DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It was a strange season, to say the least. But, for Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor, it was another winner.
Garcia and Taylor celebrated the GT Le Mans driver and team championships Sunday in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship by finishing second in class in the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
It was the fourth championship of Garcia’s IMSA career, the third for Taylor. For both drivers, it was a most unusual path to a championship.
“It’s been a very difficult and unique season,” Garcia said, noting the five-month break in the 2020 schedule because of the Covid-19 virus. “After the restart (of the season), the team didn’t have any time to really do anything else; we went race to race and couldn’t develop anything else.”
Adding to the difficulty was trying to master a new version of the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette – the C8.R, which was introduced at the start of the 2020 season.
“There were a lot of question marks, and it was a big unknown jumping in,” Taylor said. “Having seen what Corvette Racing has done in the past with C6.R, C7.R and now C8.R, they always come out strong. This is the most unique car where a lot of it was designed in the simulation process on computers, proven in the Chevrolet simulator and developed that way before it hit the track.”
After finishing fourth in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, Garcia and Taylor had to wait while the season was suspended. When it resumed in July, the No. 3 team came to life, winning five of the next nine races and scoring runner-up finishes in three others.
Garcia recognized the capabilities of the new car but had to wait to experience them.
“At the Rolex, I saw the potential of the C8.R and knew that once we fixed some issues from (the Rolex 24), the car would be very strong,” Garcia said. “Right after the lockdown, the step forward (in July races) at Daytona and Sebring was huge – on tire degradation and the way the car reacts to every single thing we do. It’s better everywhere.”
Along with the lengthy delay after the Rolex 24 came a schedule shakeup. Long Beach, Watkins Glen International, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Lime Rock Park were dropped from the schedule, while Charlotte Motor Speedway was added.
“It’s hard to say what in the season would have been different having tracks like Watkins Glen and (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) on the calendar, which we missed out on, plus Long Beach,” Taylor said. “Those were tracks the C8.R hadn’t been to, but looking at how we ran at Charlotte and some places we didn’t expect to go to and how strong we were, I’d like to say we would have had a similar outcome.”
The lockdown and schedule shakeup weren’t the only obstacles overcome by the No. 3 team. The drivers and crew members also adjusted to personnel changes, including a new race engineer, John Lankes, and a new car chief, Dave Marin.
“There weren’t new members because they were already on (Corvette Racing’s No. 4) team, but there were a lot of people reassigned within the team as part of the preparation done during the lockdown,” Garcia said. “… We had to develop new relationships between engineers and us as drivers, and it was the same with the mechanics. As everyone saw, we seem to work really, really well. Race by race, we kept improving.”
Now, going into the Mobile 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts on Nov. 11-14, Corvette Racing has an opportunity to celebrate its 14th season championship while trying to win one of the sport’s most prestigious events.
“Big thanks to everyone,” said Taylor, who joined Corvette Racing this year after primarily driving Prototypes for his father’s team the past seven years. “Obviously, it was great to drive with Antonio all year. He’s someone I’ve always wanted to be with for a full season and learn from. I definitely learned a lot, and thankfully everything worked out. Definitely, the Sebring 12 Hours is still high on the list for us to try to win.”