An exciting announcement came yesterday from GM Road Racing Manager Steve Wesoloski: Corvette Racing will be back in the ALMS for 2009 and 2010. The team is planning on running their GT1 Corvettes in limited races during the first half the season and will compete in the 2009 24 Hours of LeMans. Following that race, Corvette Racing will return to the ALMS and will run 2 new cars in the GT2 class for the remainder of the 2009 schedule. In 2010, the team will then run a full season in the restructured GT class.
According to GM’s press release, the team will only run twice in the GT1 class (Sebring,Long Beach) before June’s 24 Hours of LeMans. Over the last couple of years, four ALMS races preceeded LeMans. Following their return from France, the team will switch to the GT2 class in the attempt to unseat both Porsche and Ferrari from the podiums in “selected” ALMS races. This is essentially saying that 2009 will be the swan song for the GT1 C6.R as well as a “rebuilding” year for the GT2 C6.R.
But it’s in 2010 that things really get interesting. A major reshuffling of the classes will essentially merge GT1 and GT2 into one class called GT. Under ACO/FIA rules, the GT class is much closer to production cars with the race cars limited to a maximum engine displacement of 5.5 liters. The move to GT2 in 2009 will see Corvette transition from a displacement of 7.0 liters down to 6.0 liters.
First the quotes and then we’ll tell you why this is great news:
“Corvette Racing will be well positioned for the future of production-based sports car racing worldwide with the plans we are announcing today,” said Steve Wesoloski, GM Racing Road Racing Group manager. “The international regulations are converging around a single, global GT class, and we intend to continue Corvette’s motorsports heritage by racing against manufacturers and marques that Corvette competes with in the marketplace.
“The GT1 class has been a platform for GM Racing and our partners to develop the most technically sophisticated race cars in our history,” Wesoloski said. “We intend to apply the tremendous success we have had in the GT1 category to make the next-generation Corvette C6.R a strong contender in the new GT class.”
“Competing in GT2 will be a true test of our team’s determination, talent and technology,” said Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing program manager. “The level of competition in the category is already fierce, and that promises to become more intense with more manufacturers and top-tier teams. We’ve explored alternative paths, and we believe that competing in GT is the right road for Corvette Racing to take in the future.
“We will continue our commitment to cellulosic E85R ethanol racing fuel in the current GT1 Corvette C6.R and the next-generation Corvette C6.R that will compete in the new GT class ” Fehan said. “Corvette Racing’s green racing initiative is proof of our commitment to using alternative fuels at the highest levels of motorsports.”
The obvious reason why this is a great move is that Corvette will be racing against the likes of Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, BMW, Ford, Dodge, and Panoz. Way better than the once a year battle at LeMans against the Aston Martin DBR9s and Saleen’s S7 and way, way better than the two Corvette C6.Rs knocking the doors off each other.
The GT2 and then GT race cars will feature much more of the production Corvette DNA that you and I love. The old adage of “Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday” will become more of a reality for Corvette than (dare I say) GM’s NASCAR program.
But most importantly is what this move will do for the next generation C7 Corvette. Corvette Racing is the on-track testing platform for the newest technologies. The LS7 505 hp V8, carbon fiber body panels and ceramic brakes were all tested on the C6.Rs before being incorporated on production C6 Corvettes. Racing a production based C6 Corvette with a smaller engine displacement will ensure that the two major C7 development goals of weight reduction and fuel efficiency will be tried and tested in time for 2012 when the new Corvette is expected.
In the last 10 years, the partnership of GM and Pratt & Miller has established the Corvette Racing brand as one of most dominant teams in road racing history. Corvette Racing is the most successful team in ALMS history, winning seven consecutive ALMS GT1 manufacturers and team championships and six straight drivers championships. Corvette Racing has also dominated globally with five GT1 victories since 2001 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
While 2009 will be a time of transition for the team, the real payoff will come in 2010 and beyond. For Corvette Racing enthusiasts, the news couldn’t be any sweeter! The GT2 class (and then GT) won’t be the same.
For more on the subject, we recommend reading the following:
Our friends at BadBoyVettes provide an excellent bullet-by-bullet analysis
Marshall Pruett writes about Corvette’s New Direction at SPEED TV
American LeMans Press Release: Corvette Racing Back For 2009
And finally, the release from GM: Corvette Racing Announces Future Plans
Bondurant School of High Performance Driving