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Mid-Engine entries increase in the Grand Touring Le Mans class

Three Grand Touring Le Mans (GTLM) manufacturers entered mid-engine entries at Daytona’s Rolex 24 race

Walt Thurn Apr 3, 2017
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The 55th running of the Rolex 24 Hour endurance race at Daytona International Speedway saw 54 entries for the 2017 race. Each of the four class winners were awarded Rolex watches. Those four classes are Prototype (P), Prototype Challenge (PC), Grand Touring Le Mans (GTLM) and Grand Touring Daytona (GTD). Five manufacturers competed in GTLM (Ford, Porsche, BMW, Ferrari and Corvette). Three brought their new or revised mid-engine racecars (Ford, Porsche and Ferrari) to the Rolex. This leaves Corvette and BMW with front engine racecars. Why is placing the engine in the middle of the chassis so beneficial in a racing car? Because putting the engine mass between the front and rear wheels allows the car to turn into the corner much quicker. They also exit the corner faster because the weight is more evenly distributed on the tires. Front engine racers like Corvette tend to understeer (go straight in the corner) or rear engine cars like Porsche oversteer (the back end swings out in a corner).

Ford and Ferrari are pure mid-engine designed racing cars. Porsche on the other hand pulled a fast one by rotating the engine from behind the axle to the front of the axle. The rules state that if the factory places the engine in front of the driver that is where it must remain. If the engine is behind the driver the same applies. After rotating the Porsche engine, it is still located behind the driver! Clever reading of the rules by Porsche now makes the classic 911 a mid-engine racecar. So how did this drive for mid-engine madness impact qualifying? Six mid-engine cars qualified in front of the fastest Corvette. Ford (1-3), Ferrari (4th), Porsche (5th), Ford (6th). Fourteenth fastest overall and first in GTLM was a Ford GT with a time of 1:43.473. The fastest Corvette (No. 03) qualified with a time of 1:44.359, almost one second slower.

As we noted in our earlier Roar story the Corvette Daytona Prototypes are no longer eligible to compete in this series. In their place is a new class called Daytona Prototype International (Dpi). Cadillac returned to prototype racing after leaving in 2002 with three Dpi V.R entries. They are powered by 6.2 liter V8’s similar to what is found in Corvettes and Cadillac products. Two were entered by Action Express and they qualified 1st and 2nd overall. The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac captured the pole position with a time of 1:36.903. The Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac was 4th fastest and featured Jeff Gordon as one of their drivers.

The green flag fell at 2:30 pm under cloudy skies and the Ford GT’s took the GTLM lead. Pit stops were taking place every 50 minutes and Corvette Racing made up positions by getting in and out of their pit box quicker than the competition. During the early part of the race both Corvettes ran in the top five GTLM positions. This continued until drama hit the No. 04 Corvette with Marcel Fassler driving. Marcel reported that he lost the rear view camera and then the entire car’s electrical system shut down on the back straight. The Corvette was brought to the pits and repaired. After it returned to the race it was involved in an incident with another GTLM competitor that broke the right rear lower control arm. By the 7th hour the No. 04 was 21 laps behind the leading Ford GTLM class leader.

Rain began pelting the circuit at 8:10 pm and continued until around 9 am Sunday morning. Mike Rockenfeller driving the No. 03 Corvette reported, “When I jumped into the car, it started to drizzle. We were on slicks. The rain increased and I thought we could stay on slicks, but before we lost a lap we changed to rains. We are lacking a little bit of pace, but the team is doing an awesome job keeping us close to the front.” This support continued to pay off as the slightly slower Corvette was able to stay in striking distance of the class leaders. When the checkered flag fell Sunday at 2:30 pm, The Wayne Taylor Racing No. 10 Cadillac took the overall victory. Four GTLM cars crossed the finish line in a parade together. It was Ford, Porsche, Ferrari and Corvette. The No. 03 C7.R finished 4.593 seconds behind the winner. The No. 04 Corvette finished 16th overall and 9th in GTLM, sixteen laps behind the winning Ford GT. No. 03 driver Antonio Garcia summed up his race with these comments, “What can you say about our pit stops? We made up so many positions and came out first so many times. When you have all that and don’t have the pace to keep it is a shame. We gave everything we had and we congratulate the winners.” Hopefully the much rumored mid-engine Zora Corvette will be released to the Corvette Racing team in the near future to allow Corvette to leave the others behind once again. Stay Tuned.

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This No. 4 C7.R Corvette qualified ninth out of ten cars in the competitive GTLM class at the 2017 Daytona Rolex 24 hour race. The Corvette was driven by Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler.

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Corvette C7.R No. 03 won the 2016 Weather Tech Championship with drivers Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller. They qualified seventh in the GTLM category.

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Every carbon fiber panel on the Corvette’s entire body including this door is removable to speed repairs. Weather Tech is the series sponsor.

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Corvette Racing has a large staff of trained technicians and a well-equipped garage at Daytona. This enables them to prepare each Corvette before the race.

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Fans line up hours before the Saturday autograph session that begins at noon. Here Corvette drivers Oliver Gavin (left) and Marcel Fassler happily sign posters, hats, model and anything else fans put in front of them.

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The eventual race winner, the No. 10 Cadillac, is being pushed to the starting grid before the start of the 2017 Rolex 24 Hour race. NASCAR star Jeff Gordon was one of the winning drivers on this team.

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Every GTLM racer that qualified ahead of the seventh place Corvette had its engine located in the middle of its chassis. This included three Fords (1-3), Ferrari (4th), Porsche (5th), Ford (6th).

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The green flag fell at 2:30 pm on Saturday as the GTLM entries sweep across the start finish line at the Daytona International Speedway Tri-Oval.

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Corvette No. 04 sweeps past a slower GTD (Grand Touring Daytona) Porsche on the high banks of Daytona. The fastest GTD qualifier was 3.48 seconds slower than the pole position Ford GT.

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Porsche brought two of these unique 911 racers to Daytona. Its previous engine placement was behind the rear wheels, Porsche now placed it in front of the rear wheels making it mid-engine.

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The No. 03 Corvette C7.R was 4th in GTLM by at the end of the fourth hour in the Rolex 24 hour race.

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Only one Ferrari 488 mid-engine twin-turbo V-8 was entered by Houston based Risi Competizione. Throughout the race it was able to keep pace with the Fords and Porsche. It eventually finished 3rd in GTLM and seventh overall.

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The two Corvettes were running close together as darkness began setting in at Daytona. Weather forecasters were predicting heavy rain starting by the sixth hour of the race.

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The Daytona International Speedway is well lit during the night as most of the corners are fitted with high powered lights.

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Outstanding pit work by the Corvette Racing team kept the Corvette competitive against faster competitors. The Corvette crew added fuel and four tires in 1:15 throughout the race. Only five crewmembers are allowed over the wall during a stop. Gary Pratt is shown placing the new tire over the pit wall during the stop to save time.

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The No. 04 smokes out of the pits after receiving four new tires and a full tank of fuel.

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Constant on and off again rain covered the track throughout the night and into the early morning. This very dirty Corvette No. 03 shows the effect that the rain had on its shiny panels. Good pit work and great driving enabled the Corvette to move into 2nd position in GTLM.

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The No. 4 was in a tight battle for 2nd position as the Ford, Corvette and Porsche crossed the finish line to take another lap.

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First through seventh GTLM positions stream into the pits for a late morning pit stop under a yellow flag. The second Corvette (No.04) remains on the track.

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Four tires and fuel are added, while a technician uses a spanner wrench to adjust the height of the rear wing.

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Corvette Racing has an amazing amount of high-tech equipment set up in their pit box. Engineers and crew constantly monitor the racecar, track conditions and communicate their findings to the driver during the race.

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At the end of 24 hours the top four GTLM competitors streak across the finish line. Ford 1st, Porsche 2nd, Ferrari 3rd, and Corvette 4th. The 2016 Championship winning Corvette team secured some good points to begin their quest for another championship.


Rolex 24 Corvette Corral


Exclusive fenced off area provides secure parking for Corvette owners at Daytona’s Rolex 24 race

If you own a Corvette and enjoy watching the Rolex 24 we recommend buying a Corvette Corral ticket package. The corral includes a parking pass that allows you entrance into the speedway and parking your Corvette in a fenced off guarded area. A large climate controlled enclosure is available for seating to keep you out of the weather. Also included is food along with coffee, water and soft drinks. Closed circuit television played throughout the race inside the enclosure. The Speedway invited one hundred corral Corvette owners to drive their cars around the Speedway on Friday morning.

Corvette Program Manager Doug Fehan made a lively presentation to all of the guests and kept everyone entertained for well over an hour. Five of the six Corvette Racing drivers visited, answered questions and signed memorabilia. It was a great way to spend time with fellow Corvette owners and enthusiasts and if you are planning on going to a race in the future check to see if a Corvette Corral is being offered. It is a great way to watch a race with your favorite car.

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Owners were able to purchase advance tickets to this fenced in area that provided a parking permit, food and laps behind a pace car around the speedway.

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This Callaway 757hp Z06 was one of the many interesting Corvettes that was parked in the Rolex 24 Corvette Corral.

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100 owners took advantage of the Speedway’s invitation to do parade laps in their Corvettes.

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Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan made an informative and entertaining presentation to the Corral attendees on Friday afternoon. Doug answered many questions from the group about Corvette Racing and new products.

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Five drivers answered questions and signed autographs after Fehan’s presentation. Mike Rockenfeller is first in line, followed by Jan Magnusson, Antonio Garcia, Marcel Fassler and Tommy Milner.

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This prototype Grand Sport was displayed inside the Corvette Corral tent at the Rolex 24 Hour race. Team Vette first saw this Corvette at the 2016 NCM Birthday Bash.

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