New Corvette C6.R to Make Racing Debut in Sebring
American Le Mans Series 12-Hour Season-Opener Marks Corvette’s 50th Year in Racing
SEBRING, Fla. – Corvette Racing’s championship-winning Corvette C5-R is a tough act to follow, but the new Corvette C6.R race car is up to the task. Introduced in 1999, the C5-R scored 35 victories in 55 American Le Mans Series events, won its class at the 12 Hours of Sebring three consecutive years, posted three 1-2 finishes in the GTS class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and earned four consecutive manufacturers championships for Chevrolet.
The new Corvette C6.R that will make its competition debut at this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is a worthy successor. The C6.R is the most technically advanced sports car ever developed by GM, combining lessons learned in the dominant Corvette C5-R with the advanced technology of the Corvette C6 and Z06 production models.
“History will remember the C5-R as one of the best sports racing cars of all time, and we’ve set the bar high for the C6.R,” said Mark Kent, director of GM Racing. “The production sixth-generation Corvette and the C6.R race car were developed in tandem, and the two-way transfer of technology benefited both programs.”
While the hardware is new, the driver lineup is familiar. The same six drivers who piloted Corvette Racing to an undefeated season in 2004 return to the track in 2005: Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Max Papis will drive the #3 Compuware Corvette C6.R and Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen will share the #4 Compuware Corvette C6.R.
This year’s 12-hour race marks Corvette’s 50th year in international road racing. With a little help from Zora Arkus-Duntov and his friends at Chevrolet, a quartet of Corvettes was prepared for the 1956 Sebring enduro. John Fitch and Walt Hansgen drove one of the Corvettes to a ninth-place finish overall and an uncontested Class B victory – a first step onto the world stage that established Chevy’s sports car as a contender in top-level competition and changed enthusiasts’ perceptions of the fiberglass-bodied two-seater. Now in 2005, Corvette Racing will again take on an international field of rivals in the production-based GT1 class (formerly GTS) that promises to be the headliner in the 12-hour endurance classic.
“The entire Corvette Racing team is excited and energized by the intense competition in the GT1 division this year,” said Doug Fehan, GM Racing program manager for Corvette Racing. “It was fantastic for Corvette to have an undefeated season last year, but to see all of these different marques – names with the stature of Aston Martin, Ferrari and Maserati – racing on the same track will be sensational. If you were to look back at the previous 52-year history of Sebring, you’d be hard pressed to find that kind of factory lineup. It’s tremendously exciting for Corvette Racing to be part of that.
“It will be an absolute dogfight in GT1 at every ALMS event,” Fehan predicted. “Every one of the marques is capable of winning at any given track, and anyone who follows a strategy of trying to win every race is going to be disappointed. The teams are too good, the talent is too deep, and the cars are too great. GT1 is going to provide great theatre for the fans.”
GM Racing faced the challenge of creating the next generation of Corvette race cars while simultaneously racing the previous version. The twin Corvette race cars that will make their debut at Sebring are the product of a full year of rigorous testing and development. With the rulebook’s insistence on close adherence to production specifications, the Corvette race cars have strong links to their showroom counterparts.
“The race team worked closely with Corvette chief engineer Dave Hill and the engineering team that was working on the production sixth-generation Corvette, and we gave them a wish list for the racing version,” Fehan explained. “We wished for flush headlights for better aerodynamics. We wished for a single, large grille opening for the engine air intake, radiator, and brake cooling. We hoped they could find a way to give us a lower coefficient of drag. They granted all three wishes with the production C6 Corvette. The Corvette engineering team gave us exactly what we needed.”
The 2006 Corvette Z06 bristles with race-inspired technology, including carbon fiber front fenders and wheelhouses, a front splitter, air extractors behind the front wheels, radiused trailing edges on the wheel openings, brake cooling scoops, widened rear fenders, a rear diffuser, and a spoiler.
The Corvette C6.R’s roots reach to the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky. The same hydroformed frame rails that are formed with thousands of pounds of hydraulic pressure for production Corvette coupes and convertible also provide the basic foundation for the racing version.
“We started with the production frame rails and the concept of the center tunnel as the backbone of the car, and then designed a roll cage on that structure,” explained Steve Wesoloski, program engineering manager for Corvette Racing. “We evolved the structure from the production car with a cored composite floor that spans the full width of the race car. The analytical process that was used in production carried over to how we analyzed the race car.”
Shorter in overall length and with a longer wheelbase than its predecessor, the C6 presented a challenge to Corvette Racing engineers, who had to package all of the essential components inside a tighter envelope while optimizing aerodynamic performance.
“At first glance, the shortened front and rear overhangs on the C6 would seem to present a challenge in developing a race car with maximum aerodynamic downforce,” said Wesoloski. “However, the low-drag features of the C6, such as its sleek body shape and flush headlamps, lend themselves to converting the production design into an aerodynamically efficient race car.”
Adding a rear wing and a front splitter enabled the team to develop an aerodynamic package for the C6.R that produces a better lift-to-drag ratio than its C5-R predecessor. Through a combination of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) studies and on-track testing, the end result is an aerodynamically balanced package that can be tuned to the high-speed demands of Le Mans and the high-downforce requirements of Mosport.
The phrase “technology transfer” has never been more appropriate than when used to describe the Corvette C6.R race car and the production 2006 Corvette Z06 supercar. Lessons learned on the track benefited the Z06, just as GM’s vast resources enriched the C6.R race car. Both cars are powered by 7-liter small-block V-8 engines with dry-sump lubrication systems, CNC-ported aluminum cylinder heads, titanium valves and connecting rods, forged steel crankshafts, and plate-honed cylinder bores. While the components and specifications of the street and competition engines are tailored to their specific environments, the thought process behind them is identical.
“There can be no doubt that the people who created these cars have learned from each other,” said Dave Hill, Performance Cars vehicle line executive and Corvette chief engineer. “Which way did the technology flow – from the race car into production, or from production to the race car? It went both directions.”
Returning to the birthplace of Corvette’s road racing heritage, a new generation of Corvette race cars will again prove the marque’s world-class performance capabilities in a grueling 12-hour race around the clock.
Release Date: March 15, 2005