Kobayashi and Conway Share in Overall Win; Montoya, Hedman and Hanley Triumph in LMP2 ProAm; Keating and Fraga Second in GTE Am
It was a year late and short of the goal, but the 24 Hours of Le Mans debut of Corvette’s mid-engine C8.R was deemed successful after its runner-up finish Sunday.
Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg piloted the No. 63 Corvette Racing entry to second place in the GTE Pro class in the 89th running of the 24-hour race in France. They were one of several teams and drivers with ties to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to finish on the podium in the famed endurance race.
The result wasn’t what Corvette, which has won at Le Mans eight times, was expecting.
"I don't know if I prefer to be two seconds, 10 seconds, 40 seconds or three laps back – I think it hurts the same,” said Garcia, whose team battled closely before finishing 41.686 seconds behind the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari co-driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Côme Ledogar in GTE Pro.
“I must say it does hurt a little bit," Garcia said. "When you come so close, it's difficult. But when you do your best, you run almost a perfect race and someone else does it a little better than you, you have to congratulate them.”
The Le Mans debut of the C8.R originally was planned for 2020 but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In its 21st appearance at Circuit de la Sarthe, Corvette Racing still finished on the podium.
“To be on the podium at Le Mans with the C8.R is very gratifying,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President, Performance and Motorsports. “It's a testament to the hard work and determination of our Corvette production and racing teams.”
The Corvette entry wasn’t alone among successful Le Mans competitors with IMSA ties. Kamui Kobayashi, a two-time Rolex 24 At Daytona winner, and Mike Conway, an endurance specialist for Action Express Racing, scored their first Le Mans victories in spite of the threat of mechanical issues.
"We knew in the last six hours that there could be a problem with the car,” Conway said of the No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 Hybrid he shared with Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez for the Hypercar class and overall win. “Our progress was threatened by a technical problem, but the team found a solution. All the credit goes to the team. The race was not easy and the last hours were really stressful.”
Juan Pablo Montoya, Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman teamed to win the Le Mans Prototype 2 ProAm class in the No. 21 Dragonspeed USA ORECA 07 Gibson. Montoya won the 2019 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class championship in the WeatherTech Championship, while Hanley and Hedman were 2020 Rolex 24 LMP2 winners.
“The three of us have a really nice chemistry,” Montoya said. “We did a good job, all three of us. Our job is to beat the pros and Henrik’s is to beat the ams, and he did that."
Pier Guidi, who won the Rolex 24 in 2015 and Motul Petit Le Mans in 2019, teamed with Calado, a two-time Petit Le Mans winner, in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO that beat the No. 63 Corvette in GTE Pro.
“It wasn’t easy at all,” Pier Guidi said. “We pushed like crazy from the very first moment. The conditions weren't easy at the start: with slow zones and safety cars, it’s important to keep the advantage. Then there was the weather; it rained at the start and during the night. Also, Corvette was super quick, but we expected that.”
Ben Keating, who leads the WeatherTech Championship LMP2 standings, and Felipe Fraga, who has three wins in the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class this year, teamed with Dylan Pereira to finish second in GTE Am class in the No. 33 TF Sport Aston Martin.
The WeatherTech Championship resumes Sept. 10-12 with the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.