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Corvette C8.R in “Better Spot” for Second GTE-Pro Outing

Corvette looking to “make a run at it” at Spa after uncompetitive COTA 2020 showing…

Photo: MPS Agency

Corvette Racing’s C8.R is in a “better spot” coming into this weekend’s Total 6 Hours of Spa compared to its previous FIA World Endurance Championship outing at Circuit of The Americas last year, according to the American GTE-Pro outfit’s technical director. 

A factory-run Chevrolet Corvette C8.R contested the 6 Hours of COTA round in February 2020, marking the vehicle’s second competitive race appearance in any series.

It ultimately struggled for pace against the full-season GTE-Pro entries from Aston Martin, Porsche and Ferrari, and was classified three laps down on the class-winning car.

Fourteen months later, Corvette factory squad technical director Ben Johnson has said that the Pratt & Miller-run organization is more optimistic heading into its latest WEC cameo at Spa-Francorchamps, despite the Belgian track being a new venue for the team.

Oliver Gavin and Antonio Garcia will share driving duties at Spa, while Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller were behind the wheel for COTA.

The C8.R has been given Balance of Performance breaks in all departments since the COTA race, including a 5 kg weight reduction bringing it to a 1235 kg minimum weight.

It has also received a 2.2 mm air restrictor diameter increase and a one-liter rise in fuel capacity.

“I think at least we can hopefully make our competitors work for it a little bit, that we can be there fighting with them on their home turf,” Johnson told Sportscar365.

“We’re understanding all these regulations and the nuances of them. We always try to do the best we can and if we can get a result that’s great.

“I think we’re in a much better spot to do that now than a year ago at Austin, for sure.

“At that race, we had a pace deficiency which was clear. The BoP has gone some way to help that and there was a learning curve with the car. It was the second race in, so we still had a lot to learn and uncover.

“Those combined, I think we’ll be in a better spot to make a run at it.”

Johnson said that Corvette’s experiences over the course of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship helped add to the team’s “engineering notebook” for the C8.R and that those experiences are set to contribute towards an improved WEC package.

The C8.R being raced in Belgium is the same chassis that appeared at COTA last year and also serves as a spare and testing model to support the full-season IMSA program.

“On a lot of levels [COTA] was a tough event, but ultimately the series learned what they needed to learn, and we learned quite a bit,” said Johnson.

“The car is quite different from where it was at that point, in terms of the knowledge base and engineering notebook that we have now. What we had back then was different.

“Fundamentally, the cars here and over in the U.S. are the same, homologation-wise.

“So everything we learned last year in the IMSA championship, and so far this year – it’s obviously been updated – we feel that from a car package perspective we’re pretty confident with it.

“It’s now about seeing how we get on in the WEC with these competitors and a circuit that we haven’t been to. It’s still a steep learning curve.

“The FIA did a lot of due diligence to get the cars to where they are now. We expect a pretty close field. It should be exciting.”

“Long-Standing” Larbre Ties Proving Useful

Corvette Racing is receiving logistical support from Larbre Competition at Spa, while two of the French team’s mechanics are set to work on the American GTE-Pro entry.

Johnson explained that Larbre, which most recently fielded a privateer Chevrolet Corvette C7.R in the 2016 WEC season, has “a lot of familiarity” with the factory team’s processes.

“They’ve been great to work with,” he said. “They have an operation so it’s easy to ship stuff there.

“We can’t do our normal thing where we would use DHL for a flyaway race, but because everyone else drives their trucks here you have to mimic them.  

“They know the process of working in the WEC paddock, from their history, so they’ve been helpful just navigating all those functions of it.

“But the primary functions on the car is the total U.S crew, the normal Corvette Racing crew.

“A lot of it we’re leaning on for logistics support, and then everything else from a mechanics and engineering perspective is the Corvette Racing primary team.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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