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Vette Vets Ready To Roll At The Rolex 24

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, January 5 2019
Drivers Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia are set to take a shot at winning at third Rolex 24. (Richard Prince/Chevrolet file photo).

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Two-time/reigning GTLM Driver Champions Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen headline Corvette Racing’s lineup for the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule.

IMSA’s landmark 50th season will open with the 57th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona, North America’s premier endurance event, around the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway “roval” from Jan. 24-27.

Chevrolet’s four full-season drivers _Garcia, Magnussen, Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner _ will return for the eighth consecutive season in a pair of Corvette C7.Rs. These four drivers have combined for 113 victories and 13 Driver Championships with Corvette Racing. No driver roster in modern North American sports car racing can match that level of race- and championship-winning consistency.

Both the No. 3 and No. 4 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Corvette C7.Rs officially opened the 2019 IMSA season at the annual Roar Before the 24 at DIS Friday through Sunday, Jan. 6. The test is a prelude for the season-opening Rolex 24, an event Corvette Racing has won three times.

“It’s hard to believe this will be my 11th season with Corvette Racing and eighth as a fulltime driver,” said Garcia, of Spain. “We have been able to win a lot of races and championships during that time. Obviously, Jan and I work very well together with our crew and engineers. That’s a large reason why we have won consecutive Driver Championships.

“The work begins again at Daytona. As a team, there have been important updates and progress to our Corvettes ahead of 2019. I think we can all feel confident in our ability to challenge for more race wins and championships.”

Garcia and Magnussen, of Denmark, return in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R as two-time/defending GTLM champs.  Since joining forces in 2012, Garcia and Magnussen have won 13 races, including the Rolex 24 in 2015 and twice at Sebring _ the latter two with Rockenfeller.

“I can’t think of a better program to be part of than Corvette Racing,” Magnussen said. “It’s like my second family, and it’s great that we’ve been able to achieve a high level of success. I can’t think of a better teammate than Antonio. We’re both highly competitive and push each other constantly. That’s the type of person you want sharing your car. With our collective group at Corvette Racing, we know that we can contend for another championship and more race wins, starting at Daytona.”

Meanwhile, Gavin, of Great Britain, and American Milner will aim for their third Driver Championship in the No. 4 Corvette C7.R. Like their teammates in the No. 3 Corvette, Gavin and Milner have won 13 times together. Among those are the Rolex 24 in 2016 (with Fässler), Sebring two times and the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 2015.

“Being back with Corvette Racing and with Tommy is the best way to start 2019,” Gavin said. “It’s an amazing feat that we remain at the forefront of the GTLM championship each season. The people, the tools and resources we have within our program make all this possible.

“This may be the toughest season we will face with our Corvette C7.R. All of our competitors have had another year to fully develop their cars. But we know that this is only a single element in what makes a championship-winning team. We’ve displayed that many times and the Roar and the Rolex give us another chance to do so again.”

Additionally, the Rolex 24 will mark the start of the third decade of Corvette Racing in worldwide competition.

“It’s been a short offseason for several of us but I know everyone is ready to get back to Daytona and start a new season,” Milner said. “Winning the Rolex and the GTLM Championship are goals for Corvette Racing each season. I’m confident that our test program since Petit Le Mans is going to put us in a great position to do that. We’ll be off and running immediately with the Roar and then ahead to the Rolex. The 2016 win with Oliver and Marcel is one I’m eager to repeat… although maybe not as tense this time.”

The records of each Corvette Racing driver rank among the best in endurance sports car racing:

_ Antonio Garcia: 16 victories; three IMSA Driver Championships; winner at Le Mans (2009, 2011), Daytona (2015), Sebring (2009, 2015, 2017).

_ Oliver Gavin: 50 victories; five IMSA Driver Championships; winner at Le Mans (five times), Daytona (2016), Sebring (five times).

_ Jan Magnussen: 35 victories; four IMSA Driver Championships; winner at Le Mans (four times), Daytona (2015), Sebring (five times).

_ Tommy Milner: 14 victories; two IMSA Driver Championships; winner at Le Mans (2011, 2015), Daytona (2016), Sebring (two times).

_ Mike Rockenfeller: One victory; winner at Sebring (2017), Daytona (2010), Le Mans (2005 and 2010).

_ Marcel Fässler: Two victories; winner at Daytona (2016), Sebring (2013, 2016), Le Mans (2011, 2012, 2014).

“It’s been far too long since I was with Corvette Racing,” said Rockenfeller, of Germany. ”This is a fun program and it’s very well-run and organized. Any professional driver would want to be part of any team like this. Having said that, Marcel and I are very determined to do our part to place Corvette Racing in the best possible position to start the GTLM Championship with a win at the Rolex. It all starts with the Roar and three very important days of testing. I’m ready to get back.”

Fassler, of Switzerland, added he is eager to capitalize upon his long-running familiarity with General Motors’ factory program. “I’m obviously very glad to return to a team that I have gotten to know so well the last few years,” Fassler said. “Tommy, Olly and I had a great end of 2018 at Road Atlanta so our goal is to improve on that for the Rolex 24. Winning the race three years ago is a highlight in my career that I always will remember. It would be nice to add more with Corvette Racing this season.”

Ferrari Competizione GT drivers Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, David Rigon and Miguel Molina will return to the cockpit of the Ferrari 488 GTLM at the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.

All four drivers previously have driven for Houston, Texas-based Risi Competizione in the 24-hour Daytona classic. Seven-time Daytona 24-hour driver Rigon will make his fourth appearance with the Risi squad this year. The Italian’s best finish to-date was fifth place in the GTLM class last year with Risi.

Italian Pier Guidi, a former FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) champion, also was part of the 2018 Risi team for the first time. Brit Calado, the FIA WEC champion with Pier Guidi in 2017, will be making his third of four Daytona runs with the Risi team, having competed in each of the past two seasons. Spaniard Molina, who completed a Michelin tire test with Risi Competizione last month, will return for his second Daytona race with Risi.

“We have another pro lineup for this year’s Rolex 24,” Team Principal Giuseppe Risi said. “All four of these drivers bring a deep knowledge of the Ferrari 488, along with endurance racing experience, and that’s what you want at a challenging race like this. David and Miguel will handle the driving at the Test Days and Ale and James will join them for race week.”

Risi Competizione will enter the Rolex 24 at Daytona for the 17th time since 1998, a run including three years with two entries (2003, 2012 and 2018). The Ferrari team has recorded two runnerup spots, in 1999 with the Ferrari 333SP and in 2003 with the Ferrari 360GT. Calado, Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella took home third-place honors in 2017 in the Ferrari 488.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, January 5 2019
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