This weekend’s Michelin GT Challenge at Virginia International Raceway marks a homecoming of sorts of Corvette Racing driver Tommy Milner, who along with co-driver Oliver Gavin leads the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship GT Le Mans class.
The Leesburg, Va. resident expects to have plenty of friends and family in attendance as he pushes towards a second series title at a venue that has been special to him and his career.
“It’s Virginia, it’s home for me,” Milner to Sportscar365. “I have friends scattered around in the Richmond area and it’s easier to get them to this race.
“It’s been a great track for me with my memories there.
“My first ever GT car race was there in 2004, and I actually qualified on pole there my first year, and we clinched my first championship there with Corvette Racing in 2012, so I’ve got some good memories there.”
Milner and and the factory Pratt & Miller squad head into VIR in search of a third consecutive class win for the No. 4 Corvette C7.R, and the extra carrot of an overall win in this weekend’s GT-only format dangling in front of them.
“It’s cool for us in GTLM to be the top class, so to speak,” said Milner.
“It’s fun for us as a team and as drivers knowing that there will be more opportunities for us to have close racing, more opportunities to have the TV focus on us.
“This gives us another opportunity to showcase the great racing we have in the GT classes.”
Milner put in a star drive last time out at Road America, going from fifth on the final restart with less than 10 minutes remaining to the class win, increasing he and Gavin’s points lead to 14 points over Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe.
With three rounds to go, the heat is on, with GTLM taking center stage for the first — and only time — this season.
“To go for overall honors, we don’t really change how we approach the weekend,” Milner said. “But certainly there’s something to be said for having not nearly as much traffic with the faster prototype cars passing us.
“It’ll change the dynamic of the race because, in our GTLM class, we won’t have to worry about traffic early in the race.
“We’ll have a good 30-45 minutes of no traffic and just us racing hard up that the front, so that’s exciting for sure.
“We’ve had some really, really good racing the last couple of years at VIR, and not just in our class but other classes as well.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see another exciting last couple of laps at VIR this weekend.”
Milner said the inherent challenge of the VIR circuit, plus the GT-only format and huge championship stakes, make this an exciting and critical weekend.
“At no point is there a corner on the race track that’s easy,” he said. “Even the uphill esses that on newer tires can be easy-flat, they can be pretty challenging at the end of a stint.
“This year with a little more downforce the left-hander that follows the uphill esses there, that was very fast last year and I can imagine it will be even quicker now this year.
“I’m looking forward to trying that out with our upgraded aero.
“We have to work super hard to up our game and push for as many points as possible. But the worst thing we can do in this situation is shoot ourselves in the foot.”