Corvette Racing will be pressing a fourth Chevrolet Corvette C8.R race chassis into service beginning with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round at Road America in order to split its resources with the postponed 24 Hours of Le Mans.
According to team manager Marc Maurini, the Pratt & Miller-run squad is building up a new car that will debut in August as the new No. 4 entry.
The current No. 4 Corvette driven by Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy that’s fresh off class victory in last weekend’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic in Detroit will become the No. 64 car at Le Mans alongside the No. 63 Corvette that has remained in Europe since its FIA World Endurance Championship outing at Spa-Francorchamps in April.
Maurini explained that the postponement of the French enduro to Aug. 21-22 and the Le Mans Test Day one week earlier forced the team to build an additional car sooner than expected.
“We were planning on building this car in the off-season,” he told Sportscar365.
“Everything’s been compressed. We’ve had a little bit of a break here so we’ve been able to get a lot done. A lot of components are 16-week lead times to machine and manufacture.
“We made the decision pretty early on, as soon as the [new] Le Mans date was announced.
“We already had the chassis physically constructed and that’s when we decided to start building it into a complete car.”
The WeatherTech Championship round at Road America is set for Sun. Aug. 8, just three days prior to the team needing to load in at Circuit de la Sarthe.
“We actually have to be in Le Mans by Wednesday at 6 p.m.,” Maurini explained.
“For us, logistically we have to complete the Road America race, get whatever equipment and chassis we need over to Europe.
“Typically we’d fly into London Heathrow, air freight them in there and then drive them across. Now with the UK not being part of the EU, we’re likely going to be going straight to France.
“But with limitations on flights for COVID, that whole process takes about five days. We cannot do that with our current cars.”
Maurini said the new No. 4 car, which is technically chassis No. 5 when counting its test car, will be air-freighted to France following the Road America race as a backup chassis but will not arrive until after the test day.
He explained the current travel challenges have impacted other elements of the program as well.
“We used to be able to just air freight everything over and now it’s so expensive to air freight things,” said Maurini.
“We’re looking at whether it’s cheaper to buy things ahead of time and sea-freight them.
“For instance, [instead of] air-freighting a set of wheels, we’re buying new wheels and having them shipped directly from BBS to Germany.
“Those are some of the fun discussions we’ve had.
“But I don’t see any red flags for us. Obviously Le Mans is something this program has done for a while and we’re pretty well-versed in it.
“It’s just COVID this year makes it a little more difficult.
“It looks like France is starting to open up so hopefully when we get there we can have some fans and not have too many logistic issues.”
GTD Pro Conversion “A Day’s Worth of Work”
Despite having four cars, Maurini indicated they won’t necessarily have dedicated chassis for IMSA and WEC competition in 2022, with the conversion process from GTE-spec to IMSA’s new GTD Pro class expected to be “pretty easy.”
Corvette is expected to be permitted to race in GTD Pro next year with a modified version of its existing GTE car, although it has yet to be officially announced.
“Based off what we understand for the GTD Pro requirements right now, it would be pretty easy to move the cars back and forth between the two specs,” Maurini said. “A day’s worth of work could move them back and forth.
“Everything that we’ve planned on doing is around the ability to be flexible in that situation. I think we have our bases covered there.
“For us, we’re definitely racing Le Mans in 2022. We’re definitely going to race in [GTE-Pro], so we like to cycle our cars through and build a new car once a year so that way we’re getting fresh cars and not running with high-mileage components in the marquee events.”