When the checkered flag fell on the 2015 Rolex 24 At Daytona sports car endurance race, Chevrolet Corvette drivers had crossed the finish line in four of the top five spots, including the victory in the GT Le Mans class for Corvette Racing and the Corvette C7.R, which is based on the production Corvette Z06.
“To have both of the Corvette C7.R teams on the GTLM podium for the Rolex 24 is a testament to the ‘never give up’ attitude of the crew and drivers,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “It is a special day to take this victory in front of our Chevrolet and Corvette owners.”
The winning No. 3 Corvette C7.R was driven to victory by Antonio Garcia, Ryan Briscoe and former Formula One driver Jan Magnussen, who had made 11 trips to the Rolex 24 chasing this victory. “We stayed out of trouble, made no mistakes, had great pit stops, and that was the key to winning this race,” Magnussen said.
Corvette Racing returned to the Rolex 24 in 2014, when the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and IMSA became the sanctioning body after the merger of Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). Corvette Racing competed in the ALMS, and the purpose-built Corvette Daytona Prototype (DP) cars competed in Grand-Am, so with the merger, both of the Corvette classes began racing in the same events. Corvette Racing had its last appearance at the Rolex 24 in 2001, with the Chevrolet Corvette GTS scoring a historic class and overall win.
In 2014, the Action Express Racing Corvette DP car scored the overall win at the Rolex 24, with Corvette DP cars taking the first four places overall. This year, the Action Express team, which also won the 2014 TUDOR Championship title, very nearly repeated, finishing just 1.333 seconds behind the overall winner, Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Riley, a one-shot entry which is not running for a season championship.
Action Express drivers Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais battled back from a three-lap deficit after repairing an oil pressure problem, so returning to the eventual winner’s rear bumper was a remarkable performance. The Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP crossed the finish line third overall, and the VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP was fourth. With the No. 3 Corvette C7.R coming home fifth overall and first in its class, and its sister car, the No. 4 Corvette C7.R taking eighth overall and third in the GTLM class, Corvette took six of the top 10 finishes in the potent 53-car field.
Unfortunately, on the Friday after the Sunday Rolex 24 finish, sanctioning body IMSA determined that Wayne Taylor Racing driver Jordan Taylor, despite a last-minute dash to the pits to change with his brother Ricky, had unintentionally exceeded the allowable four hours of driving time within each six-hour period. Though the IMSA rules allow for a car to be excluded for the violation, IMSA officials said the penalty was too severe in this case and moved the car from third to 16th, last in the Prototype class. Wayne Taylor Racing acknowledged the technicality and said it is now focusing on the next race, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
In GTLM, the No. 4 Corvette C7.R was just as fast as its sister car and they appeared to be headed to a one-two finish when, just three hours from the end, driver Tommy Milner couldn’t avoid a Daytona Prototype car that had nearly stopped on track, resulting in front-end damage that took four laps to repair. The GT Le Mans class is arguably the most competitive, with factory-affiliated entries from Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin and BMW, so a Rolex 24 win in that class means bragging rights for a year.
In addition to its GTLM race win, the No. 3 Corvette C7.R Racing team also won the DEKRA Green Challenge Award, which is presented to the most environmentally clean, fast and efficient GTLM competitor at each TUDOR Championship race. The DEKRA Green Challenge Award is determined through Green Racing protocols established by the United States Department of Energy (DOE), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International as part of an overarching strategic alliance with IMSA.
“This is my second 24-hour race with this team,” said Mark Reuss, GM Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. “To come here to see the Z06 in its second-year win at Daytona is special. Everybody on this team worked so hard and it shows. They never gave up, and there were a couple of things that went wrong as they always do in a 24-hour race. The car and the drivers and the team, they worked so hard, and it all came together.”