WEC: Corvette drivers hope to be competitive “out of the box”

Ahead of the 1,000 Miles of Sebring and the kick-off of the FIA World Endurance Championship, Corvette Racing drivers Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy – teammates in the No. 64 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C8.R – discussed the team’s first venture into a full WEC season and touched on preparation for the Sebring weekend in the GTE Pro class.


YOU’RE STARTING YOUR SEASON AT SEBRING, AS WAS THE CASE FOR YEARS IN ALMS. WHAT’S THE MINDSET GOING INTO THIS EVENT? “I was a bit surprised at making 125 starts with Corvette … that’s more than I would have thought. But along those lines while the team is starting a new endeavor by racing in the WEC, it still feels very much like home. It feels normal in some ways by starting off our championship at Sebring. It’s the same team, same co-driver as last year with Nick and lots of carry-over, which is the name of the game in many ways for Corvette Racing. While it is new in the sense of racing in a new championship, the feeling I get from the team is not business as usual because there is a lot more behind the scenes that makes this happen than just that, but it still feels very familiar and very normal, but also very exciting to get started with a new chapter in Corvette Racing’s history.”

Corvette Racing; Corvette C8.R driver Tommy Milner (Richard Prince/Chevrolet Photo).

THERE HAVE BEEN TWO STAND-ALONE WEC RACES FOR THE C8.R AND BOTH WERE TOUGH RACES, PARTLY BECAUSE OF THE BoP. HOW DO YOU FEEL THAT MIGHT AFFECT THINGS? “In both of those situations and events for the team, there was some planning to make those events happen but there were add-ons and extras to our calendar. In those situations, and looking specifically at performance, we were hoping for a more competitive situation. Both those races were unique. The COTA race (in 2020) was pretty early on with the C8.R, and last year’s race at Spa was a super cold event. In this situation for this year and knowing as long as we’ve known that this was the plan to split the two cars, this feels much more like (normal). While this is a new championship in general for Corvette Racing, the experience we have at Le Mans is a part of that. But we do have some new tracks that the team hasn’t been to. We’ll use the DiL (Driver in the Loop simulator) as much as we possibly can for the engineers and us as drivers to get as much time as we possibly can leading up to these events. We finished last year and started this year knowing what the program is. The BoP process does play a big role at times in the pace, performance and results. For us, it’s probably the best-case scenario in some ways starting at Sebring. We know the racetrack, we know the tires, we know the car. We should be pretty competitive out of the box, I would imagine. If that’s not the case, then we will have some data that us as a team and the WEC can use to hopefully make the racing close and exciting as this class always seems to provide.”

AS IT’S YOUR FIRST WEC SEASON, IS THERE A CIRCUIT YOU’RE LOOKING AT VISITING FOR THE FIRST TIME? “To be honest, I’m excited about all of it. I’ve never raced at Spa, Monza, Fuji or Bahrain. For many of these races, it will all be new for me. Over my racing career, I’ve been a big fan of and done a lot of sim racing, so I’ve driven all these tracks multiple times in different sims. I’m excited to have the opportunity to go to these places on our DiL and also in real life. In general, I feel as prepared as I can be for these new tracks. As always, going to these new places in real life, it’s always a little bit different. There are always elevation sensations that you don’t get in the sims. While most of the bumps and things like that are there, the different track surface changes don’t always translate over very well on these sims. There definitely is a learning curve that will be involved there. We have lots of tools and experience from Nick, our engineers and other drivers that we can pull from to get us all up to speed as quickly as possible. It’s exciting to be part of a World Championship and have a chance to go for a World Championship. It’s exciting to take Corvette Racing and be one of the drivers of the car around the world and showcase this Corvette C8.R – especially now with the Corvette street car being available worldwide, it just seems like a perfect fit for this team.”

YOU’LL DO THE 1,000 MILES AT SEBRING AND THE OTHER WEC RACES OUTSIDE OF LE MANS WITH JUST TWO DRIVERS. WILL THAT HAVE AN IMPACT? “It’ll probably be about the same driving as it has been in the past with a little bit of a shorter race. Obviously, Sebring is tough physically and mentally. From my point of view, I’ve found that the more driving you do in a race, the more comfortable you get. You have more time to really understand what the car needs from every lap and every corner to figure out how to get the most out of the car. Not that I don’t like driving with multiple drivers. For 24-hour races, it’s a necessity. But there have been times at some Sebring races – while for 12 hours having only two drivers would be difficult – it’s a situation where at the end of the race and when it’s all over, the ones I’ve done quite a bit of the driving, you are tired for sure. But there is a sense that you had every opportunity to maximize the potential of the car. I’ve always enjoyed the races where, for whatever reason with the way the drivetimes worked out, I drove a lot of the race. There is a sense of accomplishment at the end of it all where you feel like you’ve had a big role in the performance of the car, and you feel like you get the most out of it. From that point of view, I’m excited about that challenge. There’s nothing extra special; it’s business as usual with what I’ve done in the past with training has always worked well for me. I’m continuing on that path as I always have. For me, I think the biggest challenge will fundamentally be getting used to new racetracks and getting up to speed. Our competitors will have had quite a bit more experience than I have at these tracks. That, for me, will be the biggest challenge – finding the maximum out of the car and getting the most out of the car on these new tracks.”


YOU’RE GOING BACK TO FIA WEC COMPETITION FULL TIME AND HAVING BOTH CORVETTE RACING ON THE GROUND AT SEBRING ALONGSIDE THE IMSA ENTRY. “The thing I’m looking forward to most is seeing how the different weekend plays out. The fact that we have our first weekend in the WEC as a single-car team, we’re actually sharing the weekend with our teammates, even though they are different race and different category. I’m looking forward to having another car to cheer on in another class and in another race and how the weekend plays out. It will be the first time that all of our crew that will be working in WEC all year will be split from the IMSA side. The good thing is that we know how to make our No. 64 Corvette go well around Sebring. Yes, the race is a bit less in time than what we are used to with the 12 Hours. But it’s still an endurance race at Sebring, so this is a good way to start the year. I’m glad we get to start the year in North America. It’s a familiar place to race and get things started. Hopefully, it’s a good start and something we can learn on the way the races are structured, the way we work as a team and take that through the rest of the season.”

Corvette C8.R driver Nick Tandy (Richard Prince/Chevrolet Photo).

HOW IMPORTANT IS A TOOL LIKE THE DRIVER IN THE LOOP SIMULATOR GIVEN NEW TRACKS ON THE CALENDER FOR CORVETTE RACING? “I’m off to Huntersville (North Carolina) on Wednesday. We have some work to do on not just Sebring but also the upcoming races after that in both IMSA and WEC. Having these tools available to us … there are certain things that stay pretty similar with the car and how the setup of the car is from track to track. But there are a lot of things that are track specific. Going to places like Monza and Fuji, for example. I know from previous experience that these places – maybe not Monza because it’s more of a Le Mans-type setup of aero level – like at Fuji with a great long straight but also a technical infield, you can run through simulations of aero level and not just figure out what makes the car work but what makes the best lap time. The trade-off between downforce and drag at certain places like Le Mans and Daytona is pretty simple to work out what makes the lap time. At somewhere like Fuji and Spa to a certain degree, you can trade off some of the cornering ability to make up time on the straight. The DiL sim that we have for this sort of thing is quite useful. We can test things to see how much time we are giving away in certain areas and how to then tune around it. We like to have two kinds of setups ready to go that we can try in testing. It gives us a head start before we get to the track. Going to new circuits, it will be even more important and play a bigger role than ever.”

IT’S YOUR FIRST FULL WEC SEASON IN QUITE A FEW YEARS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT AND IS IT STRANGE TO NOT DO A FULL IMSA SEASON FOR THE FIRST TIME IN AWHILE? “There are mixed kind of feelings. I think all of us are excited to do a World Championship, to do something new and something different. This is exciting. But we are leaving a lot of people, a lot of tracks and races, and a lot of fans and stuff that we are used to seeing and racing with on a week-to-week basis in IMSA. I will miss going places like Virginia, Watkins Glen and events like this. But we are going for a World Championship and that is something not a lot of people get the chance to go for. Le Mans is always big, but a full World Endurance Championship season is something else. It was really nice to start the year in Daytona. When you do the IMSA series and then you get to do Le Mans in the same year, that’s a fantastic calendar. To do a full WEC calendar and include Daytona as a single event from our side, it was a really nice thing to do. To have this opportunity to do these races and have the chance to be successful in not just a series but in these big, single events is something that’s always good. We were lucky to start off at Daytona and we’ve got this full chance at a World Championship, which is the aim of what we are doing. I’m looking forward to it. But I am not looking forward to not looking back to going to Silverstone, though. It used to be a home race in the WEC. I’m a bit sad we don’t go to Silverstone anymore. But I’ll be looking forward to going back to Monza. It’s been since 2017 since the last time I’ve raced there so looking forward to that.”

THERE HAVE BEEN TWO STAND-ALONE WEC RACES FOR THE C8.R AND BOTH WERE TOUGH RACES, PARTLY BECAUSE OF THE BoP. HOW DO YOU FEEL THAT MIGHT AFFECT THINGS? “Tommy was probably more involved in previous WEC single events. I was part of the team when we did Spa last year. We know that the BoP process from all the series is getting better and better. They have the tools to make this process as fair as possible. Yes, we have run the car in normal configuration at Spa last year. Nothing has really changed since then, and of course we had all the running at Le Mans last year. We also have the Prologue this year. I hope everything will be a decent window to start with. I have no reason to think they won’t. Of course, the process takes time, but cars evolve and tires evolve, and from track to track it’s different. It’s pretty simple that we make sure our car and everything on our side is 100 percent. You just hope for a fair run at it.”

YOU’LL DO THE 1,000 MILES AT SEBRING AND THE OTHER WEC RACES OUTSIDE OF LE MANS WITH JUST TWO DRIVERS. WILL THAT HAVE AN IMPACT? “From a strategic point of view, when you have only two drivers you get more time, like in practice. You don’t just have more driving time in practice. With things that you’re testing in free practice, you don’t have to worry about changing drivers as much. There is a strategic advantage to having less drivers a lot of the time. You can get through more work in practice. Of course, when it comes to the actual racing, we typically do the Six Hours of The Glen regularly with two drivers in GTLM. That’s been the normal kind of thing. With GTE being nearer to one-hour stints on fuel stops, the four-, six-, eight-hour races become a bit easier to manage with two drivers. With classes that have maybe 40- or 45-minute fuel stints, you would have more options with more drivers from that point of view. The 1,000 Miles and even in the eight hours at Bahrain, it’ll be tough. As Tommy says, doing a 12-hour or 24-hour race with three, that’s still a lot of driving time. If we both do three stints in Sebring, it’s still three double-stints, which isn’t out of the ordinary in testing. A lot of the time when we do long endurance testing, we drive a lot more. If you can get away with having less drivers, then it’s better for the team as a whole. The problem comes if someone has an issue, as I know about from Spa last year. Doing the Spa 15 Hours with two drivers is quite difficult! Having the extra guy sometimes gives you a bit of safety net if one driver has an issue. Other than that, we’re good to go with two and I think you’ll see all the other teams in GTE Pro doing the same.”