(MONTEREY, California) After a three week hiatus from the track, Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen have nearly secured the GT Le Mans (GTLM) driver’s title in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The pair finished the weekend with a fourth-place class finish in the No. 3 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R at the America’s Tire 250. With one race to go in the season the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, the #3 team only needs to score points to officially claim the GTLM championship!

Corvette Racing; Laguna Seca in Salinas, California; September 24, 2017; C7.R #3 driven by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia; C7.R #4 driven by Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner (Richard Prince/Chevrolet photo).

In the race for the manufacturer’s championship Chevrolet extended its lead in the GTLM Manufacturer’s Championship to four points. If the Corvettes are the second-highest finishing cars in the Petit Le Mans — a ten hour enduro — Chevy will achieve its second straight title. The team has had eleven manufacturer’s championships since 2001.

Corvette Racing; Laguna Seca in Salinas, California; September 24, 2017; C7.R #3 driven by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia; C7.R #4 driven by Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner (Richard Prince/Chevrolet photo).

Jan Magnussen took the first stint of the Monterey race from seventh in class on the grid. According to the team, the strategy in qualifying focused on race setup. Magnussen, however, thought the car had more potential, “The balance of the car was quite similar to what we had in practice the last two days. Obviously the new tire and the low fuel was masking a little bit of that. We’re disappointed to be this far back, but the group right ahead of us is very close in lap time. We aren’t completely out of it but we will have a race on our hands, that’s for sure.”

As the race progressed, a timely full-course caution at nearly the halfway point in the two-hour, 40-minute race. The #3 Corvette lead race engineer, Kyle Millay, immediately called in Garcia for tires and fuel before the pits closed. This played into the hands of Garcia, who went from seventh to second by the time the race resumed. Garcia managed to stay ahead of the Ganassi Ford GT, piloted by Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe.

Corvette Racing; Laguna Seca in Salinas, California; September 24, 2017; C7.R #3 driven by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia; C7.R #4 driven by Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner (Richard Prince/Chevrolet photo).

Garcia was happy, but cautious with the result. “I think we played it really cool today. It felt like instead of being the ones defending, we were the ones trying to go for it. We seemed to be the more relaxed car out there out of the ones in contention. We were not sure about the pace today. For sure the beginning of the race wasn’t really promising when everyone started to pull away. As soon as everyone started to drop off in lap time and I saw Jan before we pitted we were almost within a tenth of them so I thought, ‘Um, we might have a chance here.’ For sure if it had been a green race, I think we had a very good chance to finish second behind the Ferrari. But when it came to strategy, fuel and all of that, we had to be smart and go for the championship and not worry about the race results. I was pretty happy with how our Corvette felt, especially during the last 10 to 15 laps of a stint, which I think the hardest today. It was just really good. I had pressure for sure. I really liked that the closest car to me was Richard (Westbrook) because I knew he wouldn’t do anything strange. We had a fair fight. I kind of knew he would try to catch me and try to pass me, but I also knew he would run out of tires soon. I kept calm and as soon as I saw he was starting to struggle, I put in a little bit more pace to open the gap. At the end of the day, we didn’t know if all the other cars would make it to the end of the race (on fuel), and they actually did. But it doesn’t matter for the championship.”

Corvette Racing; Laguna Seca in Salinas, California; September 24, 2017; C7.R #3 driven by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia; C7.R #4 driven by Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner (Richard Prince/Chevrolet photo).

Magnussen was optimistic and grateful, “We’ve managed the whole year largely because of Kyle (Millay, No. 3 Corvette lead race engineer) to get more out of races than we should have. Whenever we haven’t had good pace, we always got good points. Today was no different.”

John Edwards and Martin Tomczyk took the GTLM victory with the Ferrari of Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella taking second, in a drag race to the finish off the final corner, and the Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick pilot and Dirk Warner rounding out the podium.

Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin had another run of bad luck in the No. 4 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R. With aims of moving up through the field like the sister Corvette, the Gavin/Milner pairing placed ninth in GTLM after Gavin was hit from behind at the first corner of the opening lap. The contact damaged the Corvette’s rear diffuser, which impacted the handling and performance throughout.

Corvette Racing; Laguna Seca in Salinas, California; September 24, 2017; C7.R #3 driven by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia; C7.R #4 driven by Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner (Richard Prince/Chevrolet photo).

Gavin was disappointed. ”Unfortunately our race was shaped by contact from another car. It seems like it has been the story of our year unfortunately. As I came into Turn One of Lap One, the No. 24 BMW got turned around. I was right behind Jan; he was checking up and I was just desperate not to hit the back of him. As I braked, the Lamborghini from GTD just came in and obviously didn’t expect me to be going so slow. It just drilled us in the rear which broke our rear diffuser, which flapped for all of my two stints. The vibration just got worse and worse, and we lost performance.

Corvette Racing will close the IMSA season with the 10-hour Petit Le Mans from Road Atlanta on Saturday, Oct 7.