Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan credits a number of factors including Michelin’s newly shared WEC/IMSA tire and extensive simulator sessions in contributing to the team’s return to top form at Le Mans.
The Pratt & Miller-run factory squad topped the time charts at the Le Mans Test Day, thanks to Mike Rockenfeller’s 3:54.001 lap time in the No. 63 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.
It came in a competitive test day that saw five of the six GTE-Pro manufacturers separated by less than six-tenths of a second.
While only marginally quicker than its test day pace last year, Fehan believes the gains made has put them in a better position heading into its record 20th participation in the French endurance classic, although remains cautious about the early results.
“At the end of the day, it was a test day,” Fehan told Sportscar365.
“We were looking at setup, we were looking at fuel economy, we were looking at engine calibration.
“The true test begins with qualifying and the ultimate test is the race itself.
“We’re happy where we are. The guys like the car and I think we’ve got a car that we can really drive. The engineers have done a marvelous job in creating a balance with the new tire [which is also used in IMSA for the first time].
“We’ve spent a ton of time with the drivers in the simulator, a lot of time there.”
While winless at Le Mans since 2015, Fehan believes the team’s increased commitment to the WEC, having contested the Shanghai and Sebring rounds this season as solo entries, has also helped them from a Balance of Performance standpoint.
The Corvette heads into race week 7kgs lighter than last year’s race, although there have been class-wide weight adjustments made in the Le Mans-specific BoP.
“Any additional data the series gets is going to be helpful, no question,” Fehan said.
“I think BoP, whether it’s here or Stateside, it’s a work-in-progress. It’s never complete. You never get it done and say, ‘OK that’s it.’
“It’s always moving forward. When you how much better it’s gotten in [IMSA] and how much better it is here, we’re on the right track.
“For me GT racing will be the best show.”
Milner: Regulation Changes to Deliver ‘More Suited’ Endurance Race
Changes in the regulations for the race, including the introduction of Full Course Yellows and the elimination of the maximum stint length rule for GTE-Pro cars, will provide a more suited endurance race, according to Corvette driver Tommy Milner.
FCYs, commonly seen in regular-season WEC races, will be implemented in addition to existing Slow Zones and safety car periods, with extra attention being given to the GTE-Pro class in efforts to eliminate last year’s situation that saw the eventual class-winning No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR gain more than two minutes under yellow due to safety car timing.
Additionally, GTE-Pro cars no longer face a 14-lap maximum stint limit, thanks to the introduction of fuel flow meters that could potentially see teams look to stretch their mileage under certain circumstances.
“For the fans and for us as drivers, it’s fun to have the potential of what we had last year, which was everyone [being] close, competitive, and everyone had their own strengths and weakness,” Milner told Sportscar365
“I’m excited for this year with the hard limit of 14 laps is gone now; we should all do 14 laps under green, but now with safety cars and Slow Zones, there’s an opportunity to potentially go an extra lap if necessary.
“That’s more a long the lines of racing I think we enjoy. There’s more to it than ultimate outright pace. I think it suits the endurance race that this is.”
Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report