Chevrolet’ first mid-engine Corvette race car is ready to throw down
The Chevrolet Corvette C8.R race car has arrived, and it is a doozy. The Corvette racer is all set to make its debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 25, 2020. But before it lays the smackdown on the race track, the Corvette C8.R takes its turn under the spotlight where it’s properly getting the attention it deserves. The Corvette C8.R isn’t just a race car; it also happens to be Chevrolet’s first-ever mid-engine race car to compete in IMSA’s GTLM class. It’s also Chevrolet’s first clean sheet race car design racer since the C5.R debuted in 1999. Through all these firsts, the Corvette C8.R racer takes its place as Chevrolet’s next warhorse, succeeding a race car — the Corvette CR.7 — that won 16 races in its time, including the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans. Can the C8.R replicate that kind of success? Only time will tell. For now, let’s enjoy the fact that the C8.R is here, and it’s ready to stake its claim as the next great Corvette racer.
The Chevrolet Corvette C8.R is an important race car for Chevrolet. That’s a given. It’s important for all the reasons I mentioned, specifically as a history-making race car for the Bowtie. To say that there’s not a lot tied to C8.R is to underestimate the lineage of all Corvette race cars. In the end, though, the legacy of these racers won’t be determined by how shiny they look when they make their debuts. They won’t be determined by the plaudits thrown their way when they’re first unveiled. In the world of motor racing, results are the only thing that matters. So while we look at the Corvette C8.R now and marvel at its design, architecture, and potential, let’s push the brakes first on completely falling head over heels for it. As impressive as it looks, the CR.8 still has to prove itself. So, at this point, the more pertinent question is this: does the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R have the chops to be a successful race car?
At first glance, yes it does.
The Corvette C8.R is based on the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. That alone offers plenty of advantages, not the least of which is the car’s technological infrastructure.
That destination is part of what makes the C8.R a lethal racer. Chevrolet said it, too. The C8.R shares the highest percentage of parts between the production model and the race car than any previous generation. That includes its mid-engine layout, which, in turn, contributes to the car’s balance and connection to the road, or, at least, in this case, the race track.
Granted, some of the features of the production model doesn’t apply to the race car. That includes the production model’s 6.2-liter LT2 V-8 engine. Make no mistake. This isn’t a competitive disadvantage for the C8.R. It’s part of a compliance program with the IMSA, specifically with the latter’s rules on engine displacements. As such, the C8.R is powered by a smaller 5.5-liter naturally aspirated V-8 engine that produces 500 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque.
From the perspective of power, the C8.R’s V-8 engine produces more power than any version of the Corvette C8 that’s already been unveiled.
The base Corvette Stingray C8, for example, utilizes the bigger 6.2-liter LT2 V-8 unit that produces 490 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. Throw in the optional Z51 performance package, and that output goes up to 495 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. Either way, the C8.R beats them in this department.
The power numbers paint a flattering picture of the C8.R, but races aren’t won simply because you’re the most powerful car in the field.
A lot of moving parts play equally important roles, including the race car’s transmission. IN this case, the Corvette C8.R comes with a new compact Xtrac six-speed sequential gearbox that was specifically developed to provide room at the rear of the C8.R to package a race car specific diffuser.
Aerodynamic qualities are critically important, too. Give credit to Chevrolet. It knows how important this aspect of the C8.R is, and it went to work in not only improving the race car’s aerodynamics, but also its stiffness and overall weight. All these were primary focuses on the development of the C8.R, and the results bear fruit.
The Corvette C8.R, for example, uses a modified version of the same chassis that underpins the 2020 Corvette Stingray C8. It’s been modified to meet racing series requirements, and the result of these modifications is a platform that has a lower center of gravity and more even weight distribution on the wheels than its predecessor.
All of these parts and pieces are important in establishing a baseline for the Corvette C8.R, specifically on the kind of performance we could expect out of it when it makes its racing debut at the Daytona 24 Hours in January 2020.
We won’t know if the C8.R is a better race car than the C7.R until it shows results on a race track. The C7.R earned its reputation as a title-winning Corvette race car. Now it’s on the C8.R to do the same.
Source: Top Speed