DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When Jan Magnussen called him “Superman” in a post-race interview, it’s a safe bet that teammate Antonio Garcia must have put in a long day, and most of a long night, during the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
“I have to give most of the credit to Antonio. That was a Superman drive,” said Magnussen about his co-driver in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R. “It was a lot longer in the car than any one of us would want.”
That’s taking nothing away from Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller, the German driver, DTM champion and class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans who helped the team out at Sebring. But Garcia’s final stint of two hours and 53 minutes behind the wheel was stellar.
“If you aren’t watching Antonio Garcia right now,” tweeted Tommy Milner, co-driver of the defending-champion No. 4 Corvette, which fell out early with overheating issues, “you’re missing out on what could be the greatest drive of his career. Unreal.”
As for Garcia, the 36-year-old Spaniard looked and sounded absolutely whipped after the race.
He had climbed into the car in fifth place, behind the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE – generally considered the hardest car in the series to pass – and all three Ford GTs, including the No. 66, driven by the same trio that took a class win at the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona, and was now looking to score a hat trick at the three most prestigious endurance races in the world.
Garcia passed everybody but the No. 66 on the track, and then stellar pit work got him out in front of that car, and driver Joey Hand. Afterwards it was a matter of staying out of trouble and keeping his competitors behind him, including the fast-approaching Patrick Pilet in the new mid-engine No. 911 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR. Garcia crossed the finish line 4.453 seconds ahead of the second-place No. 66 Ford GT.
Three days later, Garcia still sounded a little tired, but insisted he wasn’t.
“You definitely feel it,” he said. “I do a lot of training – especially a lot of running, usually 50 or 60 miles a week. But a race on a track like Sebring, as rough as it is, will wear you out. The next morning, I only ran for a half an hour with Ollie Gavin [his teammate on the No. 4 Corvette] because I just felt like I needed to clean my body out.” The interior of the Corvette “is very cramped,” he said. “It’s good to go for a slow run and stretch your body out.”
Of course, winning does tend to make those muscles feel a bit less sore. “For sure,” Garcia said. “If I had been running at the back, I probably would have asked my team for a driver change.”
Also different depending on how you are running, Garcia added, “is how the time goes by. When you are up front, time just flies. It went by super-fast.” Except for caution periods, that is – “They can let you think too much. And if you are tired, you think about that. But you just have to stay focused.”