’s why we won.”