CORVETTE RACING AT LE MANS: Bidding for Eighth Class Victory
Following successful Test Day, Corvette C7.R to make its Le Mans debut
LE MANS, France (June 9, 2014) – The biggest race on Corvette Racing’s calendar is here: the 24 Hours of Le Mans – one of racing’s marquee events. The twice-around-the-clock endurance classic will see the Le Mans competition debut of the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R in its toughest test to date. The C7.R is the first completely new racing Corvette to compete at Le Mans since 2005 when the C6.R made its debut.
The goal is simple: an eighth class victory for Corvette Racing since 2001. The lineups in each of the two Corvettes are formidable. The No. 73 Corvette C7.R has Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen – winners of the last two races in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – driving with Jordan Taylor. Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook share the No. 74 Corvette. The driver pairings in each of the Corvettes are the same for the third straight year.
Gavin was fourth-fastest in the GTE Pro class during the annual Test Day on June 1, and Magnussen was sixth. Less than two seconds separated the top six cars around the 8.3-mile track that is a mix of purpose-built race track and public roads.
Corvette Racing will go for its first win at Le Mans since 2011 with a race car that has the latest in engineering technology. The C7.R, based on the 2015 Corvette Z06 production car, has a 40 percent stiffer aluminum chassis compared to the C6.R. It gives the driver a more stable and predictable car – a facet noted by the Corvette Racing roster on multiple occasions.
On the aerodynamic front, the team tested its low-downforce setups during the Test Day and earlier this month at Road America. The aggressive aero advancements help the C7.R go faster on the straightaways while still being consistent under braking and during cornering. Those areas traditionally were strengths in previous versions of the Corvette but are that much more enhanced in the C7.R.
The use of direct-injection technology within the Corvette’s 5.5-liter engine provides another advantage over recent years. It has been five years since Corvette Racing competed with a direct injection engine as part of the GT1 era. Corvette engineers believe the C7.R can see as much as a 3 percent gain in fuel economy, which could save Corvette Racing at least one regular pit stop over the course of the race.
The next time Corvette Racing takes to the circuit at Le Mans is 4 p.m. CET/10 a.m. ET on Wednesday, June 11 for free practice and qualifying. Corvette Racing will go for its eighth class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2001 at 3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET on Saturday, June 14 with live coverage on SPEED.
(Expectations) “The main thing about having a new car is that we don’t know how the car will behave during the race. We proved at all the TUDOR Championship races – including Daytona – that we have the speed although we had some issues in the first couple of races. We are confident in how fast the car is, so I think we will have the baseline to compete with the rest of our competition. But we have to be careful and not to make any mistakes. We will see if that’s enough to win the race. If everything runs according to plan, I think we have a good shot.”
(About Le Mans) “The event is huge and very important, and it’s very good to be a part of it. At Le Mans you always need to wait and see on things. There can be surprises that come up. It helps that now I’m on the best team to approach the race. If something wrong does appear, I’m on the best team to work through it.”
(Test Day recap) “We made some good changes to the car and found a good balance. Our Corvette C7.R feels comfortable and not on edge like (the C6.R) last year. At Le Mans it’s very important to have a comfortable car because often you’re out in a situation where you’re not on the ideal racing line – either overtaking slower cars or being passed by the prototypes – and that’s a lot easier when you have a comfortable car. It’s still new and you can’t guarantee a good result at any 24-hour race because it is so hard on the equipment. We go there well-prepared but also with the aim to win.”
(About Le Mans) “I wasn’t a big fan of Le Mans when I first started coming there. That all changed when I joined Corvette Racing, and we’ve had a chance to win every time out since. That makes a huge difference. You can really enjoy it, and it really motivates you when you know you have a team behind you and the car to do it. Year after year and since I’ve joined Corvette, Le Mans has grown on me and it definitely is the highlight of my racing season. I look forward to going there to compete and be part of the world’s biggest sports car race.”
(About Le Mans) “The past two years, I’ve left Le Mans thinking, ‘Wow that was a whirlwind of emotions during the whole week.’ It’s hard to remember what happened the whole time. The first year was very hectic, and my head definitely wasn’t in the right place. But going back for the second time, I knew what to expect and had a lot more focus on the driving side of it rather than just experiencing Le Mans.”
(Driving in last year’s race) “Last year with all the condition changes throughout the race, it felt like we got a year’s worth of experience in that one day. Oliver Gavin said it was the toughest race he’s ever done… and he’s done this for 14 or 15 years. For him to say that – and for us to make it to the finish and not making any mistakes – I was really happy. It makes me a lot more comfortable knowing that no matter the conditions, we’ve already been through it once. We can focus on going forward.”
(Test Day recap) “The C7.R has very nice and stable characteristics around this track and feels very strong through Porsche Curves. It’s still difficult to know where we are compared to the competition, but all in all, with the weather being nice and sunny, it was almost perfect conditions on the Test Day.”
(Preparation) “New gearboxes have been saved for this event. Lots and lots of bodywork, spares and new bits all get set aside for this. We haven’t been able to run all the newest, brightest and shiniest bits of equipment through the first few races of the season so we can run them at Le Mans. It’s our biggest race and our biggest event. Le Mans carries that cache because it’s that event in the sports car world that you want to win. You’re going to show up with your crew, team and car as finely tuned as possible with the newest parts so you can compete against the strongest competition in the world.”
(Long-distance racing) “It doesn’t hurt that we’ve done a 24-hour race and a 12-hour race. Does it help? Maybe a little bit. We were able to run the car in long-distance endurance races to prove some parts and find some weaknesses; unfortunately we found a couple of those at Daytona and Sebring while we were leading. The good thing is that we were able to correct them as best we can. In the first year of a car, getting miles and races under its belt means more than with another team or manufacturer who has had a couple of years. All the teams we race against are professionals and they’ve all done long races like Le Mans many times.”
(About Le Mans) “In some ways, Le Mans is just another race. As a driver, you don’t want to hype the race up too much and get yourself too excited about it. Inevitably, you realize how big of a race Le Mans is and how important it is on many levels. So it’s not just another race but you try to go about things as you would at any other. Certainly it’s a race that you have to see what it gives you. You sta
rt clicking off laps and try not to make any mistakes. That’s the name of the game – having a clean race. It doesn’t have to be perfect but keeping it out of the pits is a key.”
(Expectations) “We’ve made massive strides in developing a more advanced racing car and a faster racing car. I feel a lot more confident after the test than I did before. It’s definitely something that suits me when I step into it. All we can do as drivers is get in the maximum out of the car. I feel like we will be able to do that. I have every faith in Corvette Racing that it will be giving us a car that is capable of fighting at the front because usually that’s where we are.”
(About Le Mans) “You always try and treat Le Mans like it is another race but you can’t. When you get there, you just can’t ignore the atmosphere, history and importance to every manufacturer in the GTLM field. You can get carried away with that. With the nature of the circuit, the development in tire technology and the cars, every lap is flat-out. You’re qualifying every lap. It’s the most intense racing I’ve ever been involved in and you can’t treat it as routine. Everyone has to be at the top of their games and you have to give it 100 percent for every single minute.”
“The Test Day proved to be a very rewarding experience for all our guys. Both cars ran flawlessly, responded well to the planned testing protocol and looked to be very competitive. The drivers were particularly pleased with both the handling and braking of the new C7.R. The initial look at the new BOP standards was promising with the entire field closely bunched. So now on to qualifying and see what that brings. The challenges of Le Mans are many and diverse. But we have the experience, the product and the personnel to bring home victory number eight and that remains our primary objective.”