Garcia on emotional Rolex 24 win after bereavements and COVID

Rolex 24 winner Antonio Garcia was left crying from “emotion and rage” after missing the celebrations due to a positive COVID-19 test, soon after the deaths of his grandfather and former mentor Adrian Campos.

Garcia on emotional Rolex 24 win after bereavements and COVID

Reigning IMSA GT Le Mans champion Garcia, fulltime co-driver Jordan Taylor and endurance third man Nicky Catsburg drove the #3 Corvette Racing C8.R to victory last Sunday, but a COVID-19 test at the track came back positive for Garcia. Consequently he missed his final stints and had to leave the track, thereby missing out on the celebrations with the squad.

Coming in the same month as he lost his grandfather to COVID-19, and just four days after his former mentor Adrian Campos died, Garcia was left in a tearful tumult of emotions as he watched the end of the race.

“I was in the car park of a hotel 300 meters from the entrance of the circuit, watching the race with my mobile phone, from the onboard camera - not even with the official broadcast - and the times,” Garcia told “At the end I was crying a lot from the emotion and rage of not being able to be there and celebrate and hug the people I wanted to hug. Being alone in a car celebrating a victory is the most surreal thing that can happen to anyone, of course. 

“That's what I missed the most: not being able, even with a mask on, to give Jordan and Nicky a hug for the job they did. It was also a surprise for them that they had to do the last four hours of the race without me. They gave it their all and I'm super proud of what they did.”

For his part, Taylor spoke movingly of his frustration at being unable to celebrate with his teammate and friend. 

Asked when he learned of his positive test, Garcia replied: “Shortly after I got out of the car after a triple stint. I got the e-mail and I couldn't believe it; in fact I asked what it meant. I'm glad it didn't affect the result because there are three of us in the team. Fortunately they did a sensational job and Jordan completed a great last stint.”

Garcia, a four-time IMSA GT champion, has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times, Sebring 12 Hours three times, but cites this third win in the Rolex 24 as his most special victory.

Yes, of course it is,” he said. “It's clear that I will always remember this watch [the Rolex prize] with much more affection than usual, without a doubt. The circumstances are what they were, but I'm happy to have given it my all and to have achieved our goal.”

Garcia admitted that for much of the race, running behind the sister car of Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy and Alexander Sims, he wasn’t confident of victory.

“I was finding it quite tricky because our teammates were also very strong and we were behind them for a long time. Honestly, in the last lap I did [against] Tommy, I could see that I was missing a little bit, that I would have liked to have a little bit more in reserve. I had my doubts.

“But then at the end of the race with more heat and so on, we got the setup right for those last 5-6 hours and that's where we made the jump. The #4 had looked much stronger all night, but the tables were turned. I'm glad we did the work we did in practice and got the setup right for the end of the race. 

“Fighting against your teammate is the worst thing that can happen to you, because his strengths are your strengths and his weaknesses are also your weaknesses. Fighting one on one with someone in identical conditions is the hardest thing to do.

“But in this case we are the winners.”

Garcia admitted that his sorrow over his grandfather and then Campos had affected his focus in the build up to the race, and that he’d only be able to shut it out of his mind while driving the car.

“It was pretty bad, to be honest. My grandfather was already 98 years old, although he was perfect – he didn't look that age. He and my grandmother got COVID in November, the week before Sebring [12 Hours], but they seemed to be over it. In the end my grandfather relapsed again and eventually passed away.

“Because it was over such a long period of time, you kind of have more time to assimilate and come to terms with it, but Adrian Campos’s [death] was a real shock, completely unexpected. We couldn't believe it... it was quite a tough week. It was very difficult to be 100 percent focused and prepare everything to the millimeter with that going on in your head all the time.

“The only time you manage to get away from it is when you're in the car because you're 100 percent focused on what you're doing. But out of the car, it was difficult not to fall back in... I tried to be as normal as possible.

“I didn't tell anyone about my grandfather, but then the news about Adrian came out. People like Jordan [Taylor] and [former teammate] Oliver Gavin, who is always there, knew how much I was going to be affected by what had happened. They were very attentive to me and helped me as much as possible.

“It has been difficult. At some point I apologized to the team, because at times I had been quieter than usual, more fussy when there was something that wasn't as I wanted it to be... You get on the edge of your nerves and it's hard to maintain a sense of normality.”

Mercedes started Rolex 24 “average” but became “fantastic”

Previous article

Mercedes started Rolex 24 “average” but became “fantastic”

Next article

The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC

The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC
Load comments
Why a Mazda IMSA Prototype title would bring bitter joy Prime

Why a Mazda IMSA Prototype title would bring bitter joy

Can Mazda win this year’s IMSA Prototype championship? Undoubtedly. But it will be the culmination of an achingly hard struggle, after which the brand has decided to quit. David Malsher-Lopez tells the story of a bizarre blend of heartache and positivity.

Apr 6, 2021
The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC Prime

The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s decision to scrap its GT Le Mans class for 2022 raises the question of whether the FIA World Endurance Championship should phase out GTE cars. But it's a much harder decision than it appears on the surface.

Feb 3, 2021
Nine things to watch at the 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona Prime

Nine things to watch at the 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

After a 100-minute sprint race to whet the appetite, the 2021 IMSA SportsCar Championship gets underway properly this weekend. With plenty of significant changes during the winter, here are the key points you need to keep an eye on

Jan 29, 2021
Why Magnussen is relishing a fresh start in sportscars Prime

Why Magnussen is relishing a fresh start in sportscars

Having gone over seven years without a race win through spells with McLaren, Renault and Haas, Kevin Magnussen's departure from Formula 1 for IMSA with big-hitters Chip Ganassi Racing could give him what he craves most - a chance of success

Jan 29, 2021
Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights Prime

Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights

Oliver Gavin has stepped down from the full-time Corvette Racing line-up after a stellar career with the team spanning nearly 20 years. He looks back on a stint that encompassed, among other successes, five Le Mans 24 Hours victories.

Le Mans
Jan 28, 2021
How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends Prime

How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends

Victory at last year's Spa 24 Hours meant Nick Tandy had completed the unofficial sextuple crown of the world's six biggest endurance races, becoming the first Briton to do so. Ahead of his fresh start with Corvette Racing, he explains how he did it…

Le Mans
Jan 24, 2021
The 12 greatest Sebring 12 Hours ranked Prime

The 12 greatest Sebring 12 Hours ranked

The 2020 edition of the Florida sportscar classic is finally taking place this weekend, eight months after its traditional date in March. That meant there was plenty of time for to pour over its previous 67 races and select the best.

Nov 11, 2020
Tony Kanaan’s top 10 races – in his own words Prime

Tony Kanaan’s top 10 races – in his own words

The 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan probably hasn’t yet driven his final IndyCar race, but we still asked him for the 10 most significant races of his career. He explained his choices to David Malsher-Lopez.

Sep 7, 2020