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Corvette’s “Reunion” of Former Staff in Sebring Double-Duty

Corvette team manager Ben Johnson explains the double-duty challenges of ‘Super Sebring’…

Photo: John Dagys

Corvette Racing has called on former staff who have moved on to other GM projects to help run its expanded two-championship approach at Sebring.

The Pratt & Miller squad is entering a Chevrolet Corvette C7.R into Friday’s 1000-mile WEC race in addition to its full-season IMSA obligation with two cars in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday.

Reigning IMSA GT Le Mans class champions Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia will share driving duties with their Michelin Endurance Cup co-driver Mike Rockenfeller in both contests.

Corvette has 15 staff working between the WEC and IMSA programs, while team manager Ben Johnson is one of six ‘team leaders’ spearheading the entire weekend effort.

The last time Corvette contested two different series on the same weekend was at Circuit of The Americas in 2014, when it was able to draw on personnel from the now-defunct Cadillac GT3 program.

“We’re happy to have the setup that we do, but the logistics of adding a third car – it’s another team,” Johnson told Sportscar365.

“Luckily we have people who are experienced from previously being in Corvette [Racing] that now work in other areas of the car company, or from the Cadillac program [who] have come over and helped.

“It’s like a reunion of people you used to work with at Corvette who are now working back on the WEC car.”

Corvette’s decision to run in both series was seen as a mutually beneficial experience for the WEC and IMSA camps.

“We look at it as trying to utilize the time we have with WEC – it’s the same car, the same tires, the same drivers, and some minor BoP differences,” said Johnson.

“What can we learn for IMSA? And then the time we spend in IMSA can teach us how to take care of WEC as well.

“While it probably isn’t a competitive advantage to be running a car in both [series], you’ve just got to find how to learn something from it.”

Johnson suggested that the team’s experience running the Sebring chassis in the Shanghai round of the WEC last November will come in useful this week.

“As tough as Shanghai was, we still learned a lot of good lessons there,” he said.

“We got to see pretty much every form of race neutralization with red flags, safety cars, slow zones, so at least it’s fresh, what are we going to do if it goes red or they have a safety car, how we actually react to that.

“We hope it won’t be a big part of the race, but we got to see it working in Shanghai.”

Corvette Considered Using non-IMSA Drivers

Johnson explained that the team chose to run with its full-season IMSA drivers because a seamless transition into the WEC outweighed the risk of compromising the crew’s IMSA points-paying race.

“There was talk of putting alternative drivers in, just to reduce the wear and tear of the drivers in the IMSA cars, but in the end it makes sense and it’s probably less work from a planning and getting up to speed standpoint,” he said.

“We don’t have to understand anything more about the C7.R, but you always have that learning curve with a new driver, talented or not.

“It takes some time to get used to that car and to combine that with the WEC crew, a new pit lane, the whole two series on the same weekend… that was a complication we chose to avoid.”

Corvette has also needed its drivers to develop a split mindset between the two series, rather than treating ‘Super Sebring’ as a single event.

Magnussen told Sportscar365 that the toughest challenge facing the drivers will be getting to grips with unfamiliar WEC race procedures, rather than any physical demands.

 “The biggest fear that we have right now is that the drivers go down the wrong pit lane,” said Johnson.

“So we’re not just telling them [to] pit – it’s ‘pit in the WEC lane’, just to avoid the shame of being in the wrong pit lane.

“It’s a real concern because they jump out of one car and they have a trained muscle memory of what to do when you’re supposed to come into the [IMSA] pits.”

A total of 11 drivers – including the entire No. 55 Mazda DPi lineup of Harry Tincknell, Jonathan Bomarito and Olivier Pla – are performing WEC/IMSA double-duty at Sebring, while Gunnar Jeanette is racing in both the IMSA and Michelin Pilot Challenge races.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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