WeatherTech Championship GTLM Champions Gavin, Milner Credit IMSA Experience with Le Mans Preparation
Thursday, June 15, 2017

Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin know what it takes to win. They’ve certainly done a reasonable amount of it over the past couple of years.

Two years ago, they won the GTE Pro class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, sharing the No. 64 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R with another WeatherTech Championship regular, Jordan Taylor.

Last year, they won the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida. They also won at Lime Rock Park – which was the historic 100th victory for the Corvette Racing program – and at Road America. All that winning, along with some other solid results throughout the season, made them champions of the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class in the 2016 WeatherTech Championship.

Already this year, they’ve got another win, the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach in April, but they’re hungry for more. They want to win Le Mans again this weekend, which would be the ninth at the Circuit de la Sarthe for Corvette Racing, and they’ll go for it with co-driver Marcel Fassler in the familiar, Velocity Yellow No. 64 C7.R.

They think they’ve got a good shot, too, by virtue of the preparation they get on a regular basis by competing in the WeatherTech Championship.

“The IMSA championship is so competitive,” says Milner, a two-time winner at Le Mans. “It’s a really good place for us to hone our skills and make sure that we’re all on top of our game, because we need every bit of it here at Le Mans. Certainly, the success we had last year with the car in IMSA, that rolls a little bit into the momentum coming into Le Mans.”

Of course, Milner and Gavin aren’t alone in representing IMSA at Le Mans. They’ve got their own teammates in the No. 63 Corvette, Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen – who currently lead the WeatherTech Championship GTLM standings with a pair of victories this season – along with Jordan Taylor, who joins the No. 63 team this weekend after dominating the WeatherTech Championship Prototype class throughout the first half of the season alongside brother Ricky Taylor in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R.

They’ve also got competition in the pair of full-time WeatherTech Championship Ford GTs and the Risi Competizione Ferrari that they race all year, as well as several familiar faces in the cockpit of the Porsche 911s in the GTE Pro class.

“It’s kind of nice to see so many IMSA faces here, because you race them in the U.S., so you get to know how they drive,” says Gavin, who owns five victories at the Circuit de la Sarthe. “You learn certain styles and how aggressive some guys are. You get to know the guys who will give you respect. Someone like Patrick Pilet (the 2015 GTLM champion Porsche racer), you know will give you respect, while some other guys you have to be more careful with.”

Milner added a few more familiar names that he’s looking forward to battling at Le Mans.

“We have a good battle with some of our teammates; with (Ford GT drivers) Richard Westbrook, and for me as well with Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller from our BMW days. There’s a good rivalry there for sure.

“You can’t get away from Chevy versus Ford. That’ll live on as long as there are cars on the street. Last year, Ford had a really fast car and we’re working hard to catch up to them and see if we can give them a race this year.”

In Wednesday night’s first qualifying session, both Corvettes slotted in just behind Pilet’s No. 91 Porsche and ahead of both of the U.S.-based Ford GTs. Final qualifying takes place this evening, so it remains to be seen where they’ll land on the final starting grid. But as Milner points out, reliability is nearly equal in importance to speed at Le Mans, and he’s confident in the team’s preparation.

“As long as I’ve been with Corvette, we haven’t done a specific 24-hour test,” he explains. “We oftentimes will run our stuff a long time over multiple tests. Items are proven over 24 hours. You see the value in doing a single 24-hour test, but over the years, here at Le Mans, our reliability has been really strong.”

The other key, says Gavin, is managing traffic on the nearly eight-and-a-half-mile long circuit. This year, the introduction of new LM P2 race cars brings an added dynamic alongside the LM P1 cars.

“You fall into a routine with the traffic in IMSA, but here, the speed differential between us and the P2 cars is massive,” he says. “It’s almost like having 30 P1 cars on track. You’ve got to be on your game and not take your eye off the radar system.

“Places like the Esses into Tertre Rouge, last year, if a P2 car was behind you, it wouldn’t try to pass you unless it was a really fast guy. Now, any P2 car can pass you there, because they have the power to do it.

“In some ways, it makes it a little easier, because you’re not around one another for too long, but you still have to be aware of the closing speeds and know where they’re going to go. You’ve got to be really on your game. There’s no chance for relaxing.”

The 24 Hours of Le Mans starts at 9 a.m. ET on Saturday, June 17. FOX Sports and Radio Le Mans will offer live coverage throughout the race.

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