With three class wins in five races, it’s safe to say the new Corvette C7.R has gotten off to a fast start in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Pratt & Miller’s newest-generation GT Le Mans contender, which debuted in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, has been one of the major talking points this season, following it rapid rise in the matter of a few short months.
While the pair of C7.Rs showed pace but fought reliability woes at Daytona and Sebring, their luck turned around on the streets of Long Beach, in what was the first of three consecutive class victories, so far, for Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia.
Magnussen and Garcia’s dominant win in Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, in fact, helped propel the GM factory drivers, Corvette Racing and Chevrolet the lead of the GT Le Mans championship, with five of the 11 rounds complete.
Combined with second and fourth place class results in last month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, the new C7.R is quickly turning into the new benchmark in the ultra-competitive, factory-driven category.
The early season success, however, hasn’t surprised Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan, who has continued to put his faith in the strength of the factory Michigan-based factory squad.
“You look at the team that’s doing this; they’ve been there from the very beginning,” Fehan told Sportscar365. “Any time you take that skill set and combine it with that level of continuity in a program, chances are you’re going to have a pretty good result.
“Then you just look at the tribal knowledge we’ve gathered over the past three generations of cars. You would expect it to be pretty good and I think the entire staff at Pratt & Miller and GM powertrain have certainly delivered on that.”
While being an all-new car on paper, there have been many lessons learned from the previous generation C5-R and C6.Rs that have translated into the new Corvette.
The experience and past success has particularly played into their hands, especially with the more restrictive GTE regulations, which has seen a freeze in development for all cars.
“From our standpoint, the development is simply the learning curve on the car,” Fehan said. “It’s just the chassis dynamics like the spring rates, shock valving, brake angles, corner weighting.
“Any time you build a new car you need to write a book on it. Certainly there are some broad brush things that are very similar between the two but this is a dynamically different automobile than the C6.R.
“We’re still learning about the C7.R every time on the race track and each time getting better.”
Fehan, who calls the C7.R a “work in progress”, shares similar thoughts over the new TUDOR Championship.
This year’s “Spirit of Le Mans” winner is taking a wait-and-see approach in measuring the success of the budding North American series.
“The true judgement of the success of the merger will actually occur after Petit Le Mans [this year] and before Daytona [in 2015],” he said.
“Because that will give management an ample opportunity to review the entire year, to locate all of the things they’ve done correctly, to pinpoint all of the things that need improving and all of the challenges that are out there.
“The measure will be what steps they can take in the off-season to move the ball down the field.”
While Corvette Racing remains committed to the TUDOR Championship, Fehan hasn’t hidden the fact that they continue to keep all options open for the future, including having a constant eye on the progress of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
“We always look at opportunities that are out there,” he said. “Do I see any change in the near future? No. But does that mean that we have tunnel vision on what we do? No. We look at everything.
“Right now, for the factory team, it’s not in the cards, in the short term, to compete in the WEC. But we’ll wait and see how that develops. We’ve never turned our back on it and we’ve never closed our eyes on it. It’s always an option for us.”
Fehan said they’ve received customer interest in the Corvette C7.R for the FIA WEC, including potential GTE-Pro entries for 2015.
Larbre Competition was known to have been evaluating a GTE-Am entry for this year but their request to allow the 2014-spec model into the Pro-Am class, reserved for one-year-old models, was denied.