GM Racing

Computer Simulations Give Corvette Racing an Edge in Inaugural Utah Grand Prix

Corvette Racing Aims to Overcome Altitude and Competition Adjustments in First ALMS Race at Miller Motorsports Park

Utah Grand Prix SALT LAKE CITY - Although Corvette Racing's championship-winning Corvette C6.R race cars haven't turned a tire at Miller Motorsports Park, Chevrolet's factory team has already completed hundreds of virtual laps around the immense 4.5-mile circuit. Sophisticated computer simulation software gives the team a head start on setting up the cars for the inaugural ALMS Utah Grand Prix on July 15.

"The laptime simulation software we use is a proprietary program that is constantly evolving," said Steve Cole, race engineer for the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R. "We compare and correlate the predictions with real-world results as we develop the software. The simulations give the team the ability to evaluate various setups in the computer before the cars go to the track."

That foresight could prove to be a crucial advantage for Corvette Racing in the fifth round of the 10-race American Le Mans Series. The Utah Grand Prix will be the first major auto race contested on the new 4.5-mile, 23-turn road course. Corvette Racing will not only have to contend with the effects of altitude at the track's 4,923-foot elevation but also the effects of "balance of performance" adjustments that have tilted the playing field in the GT1 class.

"We start with what we think is a reasonable chassis setup with springs, sway bars, dampers and so on," Cole explained. "Then we run lap simulations on the computer, adjusting the gearing, the weight distribution and other items until we come up with a setup that gives an optimized performance target."

"There are challenges we deal with in this process due to limited information about the new surface, so you have to make some assumptions about the grip," he noted. "Surface friction, bumps, banking and grade are all unknowns at this point for the new Utah track. Beyond this, the track characteristics change over the course of a race weekend as rubber builds up on the racing line, but the simulation program gives us a solid starting point for the setup. We can then refine the setup based on driver feedback and track data."

The thin air of the Salt Lake Valley will affect both men and machine, as Cole explained: "There is about a 14 percent loss in engine horsepower compared to sea level," he said. "The air is less dense, so we won't have as much aerodynamic downforce and cooling. Fortunately the Corvette C6.Rs have plenty of cooling capacity, so the heat shouldn't create a problem."

The effects of altitude on the Corvettes' engine performance will be magnified by smaller intake restrictors that were mandated by the sanctioning body to balance competition in the GT1 class. The Corvette LS7.R engine's new 30.8 mm restrictors represent a 6 percent reduction in area from the 31.8 mm restrictors used previously, producing a corresponding decrease in engine output. In addition, the Corvette's fuel capacity has been reduced from 100 liters (26.4 gallons) to 90 liters (23.8 gallons). Both performance adjustments will be in effect for the remainder of the season.

Those handicaps have given drivers Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta extra motivation as the second half of the season begins. The reigning GT1 champions saw their record-setting streak of eight victories snapped at Lime Rock Park when Beretta was pushed off the course and into a guardrail by a prototype.

"It's likely to be very hot and the altitude will be an issue in Salt Lake City," said Gavin. "The team will certainly give us a good basic setup, and then for the drivers it just comes down to making laps to learn the circuit. We've all raced on many different tracks before, so we know how to go about learning a new one. Whoever can learn the quickest and get the car to his liking as soon as possible will have an advantage. With all of the resources on hand at Corvette Racing, we stand a good chance of being on top of the game."

"Twenty-three corners are a lot to learn quickly," Beretta said with a smile. "It will take a few times around the course to learn how to use 100 percent of the corners. When a driver starts a career in racing, you have to learn every track that you go to, so it won't be something unusual. It will just be a new experience, and I am always eager to discover something new."

The two-hour, 45-minute Utah Grand Prix, the fifth round of the 10-race 2006 American Le Mans Series, is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. local time (8 p.m. ET) on Saturday, July 15. The race will be televised tape-delayed on CBS Sports on Sunday, July 16, starting at 2 p.m. ET.

Release Date: July 10, 2006