Tommy Milner is not overly concerned by Corvette Racing’s lack of qualifying pace and has confidence that more speed can be found in the remaining two qualifying sessions ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend.
Corvette was the slowest of the five GTE-Pro manufacturers in Qualifying 1 on Wednesday, with the fastest Corvette C7.R driven by Antonio Garcia setting a time of 3:54.827, mired in eighth position, some 2.7 seconds off the pace set by the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE.
The Pratt & Miller squad was hit with a 0.2mm restrictor change in the latest round of Balance of Performance updates following the test day earlier this month, where Corvette topped the charts on a 3:54.701.
Milner, who set the fastest time for the No. 64 Corvette in qualifying, admitted that he expects rivals to make progress from the test, but remains optimistic that he has more potential to unlock.
“Last year was such a shock as far as pace goes and the difference from test day to race, so in some ways I’m not surprised to see again a fairly large difference from test day to the practice session again,” he told Sportscar365.
“After last year we all talked about it a little bit and agreed that it doesn’t do us any good to get worked up about what everyone else is doing.
“Certainly our car feels good this year, there’s no question about that. I think we can go a little bit quicker. I think the Aston and the Ferrari went for an all-out pole lap time and that wasn’t our focus. I think we’re quicker than what we’re showing right now.
“I’m not sure that we can go for pole, but the car has felt really good all weekend because the track conditions are quite good with the heat and no rain.”
Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan agreed, saying that teams focusing on blistering speed over drivability and comfort do so at their own peril.
“At Corvette Racing our philosophy has never been that we have to have the fastest car. The key to victory here is having a car that is easy and comfortable to drive throughout a wide range of conditions, whether it’s hot, cool, dry, rainy or whatever,” Fehan said.
“We need to get these guys a car that they are comfortable with. Over the 24 hours, that works in your favor. If they’re comfortable in it, they’re far less stressed, they’re far less physically stressed and that’s what we try to achieve.
“If you look at what we did [in Qualifying 1], we didn’t try to create a pole time, we didn’t go out on fresh tires and empty tanks, because when do you race with that? Never.
“How important is that? Well if it’s important for you to win the pole then that’s fine, but for me, those wreaths you see in the overhead is what’s important and we’ve done that utilizing great strategy, tremendous pit stop execution and some pretty darn good driving and that’s what our focus is.”
Milner, a two-time Le Mans class winner with Corvette, said the team is keeping its eye on the big prize that will be awarded at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
“[We are] keeping an eye towards the things that matter – the double stinting on tires, how the car is on the tires,” he said.
“Everyone else does that as well, but we saw last night that a lot of guys seemed to go for a quick lap time and we spent a little more time focusing on how the car is going to go in the race. I’m fairly certain that we can go quicker.
“I’m just hoping for a good race on Saturday, hoping that the others aren’t hiding a ton. I don’t think many of them are, but we’re just hoping for a good race.
“It’s so hard to speculate and guess, but we’re looking forward to a good race for sure.”
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report.