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ALMS: 10 Questions With Tommy Milner

Corvette Racing’s latest recruit discusses new opportunity and the challenge
John Dagys | Posted January 22, 2011 Chicago, IL

One of the worst-kept secrets in the sportscar racing world was confirmed
Friday when Corvette Racing officially welcomed Tommy Milner as a new
full-season driver for its No. 3 Corvette C6.R. The 24-year-old
Virginia-native, who spent the last two seasons as a factory BMW driver with
Rahal Letterman Racing, moves to the Pratt & Miller organization for 2011.

Fresh off an overall win at the 24 Hours of Dubai and a three-day test with
Corvette at Sebring International Raceway, we caught up with Milner to get
his take on his new opportunity with the iconic American manufacturer. It’s
all a part of the latest installment of ’10 Questions.’

Milner joined the rest of Corvette Racing for a test at Sebring
International Raceway this week. (Photo: Richard Prince/
DAGYS: How did the opportunity with Corvette Racing come about?

MILNER: I basically got a phone call and asked if I was available for next
year. With the way BMW works, we were always under one-year contracts. At
that point, I didn’t know what the status was for next year with BMW, so I
went ahead and went for a test with Corvette in early November.

The test went very well. And once the discussions started going with
Corvette and BMW, I was getting the impression that there may have been one
less seat available in the U.S. [for BMW]. Luckily, I basically had two good
programs that were interested in me. The Corvette deal ended up being a
better option. The last few years have been great and I’d like to continue
building on the progress and success that I’ve personally had.

DAGYS: What have been your first impressions with the team, having completed
a test at Sebring earlier this week?

MILNER: We were there for three days but didn’t get a lot of running in
because of the weather. It rained quite a bit, so it gave limited time on
the race track. It was a good first test, though. Now that I’m fully part of
the team, it was really good to be there with the other drivers and crew
guys and start working on the chemistry and start that process.

DAGYS: Is it bittersweet in a way to leave BMW, having literally grown up
around the brand with your father’s PTG organization?

MILNER: My earliest memories were of my dad’s team with BMW and the success
that they had, especially in the mid to late ‘90s. It was great to be a part
of BMW’s program there and I enjoyed my time with them. I was in a great car
with a great team and great co-drivers and was able to show my talents there
that helped lead to these new opportunities, which I’m obviously very
thankful for.

But for sure, once all of the Rahal guys started learning that I had tested
the Corvette, they were disappointed that I might have not been part of
their program for this year. But for me, I was given a great opportunity
with Corvette Racing and I look forward to making more history with them

After growing up around BMWs with his father's PTG race program, a move away
from the Bavarian manufacturer may have come as a tough decision. (Photo:
John Dagys)
DAGYS: Do you feel it will be a big change for you, now being at the wheel
of a Corvette?

MILNER: These last two years with BMW were pretty much the first time I had
run with the same team for back-to-back seasons. It was nice to have that
continuity, but I’m looking forward to being with Corvette. While there’s
some changes for me, personally, it doesn’t change my approach to the year.
It doesn’t change how I approach the weekends. I’m still here to do the best
possible job I can.

DAGYS: Having raced in the GT class for a number of years now, do you
anticipate the same type of close battles throughout the year?

MILNER: The competition in GT is very, very strong. I’m sure this year will
be even tougher of a challenge than it was last year. Last year, Corvette
was quick, but they sort of had an unlucky year. They’ve definitely improved
the car and are working hard to cover all aspects to eliminate any little
bits of bad luck that can bite you hard.

Certainly Corvette Racing is known for being consistent, quick and a team
that does everything right. They did almost everything right last year, it
just didn’t fall their way. So they’re anxious and eager to prove themselves
to continue their history in sportscar racing with winning races and
championships. I’m looking forward to being a part of that and helping them
achieve their goals.

DAGYS: How does it feel to be an American, driving for Corvette?

MILNER: It’s really cool for me to be a part of Corvette Racing, being an
American. I’ve got some German blood in me, but I speak English, we’re in
America and as far as I’m concerned, I’m an American. That, coupled with the
fact of Corvette Racing’s history in the U.S. and at Le Mans. To be a young
American kid, driving an American car with an American team is really cool
for me to be a part of.

DAGYS: You’ve had two previous starts at Le Mans, but obviously head into
the 24-hour with your best shot of victory. Are you looking forward to that
prospect as well?

While Corvette Racing didn't get as much running time in as they'd like due
to persistent rain, the team will return to Sebring to take part in the ALMS
Winter Test on Feb. 9-10. (Photo: Richard Prince/
MILNER: Both times I’ve been to Le Mans, the results have been less than
stellar. The first year in 2006, I didn’t even get in the car to race and I
drove two stints in 2007 before the car had some issues. When I first went
there in ’06, I was blown away by the atmosphere and just how big the whole
race is.

Those were the years where I was just happy to be a part of it, but I’ve had
the desire to return in a competitive car for that race. Obviously Corvette
were the favorites there last year, once the race got going when they were
in control. They definitely have something to prove and some bad luck to
avenge from last year. So it’s obviously going to be my highlight of the
year for me.

DAGYS: Do you feel that you can have a long-term future with Corvette?

MILNER: Just the short time I’ve been with them already, everyone has been
great to work with. All of my co-drivers are great and welcomed me with open
arms. I definitely feel comfortable within the team. As long as I perform,
then who knows what will happen. It would certainly be great to build a
relationship with a car manufacturer, especially Corvette Racing. That’s
what us drivers all hope for. That would definitely be a great thing for me.
We’ll see what happens.

DAGYS: You’ve had a great start to the 2011 season with your overall win in
the 24 Hours of Dubai with Need For Speed by Schubert Motorsport. Did the
race meet your expectations?

MILNER: I really enjoyed that race with Schubert. They’re a great team. It
was especially great to be a part of that after them trying for many, many
years to try and get a big win like that. Stefan, the engineer for the team,
said that they were leading with an hour to go and had an accident one year.
The whole team was really excited to get that big win. Some of the guys were
even in tears after the race. It was a great start of the year for me.

Whether or not I could do more races for them, who knows. I would sure love
to do the Nurburgring 24 Hours with any team, so hopefully there might be an
opportunity there in the future. But I’m really excited for my main focus
this year with Corvette Racing.

DAGYS: What’s next for yourself and the team as you prepare for the
season-opener at Sebring?

MILNER: We’ll be back at Sebring for the official test next month, so that
will be another good test for us. Some dry weather would be great! After
that, I’m just looking forward to getting the season started.
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