Jordan Taylor says GT Le Mans class victory in the Rolex 24 Hours was made bittersweet by his Corvette Racing teammate Antonio Garcia having to depart the track after testing positive for Covid-19.
Taylor, Garcia and endurance driver Nicky Catsburg led home a Corvette 1-2, to mark the C8.R’s first endurance victory in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
However, Garcia – who won last year’s GTLM championship with Taylor – was unable to celebrate the result with team after learning that his Covid-19 test had come back positive.
“It was bittersweet to end the day like we did with Antonio having to leave the track,” said Taylor, who switched from his father’s Wayne Taylor Racing squad to replace Jan Magnussen at Corvette Racing just last year. “I was super upset and disappointed for him when I got out of the car after what I thought was my last stint and was told he couldn’t get back in the car.
“He lives for these events, especially this one. He really wanted to finish this race to capitalize on when they finished second in 2016 to kind of make up for that. So I felt bad for him in that respect.
“But he should be unbelievably proud of this whole team. He is the leader of this No. 3 car. He’s the one that drives the setup of it which is why we were so quick at the end of the race.
“He’s taught me so much as a driver – understanding the tires, how to do drive the car and understanding this new GT world that I’m in. If it wasn’t for Antonio, there’s no way I would have driven that last stint the way I did.
“Huge thanks to him. I know I’ll see him in a couple weeks when he can come back into the country and we can hang out and celebrate in person. I know he will hold this Rolex proud. I’m so honored and happy to be a part of this with him. We’ve never won an endurance race as teammates so this is the first one and very special.”
Taylor took over from Catsburg for the final stints and had to work his way past the sister car driven by Corvette stalwart Tommy Milner.
Although he had already twice won the race overall with WTR, Taylor pointed out that on neither occasion was he the driver behind the wheel at the checkered flag.
“I think that part of it was definitely daunting and intimidating,” he commented. “I was extremely nervous in the hour leading up to my last stint, just knowing what was at stake and how big of a deal this race is for Corvette Racing and to Chevrolet. To have everyone here and seeing the history of the team at this event…
“I had an amazing battle with Tommy, super respectful. I thought it was a great race. I’m just so happy. It’s my first class win at Daytona and third Rolex. So unbelievable and I never could have dreamed it any better to be honest.”
Taylor also paid tribute to the team on the first anniversary of the mid-engined C8.R’s race debut.
“It is just a testament to Corvette Racing. It just speaks volumes about the team and proof of what they’ve done in the past and how well they execute these big events. The Corvette C8.R has only done one 24-hour race, and that was last year. So to come back in their second year and finish 1-2 with no issues is just unbelievable.
“We had perfect strategy, perfect pit stops and none of the drivers made mistakes. It’s all down to the team and execution and teaching the drivers what they need to do to win these events. It’s an honor to be a part of it. The driver is just a small piece of the whole puzzle.
“We get to stand on the podium but all the people on the team deserve it. They are the ones that put in the hard work in the off-season to make it all possible.”
Garcia described Sunday as “both one of the best days of my career but also one of the most frustrating and disappointing”.
He went on: “I did have COVID in late December with some symptoms. I isolated until I fully recovered, and followed all Spanish and CDC protocols to be cleared for traveling. It’s frustrating but there are protocols that are in place for this.
“It’s painful not to be able to celebrate with Jordan, Nicky and the rest of the team. We worked so hard over the past months and weeks to achieve an endurance win like the Rolex 24.
“We didn’t make mistakes, we had good pace with the Corvette. After winning the championship a year ago, this was the type or result we all wanted for the start of a new season.
“Ever since we started at Daytona with this new car, we knew it would be fast and competitive. Obviously, the preparation we had last year wasn’t enough to win this race. But after the lockdown, that gave us an opportunity to develop the C8.R and we went on to win six races as a team and the championship.
“Last year, we didn’t manage to win a long race so it was still in our minds to get this, and now we’ve started with a big one like the Rolex. We proved today that Corvette Racing was the strongest team. I have to say this was a flashback to the 2016 race [when the #3 finished right behind the #4 of Milner and Oliver Gavin] It was pretty nerve-wracking when it looked like it could happen again but I’m glad we came out on top this time.”
Jim Campbell, Chevrolet US VP of performance and motorsports, said: “Winning the opening race in the 2021 IMSA season keeps momentum going from the end of last season. What a difference a year makes! I am so proud of the progress Corvette Racing team has made since last year’s race to win the 2021 Rolex 24 at Daytona with the Corvette C8.R. It’s so special to win this endurance race at Daytona for the fourth time in our class.”
Laura Wontrop Klauser, Chevrolet’s sportscar program manager added: “What an amazing team effort by everyone at Corvette Racing to get the Corvette C8.R to Victory Lane with a 1-2 finish in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It was a hard-fought battle for this incredible result.
“The months of work and preparation by everyone associated with this program were evident today on both sides of the Corvette garage. This truly is One Team. I’m proud and pleased for the teams, our Corvette owners and our fans.”
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