IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen
Talking teamwork that led to 2017 GT Le Mans championship sweep
DETROIT (Nov. 6, 2017) – Winning an IMSA championship is never easy. Corvette Racing just makes it appear that way. In 2017, the program successfully defended its Manufacturer, Driver and Team titles in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with four victories in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, in the No. 3 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, recorded three of those victories on the way to their second championship together – the first coming in the 2013 American Le Mans Series. Here are their thoughts on another title-winning campaign.
IS THERE ONE MOMENT OR A SELECTION OF MOMENTS THAT STAND OUT TO YOU ABOUT THE 2017 SEASON?
Antonio Garcia: “Sebring, I think, was a race that made us think that winning a championship was possible. That came after Daytona where for the third year in a row, we had a clean race with no mistakes. We led twice in the last hour and still didn’t win the race… that was a shock for us. We thought it would be a very hard season after that. Sebring showed us we could turn things around, and it opened our eyes a little bit to give us confidence. We all kept doing our jobs. It was one of the last times where we had a strong enough car to win on pace. We knew we would have to fight that hard all the way through the season. If the max we could achieve was sixth, we fought for fourth or a podium. So many times we had to overachieve with more than we actually had.”
Jan Magnussen: “It’s difficult to pick out one moment. We sure didn’t win the championship because of just one thing that happened. We won it by overachieving on weekends where things didn’t look so great. It was largely because of our strategy and execution. One weekend that we did get more out of it than we thought might have been possible was at COTA. We were the only car that didn’t get in any sort of trouble at any time in the race. I don’t know if we could have won it otherwise. Everyone else had contact, penalties or something else. I’d say that was a lucky one, but it came right after Long Beach where we finished fifth but should have won because of something that happened on track. Those two balanced each other out. Otherwise, we won the races we had a chance to win, and we got fourth-place finishes or better out of races where sixth or seventh was more realistic.”
HAVE EITHER OF YOU HAD A SEASON LIKE THIS IN YOUR CAREER, AND IS IT DIFFERENT THAN THE 2013 (ALMS GT) CHAMPIONSHIP?
Magnussen: “No… not like that. Over-performing was the trend for us all season on the bad weekends. So it’s a first for us and a first for me.
“The key to winning the championship this year was staying out of trouble… running our own races and running to our own strategy. To do that, we had to do every lap. We had to have our Corvette as fast as we could have it. As far as staying out of trouble and not damaging the car, it made it a lot easier on the strategy side because we could run as we had planned. It’s not often that you have a season like this where, for some reason, you stay out of trouble. The whole field is so close and the racing is quite hard. It’s not like we didn’t touch anyone all year; we did. We just didn’t break the car because of it.”
Garcia: “In 2013, we were dominant in a way. We won three or four races, and it was up to us to lose that championship. In 2017, we really had to fight for it and put pressure on everyone else to make mistakes. “Everything for us seemed to be really, really good for us – strategy calls, in the pit lane… the thing was that the lack of performance at times put us in a position where we had to be aggressive on strategy. It really played out for us more often than not. Those were key items in turning things around from past years. Even if we didn’t have pace, other teams were paying attention to us. They were focused on us instead of doing their own thing, and that was a good thing for us.”
THERE SEEMED TO BE SOME FAITH INVOLVED IN THAT THE RACE STRATEGY DEVELOPED BY KYLE (MILLAY, LEAD ENGINEER), AND THE PITWORK BY DAN BINKS (CREW CHIEF) AND THE CREW WERE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS WHAT HAPPENED ON THE TRACK, DESPITE THE QUALIFYING POSITION.
Garcia: “The first time I qualified last, it was a big shock. But we showed that we needed to focus on the race and reverse that. Sure it was a bit frustrating for us not to have ultimate pace. It never gets easier to accept that. You always fight to not be in the back. It’s not like we gave up and said qualifying near the back is fine. We always did our best. But when it would happen, we accepted it and didn’t let that dictate the final result. Ultimate pace is different than race pace. Plus the GTLM class is so close that if we were last, we were only three- or four-tenths off. Our races are so long that you can flip that. It was more than manageable to be able to stick with our plan.”
Magnussen: “There was a lot of faith we had in Kyle to help us out in certain situations. Because things worked out the way they did and we did tend to get more out of the bad weekends, there was a lot of faith that Corvette Racing would always sort things out somehow and we could get a better finish. As the year went on, our confidence – which was already high – grew even more. Kyle is probably the most competent engineer I’ve ever worked with. Our confidence just grew that we would get something out of any negative situation. And all season long, we never took a single big hit on points. We didn’t extend the lead at every race, but we never lost more than one or two on the bad weekends.”
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