After strong debut, Corvette C8.R set for busy next month

February 10, 2020

After strong debut, Corvette C8.R set for busy next month

February 10, 2020

Corvette Racing has completed the racing launch of its new C8.R. The mid-engine vehicle marks a radical departure for Chevrolet’s top GT racing product.

But a successful 24-hour race debut saw the new car run the furthest distance any Corvette car has at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. That proved key at the outset of this new car’s program.

It also sets the car up nicely for three major races in the next two months. Besides its next IMSA start in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Corvette Racing enters FIA World Endurance Championship rounds at Circuit of The Americas later this month and alongside IMSA at the 1000 Miles of Sebring in March. For a recap of its dual Sebring effort in 2019, click here.

RECORD CORVETTE DISTANCE IN DAYTONA
A yellow Corvette C8.R at sunset. Photo: Michelin North America

The traditional yellow No. 3 car, driven by Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg, completed 785 laps for 2,794.6 miles – the greatest distance for any Corvette entry in Rolex 24 history. The trio finished fourth in the highly competitive IMSA WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans class.

“I’m proud that at least one car finished near the lead lap,” said Garcia, a Corvette Racing stalwart since 2009. “For sure every time out we want to win and do the very best possible. Today, this was the best possible result. Probably we didn’t have enough pace to be on the podium or to win.”

With only six caution flags interrupting the record race distance, there was little opportunity to leapfrog and move ahead. But the team still tried.

“Once we lost track position and not having many yellows, we had to react to that and be aggressive on the strategy. A yellow would have put us a little ahead and maybe given us a chance to fight,” Garcia explained. “But I’m proud that we gambled and tried to do better than what we actually might be. Instead of being comfortable with fourth, we went to try and win it.”

The quartet of 2020 full season Corvette Racing drivers. Photo: Michelin North America

Taylor and Catsburg had different goals in their maiden starts with the C8.R. Taylor, a DPi veteran and past series and race champion with father Wayne’s Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R program, had to re-acclimate back to racing in GT cars. He used to be Corvette Racing’s third driver for six years, from 2012 through 2017.

“Obviously we wanted to be on the podium or win the race, especially when you have a flawless race. If you would have told us two weeks ago that we would have no issues all the way through the race, we would have taken that all day long. I’m excited for the rest of the year,” said the 28-year-old American.

Dutch GT ace Catsburg, by contrast, re-entered the cauldron of factory GTLM competition for the first time in several years. He’d had some BMW race experience but this race marked his debut with Corvette Racing. Having made a positive impact on the team itself, Catsburg instead sought to improve his own performance in future Michelin Endurance Cup rounds.

Nicky Catsburg. Photo: Michelin North America

“From my personal standpoint, this is a great team, a very nice car and very nice people. I really enjoyed it,” he said. “Personally, I’m somewhat in the middle about my performance. I’m happy with the pace. There were some small mistakes that shouldn’t have not have been there. But in the end, we can all be quite happy.”

Challenging debut for No. 4 Corvette C8.R at Rolex 24. Photo: Michelin North America

The No. 4 Corvette persisted in spite of delays from an oil leak that necessitated the removal of the engine. That trio of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler remained intact as a unit for a third straight year.

“MAGS, ROCKY” SET FOR WEC OUTINGS

It’s two drivers from Corvette’s recent past, though, that could prove integral to its future. Rather than use IMSA drivers, Corvette brought in a pair of team veterans for two FIA World Endurance Championship races.

After a massively successful 15-plus year full-time career with Corvette Racing, Jan Magnussen is back for the WEC races at COTA and Sebring. Magnussen will share the No. 63 C8.R with Mike Rockenfeller, who replaced Taylor as a Corvette third driver in 2018 and 2019.

The two WEC races will allow the new Corvette to continue to gain race experience, in a different series and against different competition. Corvette traditionally receives two entries at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and seeks the same outcome for 2020 with the C8.R.

“For some time, we have been working together on plans for additional races that will help develop and prepare the team and mid-engine Corvette for the IMSA season and hopefully other big races this year. Even in early testing, I was very impressed with the level of engineering and performance of the C8.R. I’m excited to drive it again, now in race conditions,” Magnussen said.

Magnussen will be back with Corvette for at least two WEC races. Photo: Michelin North America

General Motors had a healthy number of executives at the car’s race debut in Daytona. The combination of Corvette’s finish with Cadillac’s overall victory made it a good day for them.

“These two events provide us the opportunity to obtain further learnings on the new Corvette C8.R while competing against world-class competition,” said Mark Kent, Chevrolet Director of Motorsports Competition. “Having experienced Corvette drivers such as Jan and Mike in the car will provide us a good opportunity to contend for the win in the very competitive World Endurance Championship series.”

TIE-IN WITH MICHELIN STREET TIRES

Corvette’s roadgoing version of the race car, the Stingray, recently won Motor Trend’s 2020 Car of the Year. The car has Michelin’s new Pilot Sport All Season 4 tires, developed specifically for this car.

Hear a bit more about this from Lee Willard, Michelin engineer with Corvette Racing, who designs the street tire.

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