In the GT ranks, Corvette Racing came into this weekend’s Tequila Patrón Sports Car Showcase determined to prove its new Corvette C7.R was ready to win races in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s ultra-competitive GT Le Mans (GTLM) class.
It took all of 15 minutes for Jan Magnussen to take an important first step toward that goal Friday, earning the first pole position for the new car.
Magnussen – who co-drives the No. 3 Corvette C7.R with Antonio Garcia – lapped the 1.968-mile street circuit in 1 minute, 17.939 seconds (90.902 mph), nipping Bill Auberlen’s No. 55 Crowne Plaza BMW Z4 GTE by just 0.152 seconds.
“We’ve known all along this is a fast car, we just haven’t had a chance to prove it yet,” said Magnussen. “It’s been a tough start for the Corvette C7.R (in the season’s first two races). We’ve shown we have the speed, but not the reliability yet.”
If there is a track that can cure Corvette Racing’s ails, it’s the Long Beach street circuit. The team won four races in the lead GT category through the years at Long Beach and set the fastest race lap in its class each year since 2007.
Potentially standing in the team’s way of victory are BMW Team RLL’s pair of BMW Z4 GTEs.
BMW, last year’s winner at Long Beach (in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrόn) held the top two spots in qualifying before Magnussen set his top time with five minutes remaining in the session. Auberlen ended up qualifying second with a lap of 1:18.091/90.725 mph, followed by teammate Dirk Mueller in the No. 56 Crowne Plaza BMW Z4 GTE at 1:18.246 seconds/90.545 mph.
“Close, but no cigar,” said Auberlen. “At least we can go into tomorrow knowing we have a good car. We’re leading the championship; we just need to make it out of here as good as we can.”