Corvette Racing Comes Home to Detroit with New Z06 GT3.R

By Tony DiZinno

IMSA Wire Service

In a year of change for Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports, a home race marks a welcome return to the team’s calendar.

The quirks of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule over the years produce certain locations where only selected series classes run, rather than all of them.

The Chevrolet Detroit Sports Car Classic, in its former home on Belle Isle Park and now ahead of its new downtown venue encircling the Renaissance Center, has been one of the most pronounced in those quirks.

Corvette Racing, in its full factory GT Le Mans class program, last competed at Detroit on Belle Isle in 2021, but even that was abnormal as GTLM ran that event as a non-points race. Now operating as a factory-supported outfit that anchors the iconic make’s new customer racing program worldwide, Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports has a pair of the familiar racing yellow ‘Vettes entered this week in the GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class as the WeatherTech Championship visits the downtown circuit for the first time.

It’s been since 2008, two iterations of circuit ago, when Corvette Racing ran for points against the backdrop of its home city on Belle Isle. General Motors has still been well represented with other makes and models, from Cadillac and Chevrolet prototypes to other Chevrolet GT cars, notably the Camaro in multiple championships.

Not that Corvette Racing doesn’t know how to win in Detroit. Far from it. In fact, the team is a perfect two-for-two in points-paying races and part of nine Chevrolet wins at Detroit in IMSA competition, including the Corvette Daytona Prototypes that won five races in a row from 2012-2016. Jan Magnussen and Johnny O’Connell (2007) and Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta (2008) captured consecutive GT1 class wins for Corvette Racing in the old Corvette C6.R.

Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller engineers leaned on the learnings of Chevrolet’s IndyCar program last year at the new Detroit circuit to establish a baseline for a handful of simulator sessions for the IMSA drivers. That should allow the team to roll into its on-track program in the best possible position for Friday’s qualifying and Saturday’s race on the tight 1.654-mile, nine-turn downtown circuit.

“I’ve driven it in person in a rental car and some sim work also,” Milner said. “It’s exciting to be in the downtown part of Detroit. Racing in the shadow of the Ren Cen is very cool.”

Milner shares the No. 4 Corvette with Nicky Catsburg, who comes in with momentum as well. He’s fresh off delivering the first IMSA pole for the Z06 GT3.R which came at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca earlier this month, where he and Milner finished a season-best third in the race.

Alexander Sims shares the No. 3 Corvette with Antonio Garcia. Sims, back in GT competition this year after winning the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) championship with Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R last year, is enjoying a homecoming of his own, having been a Corvette Racing endurance driver in 2021 and ’22.

“Coming back to the GTD field, working with Pratt Miller and driving the Corvette, the phrase ‘a comfy pair of slippers’ comes to mind but I don’t think that’s quite correct!” Sims said. “But it felt really nice and familiar straight away when I drove the car back in November.

“So far, my personal performances have been reasonable again,” Sims added, “and it just feels like I’m back in the flow of things, where I’m comfortable doing my job and working with great people in the team with Pratt Miller and all the drivers. We get along well together and I’m really enjoying it.”

What would it mean for either pairing to get the first IMSA win for the Z06 GT3.R in Detroit, in the shadows of GM’s global headquarters? Sims is keen to block out the pressure.

“It totally is a big thing, but our job is to ignore that,” he said. “When we get down to doing our work at the track, you can’t shoulder that extra responsibility and have that running through your mind when you’re on track.”

Catsburg revealed a more expected answer about winning the home race.

“It would be great. It would be the perfect location to do so,” he said. “Many of our team members will invite family also, so it would be a great confirmation of the great work they have done in the last months.”

Garcia, the longest tenured driver with Corvette Racing, backed up that assessment.

“We want to do well in Detroit. For sure the target is to win,” he said. “We are running around the Ren Cen, so obviously it will be very important if we can win there.

“It’s a new track for me and most of the other drivers. I had a chance to do a few laps in the simulator and it looks very stressful, but I’m sure it will bring a lot of action and tight racing.”

The Chevrolet Detroit Sports Car Classic is a 100-minute sprint race with coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network and Peacock.