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ANTONIO GARCIA: Inside Track at VIR
Last year may have been the first race for the American Le Mans Series at VIR, but it wasn’t the first visit there for Antonio Garcia. Corvette Racing’s speedy Spaniard raced there twice in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports car Series’ Daytona Prototype class, and he parlayed that experience into the fastest GT race lap in the ALMS’ debut last season – 1:47.389 (109.620 mph).
Garcia, who leads the ALMS GT championship with Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Compuware Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, tells you what he looks for during a lap at VIR.
“VIR is a race track that I’ve always liked since I went there for the first time in 2010. Overall, the track has a lot of momentum and flow. The backstraight is the only place where you are not turning and are just going straight. Everywhere else, you need to place the car well – especially in the first bit where there is a little combination of some slow-speed corners. As you go toward the Oak Tree Corner, which sadly is missing the Oak Tree now – and the other side of the track, you have a section of very, very fast corners. The first time you go through there can be a little scary. No matter what car you are driving, you are flat or just breathing a little on the throttle at the last corner. The track is very challenging and very narrow with no room for even little mistakes.
“Braking is very important into Turn 1 and also at the end of the backstraight. You need to be able to brake very late because both of the entries are rather bumpy. You really need to nail the curbing where you shift just to make the line smooth. Through the esses, drivers – like Jan! – run over all the curbing. The esses give you the chance to do that although I’m not really keen on working on the curbs. I have a line through there where I don’t use a lot of curbing. But going through there really is the moment of your lap. Everyone tries to take a line to get through there as flat as possible until the last right-hander before the downhill toward Oak Tree. I don’t think there is much to be gained by going flat versus breathing a little bit. Another point is the Oak Tree corner. In the past, the Oak Tree would not really let you see the apex because it would be right behind the tree. I don’t know how it will be now, but for sure the corner is one where you need to give away the entry a little in order to go back on power early because the backstraight is so long. From Turn 4 up until Oak Tree are the key points of the race track.
“If you’re running in a group or in traffic, for sure the most difficult section would be the esses. Really it’s Turn 3 up until Oak Tree is the most important. If you are in a group, chasing traffic or traffic is catching you, that does give you a chance to make up time on your competition if you get through there cleanly. It’s important that if someone is coming on you that you let him know where you are going to go and where you want to be passed. Otherwise there can be a misunderstanding between drivers and that’s when big crashes happen.”
Saturday’s race is set for 2:15 p.m. ET with live coverage on ESPN3 beginning at 2 p.m. ESPN2’s coverage airs at 5:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Oak Tree Grand Prix (all times ET)
· GT Testing: 3:30-5 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 3
· Practice 1: 10:25 a.m., Friday, Oct. 4
· Practice 2: 2:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 4
· GT Qualifying: 4:05 p.m., Friday, Oct. 4
· Warmup: 9:35 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 5
· Race: 2:15 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5
VIR: Watch It!
Friday, Oct. 4-Sunday, Oct. 6 (all times ET)
· Qualifying: Live – 3:35 p.m., Friday, Oct. 4 (ESPN3)
· Race (Web): Live – 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5 (ESPN3)
· Race (TV): 5:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 6 (ESPN2)