Antonio Garcia said that missing last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans was “hard, tough and very unusual” as Corvette Racing prepares for its comeback to the French endurance classic.
The factory Pratt & Miller-run operation was forced to withdraw from the 2020 race, ending a 20-year streak of consecutive participations due to travel-related complications surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
While going on to claim the IMSA GT Le Mans class title that year with co-driver Jordan Taylor, the Spaniard admitted the absence of Le Mans in his year was something unusual.
“Not going to Le Mans last year was something we really missed,” Garcia said. “Going back there this is something we all want.
“Obviously it’s one of the biggest races of the year.
“Missing it last year was hard, tough and very unusual for Corvette Racing.
“Going back now, we are looking forward to it. We’ve already won a 24-hour race, which gives us a lot of confidence.
“I do feel like we will be much more prepared with the C8.R this year than we would have been last year. I’m hoping we are as competitive at Le Mans as we were in Daytona.”
Garcia and the team got a jump start on their Le Mans preparations earlier this year by entering the FIA World Endurance Championship season-opening 6 Hours of Spa, where he teamed with the now-retired Oliver Gavin for a fourth place class finish in GTE-Pro.
That race marked the Corvette C8.R’s European race debut, after initially planning to come at Le Mans last year.
“This car should be better and that’s what we expect,” Garcia said. “We saw at Spa that we were close to our competitors. So it was good event for the team to get used to WEC rules and strategy.
“Now once we get to Le Mans, it should be an easier time to get into that mindset having been through it before.”
Corvette teammate Tommy Milner, who has been undertaking the bulk of the team’s simulator prep for the race, believes the mid-engined GTE car should be better suited for Circuit de la Sarthe than its predecessor, purely due to a regulations standpoint.
“We saw with the C7.R that we had some deficits to our competitors with their newer cars as time went on,” Milner said.
“Realistically, the C7 was built before the current GT rules changes, so we were always fighting against the downforce levels of the cars.
“With C8.R having been built to those rules and with all the knowledge and experience this team gains each year at Le Mans, we had that opportunity to build a race car that should be quick at Le Mans.
“Time will tell. But that’s always a topic of conversation with this team – Le Mans. I’m excited to go there, to see what this car will feel like. The engineers are, the crew guys are… it’s an exciting prospect.”
Milner said that especially after missing last year’s race, nobody within the team has taken things for granted this time around.
“Not going there last year reminds you how special this race is and how important it is for the team, for Corvette and Chevrolet,” he said.
“This is a race that for a lot of people is a bucket-list item. To go there once is special.
“Each time going back is more so. It’s another chance at winning the greatest sports car race in the world.
“We don’t take that lightly on this team. We’re even more excited that we get to take the new Corvette over there for the first time. There are a lot of people – me included – are eager to see what the C8.R can do there.”