CORVETTE RACING AT DAYTONA: Back to Where It All Started
New Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs to race for first time in TUDOR Championship opener
DETROIT – Fifteen years ago, Corvette Racing stepped onto the world’s sports car stage for the first time. Thirteen years ago, it scored a stunning overall victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Now with 90 victories around the world – seven at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – and 10 American Le Mans Series titles, America’s premier production-based sports car team is back at Daytona with a brand new car to contend for a brand new championship.
The 52nd running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona will see the competitive debut of the new Chevrolet Corvette C7.R in the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. After several months in black-and-white camouflage, Daytona is the first time the two Corvettes will run in the familiar Corvette Racing velocity yellow. Both cars tested at Daytona as part of the Roar Before the 24 earlier in the month. Oliver Gavin in the No. 4 car was the second-fastest driver in the GT Le Mans class, followed closely by Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette.
Magnussen and Antonio Garcia won the American Le Mans Series’ GT driver’s championship in 2013 with three victories. Gavin and Tommy Milner placed third in the final year of the ALMS before it merged with the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series to create the TUDOR Championship. At Daytona, Ryan Briscoe will join Garcia and Magnussen while Robin Liddell partners with Gavin and Milner.
“Corvette sets the standard for Chevrolet regarding technical transfer between racing and production,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “The learnings from the race track have helped us design and engineer the new Corvette Z06 for the street and the new C7.R for the track. We are excited to debut the Corvette C7.R at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and race it all season long in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s GTLM class.
“In the 2001 24 Hours at Daytona, the #2 Corvette C5-R won its class and the overall race with drivers Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell, Chris Kneifel and Franck Freon,” Campbell added. “That history makes returning to the 2014 24 Hours at Daytona with the new Corvette C7.R in the GTLM class extra special. In addition, it will be great to have Corvette DP teams competing for the third consecutive year at Daytona in the Prototype class. We can’t wait to see the Corvette owners and supporters at the track.”
In 1999, Corvette Racing made its debut at Daytona with a pair of Corvette C5-Rs. The team placed second overall a year later and won the event in 2001. Times – and technology – have changed since then. The C7.R shares an unprecedented level of attributes with the Z06 – most notably chassis structure, direct injection on the engine front and aerodynamics.
Both the C7.R and Z06 share the same production-based aluminum frame, both of which are built at Corvette’s assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky. The chassis is 40 percent stronger than on the outgoing Corvette C6.R, which results in better handling and stability at high speeds.
Direct injection also returns to a racing Corvette for the first time since the GT1 era that ended in 2009. There are two main gains to be expected. One is better throttle control and response from the engine under power. The other is a gain in fuel efficiency – up to a 3 percent improvement on the C6.R. Those savings have the potential to add up in a race as long as the Rolex 24.
From an aerodynamic standpoint, the package on the C7.R is the most aggressive in the Corvette Racing era. Some of the features carried over from the C6.R to the 2014 Corvette Stingray production car including forward-tilted radiator, functional hood and front-quarter panel vents, and rear transmission and differential cooling intakes. From there, engineers improved the aero details on the C7.R and Z06 with similar front splitters, rocker panels, and front- and rear-brake cooling ducts.
All those factors and other improvements from the C6.R give Corvette Racing an excellent chance to get the C7.R era started on the right foot… err, wheel.
“This is a great start for a new era of Corvette Racing,” said Mark Kent, Director of Racing for Chevrolet. “The Corvette C7.R represents new levels of technology in a number of areas that improve on the championship-winning legacy of the C6.R. It has been fascinating watching the development of the car over the last few months and we all are excited to finally see it in competition.”
Television coverage of the Rolex 24 At Daytona will be available on the FOX family of channels, starting with the FOX network’s two-hour broadcast at 2 p.m. The race also will air on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2, along with overnight streaming video at imsa.com.
The TUDOR Championship is the result of a merger between the ALMS and GRAND-AM’s Rolex Sports Car Series. Corvette Racing will compete in 11 races around North America plus the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Fans at Daytona can check out a number of new Chevy vehicles throughout the weekend at the Chevrolet Display located in the infield at Daytona International Speedway. Production vehicles on-hand include the Cruze, Malibu, Camaro, Traverse, Silverado Crew and Corvette Stingray convertible.
Spectators also can see a Corvette C7.R showcar and the 2015 Corvette Z06. The display opens at 9 a.m. Friday, and 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Rolex 24 At Daytona (all times ET)
Practice 1: 9:30 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 23
Corvette C7.R Technical Briefing: 12:15 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 23 (Track Meeting Room)
Practice 2: 1:15 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 23
GTLM Qualifying: 4:05 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 23
Practice 3: 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 23
Practice 4: 11:30 a.m., Friday, Jan. 24
Race: 2:10 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 25
Rolex 24: Watch It!
Saturday, Jan. 25
2-4 p.m. ET (FOX)
4-9 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 2)
Overnight, Jan. 25-26
9 p.m.-7 a.m. ET (IMSA.com)
Sunday, Jan. 26
7 a.m.-3 p.m. (FOX Sports 1)
ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R
“The Daytona test is always very important because the race week is very short. Everything needs to be very sorted from the test days. We got to know a little bit more about it and know what we might need for the race. The important thing is that we came out of the test knowing what we need and what we can expect for the test. We have a clear idea of what we need to compete during the race. So far things look very good and I think we are headed in the right direction for the race. With the schedule and amount of time on the track, the car you unload for the race is pretty much what you will end up racing. There is no time to change a lot at that point.”
On traffic: “Out of the test, we know the car handled very well to allow us to go around other cars. Now the question mark is how fast the GT Daytona cars will be on the straights. With the amount of GTD cars there are – and knowing they were faster than us on the straights – it will be extremely challenging because not only of the differences in the cars but also because the differences in drivers in those cars. That puts you in a situation where you really need to dive into the braking zone and brake later compared to when you normally would. That is my biggest concern.”
JAN MAGNUSSEN, NO. 3 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R
“We had a really productive test. We went through a lot of stuff in the new car and a lot of stuff we needed to try out and get direction on. All three drivers in the car felt very comfortable. We need to get to race week – through qualifying really – to know exactly where we stack up against everyone. But the feeling is that we have a fast car and one that we can use to fight with the rest of the field. We won’t know for sure until everyone lets go.”
Importance of handling: “For sure in the race when we are coming up on slower traffic or being passed by prototypes, having a comfortable car that you can pick and choose your lines without getting yourself into trouble is very important for such a long race. It felt like at the test that there was room to maneuver our car. There is only one fast line but you can get outside of that a little bit without being in big trouble. Let’s face it… in the race we will be driving off-line all the time!”
RYAN BRISCOE, NO. 3 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R
“I was really happy with how the test went and my comfort level in the car. We all seemed to click right away, and that’s what you want. You have to work together and have happy compromises. But to be honest, it didn’t feel like there was a lot of compromise because things went so well.”
Where to make gains: “It’s hard to know how well we stack up against the rest in terms of infield performance. But you need to have a car that’s good in there with all the different classes. We’re actually the slowest ones on the straights just because of how the rules are set. So all the passing has to be done through the infield and through the brake zones. You have to be confident to make those moves and do them safely. Throughout the test I felt like we have a car that gave us a lot of confidence to do just that. One of the main things will be keeping an eye on the temperatures and how long we can take the tires – whether we double-stint them or not. But we have different compounds of tires from Michelin and have those to play with as the temperatures change. That will be one of the most important things to watch for performance.”
OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 4 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R
“I’m quietly confident that we have ourselves in a pretty good spot. We have to temper that with the fact that this is the Daytona 24 Hours. Experience tells you that when you enter a race with a brand new car, it’s a bit of a voyage of discovery. Regardless of how much testing you’ve done, things are going to come up or there will be conditions that you can only simulate in the race. The team is quietly confident but this track can be very mechanically hard on the car.”
On the track: “Daytona is a lot of braking and accelerating and going up and down the gearbox. When you look at the circuit layout, it really is a lot of high-speed, flat-out work with some heavy braking and slow corners mixed in. Tire temperature will be at a premium, especially if it’s cooler like on the test days. The long straights won’t help that at all. It’s going to be a big, big challenge. But that’s one of the great things about motor racing and the Daytona 24 Hours. It’s a mighty challenge, and the guys at Corvette Racing are ready to face it head-on.”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 4 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R
“Going into the Daytona test, I was optimistic that the car would be competitive, reliable and not have many issues. I was a little surprised at the relative pace compared to our competitors. Time will tell there but it’s in the race where it matters. The new Corvette was quick, consistent and good drive. We made little tweaks between the test at Sebring and Daytona with driver comfort issues and some setup directions. While we don’t have any data of running the C6.R, the step up to the C7.R is pretty significant in my eyes. It’s a more refined car and one that’s easier to drive right at the edge. Everyone came away from the Roar pretty happy and excited for the race.”
Daytona factors: “Daytona certainly is a special race. You prepare for it differently than a shorter race because it’s one of the biggest events in the U.S. I’ve done the Rolex 24 the last two years but this time it’s totally different. It’s a new car in a new series with plenty of other differences. The traffic will be a major part of the race for a lot of people. It won’t be all outright speed but how you’re able to navigate traffic compared to your competitors. The drivability factor of car plays into our hands and makes us feel a lot more comfortable. Because it’s a 24-hour race, you’re not going to make any wild moves. But if you have confidence in your car, you can put it in places where you normally wouldn’t if you didn’t have that confidence.”
ROBIN LIDDELL, NO. 4 CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R
“I came away from Daytona a lot more comfortable and confident. I felt like I knew the car better and could play with it on the edge, which I hadn’t been able to do at Sebring (in December) because of the comfort factor. We won’t really know where we are pace-wise until we get in the race. But I think everyone is quietly confident that the car has good pace and that it was reasonably comfortable to drive in the sense of it not being too much on the ragged edge. I think the car should be a good one for 24 hours in terms of it being reasonably benign and good on the infield but also good at the Bus Stop and not on a knife-edge everywhere.”
Key to success: “What you need for a 24-hour race is a drivable car. If you have one that’s comfortable, it means you can drive off line to go around people and maintain traction off the corner, brake on a dirty line and move offline to change direction. The more on the edge a car is, the greater the likelihood a driver can and will make a mistake. You need a car that minimizes that possibility but is still reasonably quick. I think we’re in a good spot in that regard.”
DOUG FEHAN, CORVETTE RACING PROGRAM MANAGER
“It’s great to be heading back to Daytona. Our overall victory in the 2001 race was certainly one of our greatest achievements, and returning brings back some inspiring memories. But I can assure you that the focus of everyone at Corvette Racing is on the here and now. On its own, the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is a tremendous challenge… add to that the introduction of the brand new C7.R Corvette race car and you have the makings for yet another storybook finish at America’s most iconic raceway. After an offseason of comprehensive testing, I can assure you the Corvette engineers, crew and drivers are all ready to rock the Rolex!”
Corvette Racing History at Daytona
|1999||GT2||Fellows/Kneifel/Paul Jr.||3rd||Corvette C5-R|
|2001||GTS||Fellows/O’Connell/Kneifel/Freon||1st||Corvette C5-R||Overall win|
|Collins/Pilgrim/Earnhardt/Earnhardt Jr.||2nd||Corvette C5-R|
Release Date: January 21, 2014