The mid-engined Corvette C8.R took IMSA’s GT Le Mans class by storm in 2020, its inaugural season, chalking up six wins, and enabling Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor to claim the championship.
However, the ’Vette failed to capture the prestigious endurance races, BMW claiming victory in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, and Porsche bagging Petit Le Mans and the much delayed Sebring 12 Hours – ironically, both times with Tandy at the wheel. Corvette Racing last won the Rolex 24 in 2016, Sebring in 2017, while its drought at Petit Le Mans stretches back to 2010.
However, the team’s 100th victory came in Daytona’s 2hr40min race last July, while this past Sunday, the team scored a 1-2 in the Roar Before The 24’s new 100-minute race to set the grid for this weekend’s Rolex 24. It was the #4 Corvette that prevailed in the hands of Tandy – who will partner team stalwart Tommy Milner fulltime in 2021 – and Alexander Sims, the squad’s new third man for the Michelin Endurance Cup rounds.
Both newcomers to the team said they were thrilled not only with the victory but also to get seat team in their new mount, but Tandy said he’s now keen to deliver the team a win in an IMSA enduro race.
“At the end of the day, Corvette Racing had a fantastic season with the C8.R in the debut year of the car with a ton of race wins and championships,” said the 32-year-old Briton. “I do know they are keen to score a long-distance victory, and it’s something we obviously are keen to help with.
“How we go about that is difficult to say other than just being consistent. From what I’ve seen in our limited together, it’s doing things the Corvette Racing way – going out and consistently being in and around the pace of the front-running cars.
“As we all know in longer races, you have to have a bit of luck come the end of the race. That’s the plan for this season: try and get a few marquee event wins.
“[The qualifying race] enables you to get some sort of different testing in, but it’s obviously meaningful. Everyone wants to start the Rolex 24 from pole position, and we got to do this in a pressure situation and run through all the procedures… Even working with the strategists and things like this is something we don’t expect to go through before our first race with a new program. It was good to race with the other GTLM cars, and I’m sure it will be equally fun and probably a lot more close this time next week. It obviously is a great start for me and Alexander to kick off our time with Corvette Racing…
“We’re both very lucky to be part of this program and hope we can carry on and take the C8.R to its first proper endurance, long-distance victory. That is the plan.”
Sims, who scored five IMSA wins in his two seasons in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan-run BMWs 2017-’18, said that taking the opening stint in Sunday’s wet-dry race gave him the ideal opportunity to learn the C8.R’s handling traits
“It was an interesting first taste of the conditions in the Corvette. Very quickly, I was given a lot of confidence from the car as to how to push. I was able to get around the BMWs on the first lap and then really just find my feet lap by lap.
“With the couple of cautions, it didn’t feel like there was a huge amount of laps but, nevertheless, it was nice to get some experience in the wet and get a feeling for how the C8.R was working.
“Doing a hot pit stop under a reasonable amount of time pressure was nice; not a lot of the race had gone so we didn’t need to fuel up too much. It was nice to go through all the procedures and have a taste of it before the 24 Hours.
“I remember a month or two ago from my first time in the C8.R at Sebring, it was super impressive… it really exceeded my expectations and was very, very good in many different phases of the corner. Here in Daytona with the different conditions and the track being green, there have been some things to work on. But the Corvette Racing team has been doing a fantastic job of getting the car and us up to speed.”
A watching Milner said: “It’s great to see Nick and Alexander get a win in their first race with the team, and we are on pole as a result. You couldn’t ask for much more. We had a little bit of a bumpy start to the weekend, but since then the Corvette and the crew have been spotless.
“It’s been a great test. It’s been good to get Nick and Alexander some quality time in the car. We’ve all been happy with the balance and the changes that we are making; we are seeing good progress on all fronts. The C8.R is getting better, we are getting our processes down better with driver changes and every aspect to be as successful as we can for be ahead of a 24-hour race…
“Trying to go through all the details, shore up processes and those type of things. This is what the Roar is good for when you have new teammates, new crew guys and that kind of thing – anything that’s new from years past. It’s a good opportunity for everyone to get comfortable again with their jobs and roles. We’ve had a very productive test.”