It’s not often that you see factory drivers at the wheel of another manufacturer’s car, but a casual relationship between Corvette Racing and Audi has resulted in the two endurance racing giants loaning out its drivers to each other.
Earlier this year, Mike Rockenfeller and Marcel Fassler swapped their red-and-white suits for white-black-and-yellow uniforms, as the two Audi factory aces took part in both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Twelve Hours of Sebring as third drivers in the Corvette C7.Rs.
Corvette Racing, meanwhile, returned the favor in lending Antonio Garcia to the Audi-supported WRT squad for last month’s Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup season-opener at Monza, which is one of three races on the docket for the GM-employed Spaniard.
Additionally, Garcia’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship co-driver, Jan Magnussen, will also join the WRT squad for next month’s Blancpain GT round at Paul Ricard.
According to Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan, who has a long-standing relationship with Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, it’s the passion for success that has driven them both together.
“We all have an appreciation for the business, the sport, and I think the thing that really drives it is that [Dr.] Ulrich and I share a common goal in that we really care about the guys that drive these cars,” Fehan told Sportscar365.
“We know the struggle that they have in finding good rides, in finding good competition, in finding success, and the enjoyment that it brings to them.
“When you share those kind of common goals, relationships build and it results in what you see.”
The informal arrangement has already delivered success, with Fassler teaming with Corvette drivers Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin for GT Le Mans class honors at Daytona and Sebring.
Garcia, meanwhile, finished 5th in the highly competitive Pro Cup class at Monza alongside Will Stevens and Nico Mueller in the Spaniard’s first outing in an Audi R8 LMS car.
He rejoins the Belgian squad this weekend at Silverstone and is also slated to run with WRT at Paul Ricard.
“At the end of the day, the WRT bosses saw that if we have Rocky and Marcel doing those races, why not have Corvette guys do some with them?” Garcia told Sportscar365.
“There are so many drivers competing in that category, it’s not easy to find drivers available so they looked on the other side of the Pond here in the States.
“I think we gave them the best opportunity to have a favor back from Audi.”
Magnussen said he’s looking forward to the chance of racing against longtime co-driver Garcia at Paul Ricard, as the Dane will be in a separate WRT entry that weekend.
“For me it’s a great opportunity,” Magnussen told Sportscar365. “[WRT team principal] Vincent Vosse is an old teammate of mine from when I first started racing in Formula Fords.
“So we’ve been trying to do something together for five years now, but the dates have just been clashing.
“It’s great that it’s finally happening, and I look forward to being part of his team for a weekend.”
While Corvette and Audi do not directly compete against each other in the same class, Fehan admitted the relationship between the two brands is unique, in offering this kind of opportunity to its drivers.
“Road racing is truly a family deal,” Fehan said. “It’s always been that way and it probably always will.
“We recognize at the end of the day that we are in the same boat, it’s just that everyone has a different oar. Because we’re always moving the ball forward.
“That’s what makes this business of road racing so special and different from all other forms of racing.”