Corvette Racing is using this weekend’s Lone Star Le Mans as “operational practice” for the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, which is making only its second start in competition and debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The mid-engined GTE contender, a brand-new chassis separate from the two cars that took part in last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, will be driven by Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller as part of a two-race WEC program for the drivers and the Pratt & Miller-run squad.
According to team manager Ben Johnson, the car completed a “one hour shakedown” at Sebring International Raceway last week alongside its IMSA cars, which were being tested ahead of next month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
It’s understood Nicky Catsburg did the majority of the mileage in the WEC car at the test, with both Magnussen and Rockenfeller instead at GM’s simulator to prepare for this weekend’s six-hour enduro.
Johnson explained the late addition of the COTA race, which was announced in December as a replacement to the WEC’s planned visit to Interlagos, pushed the timeline forward in the build of the fourth Corvette C8.R chassis.
“We always planned to prep this car for Sebring and then it just got pulled forward with the Austin event getting added,” he told Sportscar365.
“It definitely compressed the timeline but we knew about it early enough that we were able to work through it.
“Inevitably coming back from Daytona we were going to find some things that we needed to fix on the car.
“Luckily that list was fairly short but we ended up having to disassemble this car to some degree to apply those changes to get it here. Realistically it was a fairly manageable list.
“So the car got here without too much panic.
“It’s exciting to be here. Obviously we’ve been at Le Mans and in other WEC races but with the new car and these regulations, just getting some operational practice along with some more miles on the car is positive.”
While admitting some concerns about the Balance of Performance that has been established by the FIA for this event, Johnson said the team understands the purpose of the weekend.
“We have no concerns about car reliability,” he said. “I think operationally, we’ll be in a spot where can compete here.
“From an equipment and personnel situation, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be competitive from that standpoint.
“The Balance [of Performance] always remains to be seen.
“We have our concerns but the series has their process and hopefully it’s in a spot where we can be mixing it up with the full season competitors.
“If this race isn’t what we hoped for, then by Sebring and ultimately Le Mans… that’s part of why we’re here is to try and give the FIA and ACO some more information.”
The start of on-track activity on Saturday will mark Rockenfeller’s first laps in the Corvette C8.R, although Magnussen has previous development experience with the car, most recently during a test at Virginia International Raceway last August.
Corvette Utilizing Mix of Crew for COTA, Sebring Double
Johnson said the team is utilizing a mix of crew from its Nos. 3 and 4 IMSA cars as well as mechanics that will be dedicated on the No. 63 car for the next two WEC races.
As was the case last year at Sebring, the the team’s IMSA pit crew will also be servicing the WEC car during its stops.
“We’re just trying to balance the efforts of doing well here and making sure we’re not falling behind in IMSA,” Johnson said.
“We learned a lot for how to do this from last year when we were trying to do the double effort at Sebring so I think we’ll be much better off this year in that regard.”