Antonio Garcia tested positive for COVID-19 at some point during the Rolex 24 at Daytona and was pulled from the winning Corvette Racing team before the endurance event concluded.
General Motors did not announce the Spaniard had tested positive until after the race ended Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.
“As part of international COVID travel protocols, all drivers and team members traveling in and out of the U.S. are required to take a COVID test before and after any race activities,” GM said in a statement. “While Antonio Garcia tested negative in preparation for his arrival for the Rolex 24, we have received notice that he has now tested positive in preparation to depart the country.”
GM said it pulled Garcia from the race Sunday morning. He had driven nearly eight hours before GM learned he’d tested positive.
Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg finished the race to score the GT Le Mans class victory. GM said Garcia had no symptoms and the team was permitted by IMSA to finish the race, which uses three and four drivers in a shared car.
“The series determined Corvette Racing met all conditions under the IMSA event protocols that allowed it to compete in a safe and responsible manner,” GM said. “We have notified crew members and others who had contact with Antonio and will conduct testing with racing team members after 72 hours, per CDC guidelines.”
IMSA is owned by NASCAR, which does not conduct COVID-19 tests for its participants but operates in a bubble of sorts at the race track. International drivers were given access to a testing service to assist in their travel to and from the event and Garcia participated in last weekend’s testing — which means he’d been in Florida for more than a week before testing positive.
Catsburg said he was tested Saturday and it came back negative, and he plans to be tested again Monday before he leaves Daytona to return to Europe.
“I feel safe and I never felt under any threat from his positive results,” said Catsburg, who learned Garcia had been pulled from the race with seven hours remaining.
Garcia was the second driver to test positive for COVID-19 during the Rolex weekend. Alegra Motorsports pulled Michael de Quesada from its entry Saturday morning before the race.
Mathieu Jaminet was replaced by RWR Eurasia last week when he tested positive, and Black Swan Racing withdrew from the race after team owner/driver Tim Pappas tested positive. Both Jaminet and Pappas presumed they had been exposed at the 24 Hours of Dubai before traveling to Daytona two weeks ago.
Renger van der Zande had to quarantine during Chip Ganassi Racing’s test session in Sebring, Florida, earlier this month due to contact tracing.
Taylor said there was almost no interaction between drivers beyond passing the car off between them during the race.
“The protocols we have are super serious, the drivers don’t really get to interact even in a 24-hour,” Taylor said. “Antonio, I saw him before the race and that was the last time, and even then, we’re always social distancing, we’re always taking the correct protocols.
“Surface-to-surface, we’re wearing gloves, we’re wearing balaclavas and helmets in the car, so nothing in the car could be a risk for us.”
Wayne Taylor Racing won the overall Rolex 24 title with a lineup that included Ricky Taylor, but Jordan Taylor said Garcia’s positive test would spoil the family celebration with his father and older brother.
“I’m fine to go sit in my house by myself for as long as it takes and just caress my Rolex for a while,” he said.
The Rolex 24 is the opening event of the North American motorsports season and NASCAR and IMSA held it with limited spectators at Daytona. It was a test for the Daytona 500, which opens NASCAR’s season Feb. 14. The track opens to spectators and teams for the 500 on Feb. 9.
Garcia, who is 40, has three class wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a longtime Corvette factory driver.