COUNTDOWN TO COMPETITION
Developing the Corvette C7.R into a winning GT racecar
doesn’t end when it leaves the factory. That’s only the start.
here’s never enough time in the
off-season. That’s true when you’re simply
trying to improve an existing car, and it’s
even more valid when developing an
all-new racer. Just for fun, why not shorten
the off-season by a couple of months, too?
That’s what Corvette Racing experienced
as 2013 moved into 2014. Not only was
the team working through the process of
learning and fine-tuning an all-new GT racer
in the form of the C7.R, the much-anticipated successor to the venerable,
yet still potent C6.R, but it was doing it on
a timescale that compressed the usual
five-month off-season into just three.
Instead of beginning its season in mid
March at the 12 Hours of Sebring, as it
had done under the American Le Mans
Series banner, the new-for-2014 TUDOR
United Sports Car Championship season
would begin with the Rolex 24 at Daytona
in late January. No time to waste then...
“When you run in a compressed time
frame, you have to categorize in level of
importance the things you need to achieve,”
explains Corvette Racing program manager
Doug Fehan. “If you’ve made massive
improvements on the road car in things
like aero, which translates into downforce,
which translates into fuel economy, you
know in that compressed timeframe, you’re
going to look at it, but you don’t have to
be overly concerned with it in order to
get to the first race in good shape.
“What you really have to look at are
the handling characteristics of the car.
With the new chassis, how does it affect
braking, or cornering? You have to give
the guys a car they’re comfortable driving
in order to be successful in a 24-hour race.”
No matter the time available, a race
team will always figure out a way to need
Tmore of it, Fehan admits. But at some point,
the car has to be complete and testing must
begin. It’s time to start writing the book,
as he describes it, and figure out how the
car reacts to changes – be it springs, rake,
brake compound or whatever else might
be tweaked during any given weekend.
“You need to learn all that before you can
effectively apply it to any given race track,
because each one’s different,” he says. “So
you have to build as detailed a book as you
can. That’s when your racing becomes
very efficient and very successful.”
In 15 seasons, Corvette Racing’s made
a lot of history, including a Rolex 24 overall
win, seven class wins in the 24 Hours of
Le Mans, 10 ALMS Manufacturers’ titles,
nine of the Drivers’ variety and 90 victories.
But that means zip to its competitors, and
only slightly more to Corvette Racing itself
as it develops the C7.R for season No. 16.
Trophies are nice, but it’s accumulated
knowledge and experience that really count.
“It’s a new challenge this year with the
timing, the new schedule, and bringing
the new car in at the same time,” says
Pratt & Miller engineering director Doug
Louth. “So we’ve frozen things earlier
with this car, and we’ve pulled the trigger
on a number of things earlier than we
WORDS Richard S. James IMAGES Richard Prince/Corvette Racing