With new regulations set to come online next year, the majority of GTE manufacturers are preparing updated machinery for 2016, including Corvette Racing with the build of a second-generation Corvette C7.R.
Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan confirmed to Sportscar365 that work is already underway on an all-new car, built specifically to the new technical rules that call for changes in performance, safety and Balance of Performance parameters.
“There’s a lot of small things,” Fehan told Sportscar365. “When we look at refinement, we look at ducting, brake cooling and suspension components.
“There’s some different rule interpretations with the rear diffuser and so forth but they’re minute changes.
“When you look [at the new car], the untrained eye will not see any difference at all.”
One of the only visible changes will be a new mandatory emergency exit safety hatch, located on the roof, which has required a re-work of the rollcage to accommodate the opening.
“For us the major change is the safety hatch,” Fehan said. “That requires a complete restructuring of the rollcage in order to accomplish that.
“That’s been the single largest challenge and the single biggest change that we’ve made.”
While the new regulations call for roughly a five percent increase in power, Fehan said the new Corvette will remain with the same 5.5-liter, direct-injected V8 engine used in its current-generation C7.R.
At least one other manufacturer is expected to utilize a larger displacement engine next year, but under a waiver from the ACO, something Fehan said GM could have requested, but opted to stick with its tried-and-tested package.
“We’ve got a lot of R&D in that engine,” he said. “From an economics standpoint, we have a tremendous investment to the tooling and the parts. We have a bunch of heads and engine blocks. To change, we’d have to scrap all that.
“We’d be starting over from ground zero and at the end of the day, if you build something that’s significantly better, they’re just going to throttle it back anyway.
“There’s no compelling reason for us to change. It just works better for everybody, including our competition, if we stay with what we’re running.”
However, with BMW, Ferrari and Ford all expected to utilize turbocharged engines, Fehan has expressed some initial concerns over how accurate the Balance of Performance process will be next year.
“In my career, nobody has successfully balanced turbos and naturally aspirated engines,” he said. “Having said that, I can say that the technology today is far different than it was years ago when they tried to do that.
“Looking at developing turbo engines and monitoring their performance based on engine RPM, not just boost level and restrictor size, I think is going to go a long way to create a meaningful balance.”
Fehan confirmed two of the new-gen Corvettes are already under construction at Pratt & Miller, with testing set to begin this summer, prior to the mandatory Balance of Performance test at Michelin’s Ladoux test track in September.
GM’s commitment to the 2016 GTE regulations is expected to be followed by new cars from Ferrari, Porsche, BMW and Ford, the latter which will take on the class for the first time with its Multimatic-built Ford GT racer.
While the Chip Ganassi Racing-run program has yet to be officially announced, Fehan has praised the arrival of the Blue Oval to factory GT Le Mans competition.
“I’m thrilled that they’re coming,” Fehan said. “It’s good for them. I think they’ve finally realized that they need to be here and I’m glad they’ve got management that’s come on board to support that. That’s very important.
“It’s good for us because competition helps improve the breed. It’s an old axiom but I want to tell you there’s huge value in those words.
“And it makes a statement on GT racing that the importance of product relevance rules. It continues the momentum that I suspected was always there.”