Corvette Racing captured its first GT Le Mans class victory of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season thanks to Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner’s advancement from fifth on the grid to the front of the eight-car field during a battle that lasted 100 minutes on the streets of Long Beach.
Gavin qualified the No. 4 Corvette C7.R to fifth and for the entire first half of the race, the car remained in the same position. Though the American team executed fast pit stops, Gavin’s real lucky break came when Earl Bamber suffered a right-front suspension failure that caused the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR to drop out of contention from the lead with just over 20 minutes remaining on the clock.
The No. 25 BMW M8 GTE assumed the lead as the only taker for service on pit lane prior to the second full-course caution period of the event, but Bamber and co-driver Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team entry gave themselves the best shot for the win during the first sprint race of the year.
The mechanical failure for the leading Porsche gave the No. 4 Corvette its second consecutive win on the streets of Long Beach after a melee in the hairpin corner with the checkered flag in sight last year quite literally blocked the No. 3 Corvette from winning and instead handed the victory to the No. 4.
The win, secured by 2.157 seconds, marks Gavin’s 50th with the Corvette team and allows the American marque to tie Porsche for the most wins at Long Beach with eight.
Bamber dropping out of contention allowed Chip Ganassi Racing’s pair of Ford GTs to create an all-American podium. Ryan Briscoe closed out a second-place performance for the No. 67 while Joey Hand’s pole on Friday evening translated to a third-place finish on Saturday afternoon, brought home by Dirk Mueller.
Antonio Garcia finished just off the podium in fourth in the second Corvette, with John Edwards rounding out the top five in the best-finishing BMW Team RLL entry: the No. 24 shared between he and starting driver Jesse Krohn.
Heavy contact with the wall for the No. 25 BMW made it the only car to finish worse than the No. 912 Porsche that came within 22 minutes of the win.
The GTLM field will join the remainder of the WeatherTech Championship in returning to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for its next race, set for the weekend of May 4–6.