That’s the challenge Corvette Racing drivers Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller are taking on this weekend during the inaugural event known as Super Sebring at the Central Florida track. The weekend’s headlining events begin with the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) 1000 Miles of Sebring on Friday. The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship-sanctioned Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring then takes center stage on Saturday, as is tradition.
Magnussen, Garcia and Rockenfeller will compete on Friday afternoon in the No. 63 C7.R in the LMGTE Pro class in WEC, then climb aboard their famed No. 3 car on Saturday for the annual around-the-clock contest in IMSA’s GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. The trio won the 12-hour race together in 2017, while Magnussen and Garcia are also two-time defending IMSA series champions in GTLM.
Danish driver Magnussen has claimed victory at Sebring on five occasions with Corvette Racing since joining the team in 2004. He has competed in disciplines ranging from Formula 1 to NASCAR, but these endurance races pose a unique challenge, as he has never competed in two of them on the same weekend.
“Come race time, we’ll have done twice the amount of miles that we usually have before the twelve hours,” Magnussen explains. “[For] the actual race itself, we have good time out of the car between stints, so I don’t think that will be tough, but I think we’ll be pretty well worn out even before the racing starts. That will be the biggest issue and that’s also what I’ve been training for a lot since the Daytona 24-hour to try to be ready for this. It’s a first, so hopefully, I’ve done enough.”
“Come race time, we’ll have done twice the amount of miles that we usually have before the twelve hours.”
The WEC race begins at 4 p.m. on Friday and is slated to last until midnight. Just over 10 hours later, the 12-hour contest on the 17-turn, 3.74-mile oval begins at 10:40 a.m. Saturday morning. Between practice sessions and qualifying, Magnussen and his teammates will have driven hundreds of miles before taking a single green flag.
“I think the biggest challenge will be the lack of time that we have between sessions,” Magnussen says. “We need to really manage the time well to be able to do the de-briefings properly and get the information that we need before we’re off in the other car and getting a bunch of new information that we need to relay to the team and the engineers to try and improve.”
Despite the logistical challenges, Magnussen is looking forward to competing in WEC to learn how his team stacks up against the competition they will face once again in June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Plus, even though the rules between WEC and IMSA are not entirely uniform, and there are some balance of performance differences between the two Corvettes Magnussen will be driving, he is not particularly concerned about actually piloting two different machines over the course of the weekend.
He has reason to be confident.
The Corvette Racing operation has won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring 11 times, beginning with the Corvette C5-R in 2002. The team continued to take checkered flags in the famed race through the C6.R generation and also in today’s C7.R. In fact, this year Corvette Racing as a group will be looking for its fourth class win in five years in the race after winning three in a row from 2015 to 2017. The Magnussen/Garcia/Rockenfeller trio will be joined by teammates Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fässler in the sister No. 4 C7.R for Saturday’s 12-hour event. That group won together in 2016.
"We need to really manage the time well to be able to do the de-briefings properly and get the information that we need."
Sebring’s notorious bumps make it one of the toughest circuits in the world, which in turn makes Corvette Racing’s success even more impressive.
“Sebring is tough on everything -- driver, cars, everything,” Magnussen says. “There’s not a lot of time to rest during a lap because the back straight is pretty bumpy as well. You don’t get a lot of downtime when you’re doing a lap at Sebring so it’s just tough on everything. In the past, we have used the measurement that if the car can survive 12 hours at Sebring then you’re good.”
Magnussen has driven the C5-R, C6.R and current C7.R since he became part of the team. He’s seen the cars develop and evolve as engineering has constantly found ways for them to get quicker while also maintaining reliability for long distances. He attributes it to the preparation and experience of the team, and its devotion to preparing fast and reliable cars.
Both the challenge of the track and the party element of the event are also components of Sebring Magnussen has come to relish each year he returns.
“The experience of driving Sebring has changed a little bit, but only for the better,” he says. “They’ve made very few improvements on the track, which I like. If they re-paved it and made it smooth as a Formula 1 track I think it would be quite boring to run around actually. As much as everybody hates the bumps, it’s also what makes that place so special. Everybody loves coming around and it’s a fantastic atmosphere surrounding the track.”
"It’s a fantastic atmosphere surrounding the track.”