The race debut of the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R in last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona presented a “different kind of learning” for Corvette Racing, according to Oliver Gavin.
After months of testing, the mid-engine replacement for the title-winning Chevrolet Corvette C7.R achieved a finish in the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The No. 3 car ended up fourth in the GT Le Mans class and stayed on the lead lap throughout the 24 hours while the No. 4 lost eight hours due to a long garage visit.
Despite missing out on a debut podium, the Pratt & Miller-run squad was buoyed by its showing with Gavin – who was in the No. 4 machine – suggesting that it built on the private test work carried out in the car’s early development stage.
“It’s a different kind of learning,” Gavin told Sportscar365.
“You do get some very good data and you learn a lot when you go testing.
“But when you’re up against other cars and running in slipstreams and seeing a track develop, making decisions on tires and setup as you’re going and trying to see how flexible your car is, falling in and out of performance windows compared to everyone else… it’s different.
“All of those things are vitally important for the car and its performance over a whole race.
“There are some things that we need to work on and do better, but racing is the only thing that gives you that. You can’t hide anywhere. That’s the cold, brutal reality of it.”
The No. 4 car that Gavin shared with Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler endured a tough race after an oil leak resulted in a major setback while the team moved the car’s engine to solve the issue.
Gavin said the factory outfit now has a list of things to work on ahead of the C8.R’s second IMSA outing in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring next month.
The car is also set to take part in the six-hour Lone Star Le Mans round of the FIA World Endurance Championship at COTA in three weeks’ time.
“There are some things that we will improve on and that’s what this is all about,” said Gavin.
“We knew that it was going to be our first race with this car and for us to come out of the gate and be ultra-competitive straight away was going to be tough.
“Certainly, the issue that we had on our car, they’ll go away and look at that to make sure the part there is bulletproof.
“Also, we weren’t the best on cold tires. We need to work with Michelin on that. The track temperature was quite low, and we all battled on out laps with the car.
“Most of the racetracks that we go to here in the U.S, the track temperature is somewhere from 85 degrees F up to about 110F. At Daytona, I don’t think it got above 75F, maybe 80F.
“The window we were working in with the track temp, and the circuit configuration, was quite unique. We know the BMW is very aggressive on its tire and I think that really helped it.”
Despite struggling with the temperatures, the C8.R responded better than its predecessor over the course of a single run, according to team manager Ben Johnson.
“It seemed like it either stayed flat or did have a negative slope, getting quicker throughout the stint,” he told Sportscar365.
“Coming from the C7.R where we were always managing some amount of degradation, this was aa nice change.
“A lot of our competitors have the ability to stay flat or be a little bit quicker as the fuel load burns off. That was one thing we focused on with the car, and that’s paid dividends.”
More Races Needed to Get C8.R into Winning Position
Gavin feels that the new Corvette package will improve as it gains more competitive mileage in its first year, which will see it tackle a total of 14 races.
The Englishman described the car as having “so much potential” for high finishes in the WeatherTech Championship, where it is competing against BMW and Porsche.
“Some of the driveability of the car and how it fell into certain zones of performance when it all fell together with the tire and the fuel load… it was fantastic to drive,” he said.
“It really fell into a sweet spot. We just need to make sure that we make those sweet spots more often, but we’ll figure that out.
“We’re just starting with how we can race it and make it work at different racetracks with the tires from Michelin hat we’ve chosen.
“That is going to take a bit of time to get right.”