Team Chevy Spotlight: 2011 Corvette Racing Overview
As Chevrolet celebrates its centennial in 2011, Corvette Racing is continuing the racing tradition that began when race car driver Louis Chevrolet and financier William Durant founded Chevrolet in 1911. The reputation that Chevrolet won in racing was a key element in establishing the fledgling car company.
Today Corvette Racing is still winning customers by competing on the race track. Running in the American Le Mans Series GT class, the premier production-based category, the twin Compuware Corvette C6.R race cars are going head-to-head with showroom rivals representing Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, Aston Martin, Jaguar, and Ford.
The 2011 season marks Corvette Racing’s 13th year in international road racing. The two-car team made its competition debut in February 1999 in the Daytona 24-hour race, finishing third and 12th. From that modest start, Corvette Racing has become one of the world’s most successful production sports car teams, winning eight consecutive ALMS GT1 manufacturers and team championships and seven straight ALMS GT1 drivers’ titles.
Corvette Racing won 79 of the 120 races it contested through the 2010 season. The team’s list of accomplishments includes 54 one-two finishes, six class victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, seven class wins in the Sebring 12-hour enduro, eight class titles in the 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans, and an overall victory in the Daytona 24-hour race.
Based on the Corvette ZR1 supercar, the Corvette C6.R has strong links to the production version of America’s performance icon. The GT rules require the use of many production-based components, expanding the opportunities for the two-way transfer of technology between the race track and the showroom. The Corvette C6.R utilizes the ZR1’s body design, aerodynamic package, aluminum frame and chassis structure, steering system, windshield, and other components. The race team has prepared the cars for the rigors of endurance racing with safety and performance modifications as permitted by the rulebook.
“One of the many benefits of the Corvette Racing program has been the opportunity to demonstrate the technology transfer between the race car and the production car,” said Mark Kent, director of GM Racing. “The GT class allows Corvette to compete head-to-head with its marketplace competitors while increasing both the production content of the Corvette C6.R race cars and the relevance of racing to our customers. This program is perfectly aligned with GM’s marketing and business objectives in racing.”
Corvette Racing’s on-track success has made Corvette a performance icon that’s recognized around the world.
“As an authentic way to communicate to knowledgeable customers, nothing beats racing,” said Tadge Juechter, Corvette chief engineer. “As a cost-effective means to improve vehicle performance, nothing beats racing. These are the reasons racing is in Corvette’s DNA.
“Behind the scenes, the race team and the production car team have grown closer together, finding numerous ways to support each other and to make both cars better,” Juechter said. “Most automotive companies give lip service to claims like ‘racing improves the breed’ or ‘race on Sunday, sell on Monday’. For team Corvette, it is a daily reality. It is now impossible to imagine one team without the other.”
Corvette Racing’s driver lineup has been revised in 2011 with the addition of Richard Westbrook alongside Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen in the No. 4 Corvette C6.R for three long-distance races (Sebring, Le Mans, and Petit Le Mans). Tommy Milner has joined Olivier Beretta in the No. 3 Corvette C6.R, and Antonio Garcia returns as the third driver in endurance events.
The Corvette C6.R race program continues Chevrolet’s tradition of racing production-based vehicles to improve the breed. It is a commitment that has taken Chevy’s two-seater from the runways of Sebring in the ’50s to Le Mans in the 21st century. The continuous exchange of information and the constant transfer of technology between the racing and production programs ensure that lessons learned on the track benefit every Corvette on the highway.
Corvette Racing has followed the strategy first mapped out by legendary racer/engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov to put Corvette in the racing spotlight. Duntov launched Corvette on a motorsports odyssey that has taken the marque to race tracks around the world. It is a plan that still inspires those who have followed in Duntov’s footsteps.
For all of the team’s success in the last 12 seasons, perhaps its most significant victory to date was its overall win in the inaugural ALMS Green Challenge on Oct. 4, 2008, a “race within a race” contested in conjunction with Petit Le Mans. Working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S Department of Energy, and SAE International, the series organizers and the Argonne National Laboratory determined the “greenest” entries in the Prototype and GT classes based on energy used, greenhouse gases emitted, and petroleum fuels displaced. The Green Challenge was designed to recognize the fastest car with the smallest environmental impact – and when the results were tallied, Corvette Racing’s No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R, powered by cellulosic E85 ethanol, had the best score among the 37 entries, securing the GT team award for Corvette Racing and the GT manufacturer award for GM.
Corvette Racing has also won accolades away from the track. In February 2006, the championship-winning Corvette C6.R race car was named the “North American Car of the Year” over marques such as Audi, Aston Martin and Maserati by dailysportscar.com, a noted online magazine that provides in-depth coverage of sports car and GT series worldwide. In November 2006, Corvette Racing’s LS7.R small-block V-8 was honored as the “Global Motorsport Engine of the Year” at the inaugural Professional Motorsport World Expo in Cologne, Germany. The award was voted by an expert panel of 50 key race engine engineers representing the spectrum of motorsports.
The Corvette C6.R race car is the most technically advanced sports car ever developed by GM, combining sophisticated chassis, powertrain and aerodynamic technology developed by GM Racing with the advanced engineering of the sixth-generation Corvette, Corvette Z06, and Corvette ZR1 production models. The Corvette C6.R has strong links to its showroom counterpart, as required by the ALMS and Le Mans rules that mandate close adherence to production specifications. For example, the same hydroformed frame rails used in production Corvettes provide a strong foundation for the race cars. The race-prepared LS5.5R engine shares its architecture with the production 505-horsepower LS7 small-block V-8 that powers the Corvette Z06.
“We have a saying that we race around the clock and win around the world,” explained Chevy Racing marketing manager Todd Christensen. “The coverage that the Corvette Racing team receives has propelled Corvette and Chevrolet onto the world stage. The people who own Corvettes are very aware of the product, and they understand how racing enhances the cars they drive.”
For 55 years, racing has played a key role in defining Corvette as America’s performance icon. Corvette’s first class victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1956 was the first step onto the world stage that established its reputation as a contender in top-level competition. Now, with eight ALMS manufacturers championships, seven drivers championships and six GT1 class victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, America’s favorite sports car now stands at the pinnacle of international endurance racing.
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