Over the past 10 years, Corvette Racing has become a dominant force in international sports-car racing, to the extent that for the past two seasons, the C6.Rs have run essentially uncontested in ALMS GT1. The GT2 class, meanwhile, has developed a healthy field of factory-supported competitors representing BMW, Ferrari, Porsche, Panoz, and Jaguar. (Audi is currently mulling its own GT2 racer, in the form of a mid-engine R8.) Additional privateer teams deploying Aston Martins, Fords, Porsches, Ferraris, Vipers, and even a Corvette entry have swollen the category's ranks to more than 20 cars at each race. That level of competition ultimately proved irresistible to the men and women of Corvette Racing, whose hunger for a new challenge prompted a jump to GT2 earlier this year.
As with the original C5-R and the C6.R that followed, Pratt & Miller was selected to head up the development effort on the newest Corvette racer. The company was given the go-ahead for the GT2 C6.R project in October 2008, giving it only 10 months to design, develop, build, and test the car before its scheduled debut at the August, 2009, Mid-Ohio race. Fortunately, the state-of-the-art engineering tools employed by P&M allowed the team to fast-track solutions to meet the ambitious timeline. To further condense the production schedule, the GT2 test mule was converted into one of the official team entries (the No. 3 car), so only one additional C6.R was required to fill out the two-car team.
We had an opportunity to preview the new car in July, as the team conducted final shakedown runs at GingerMan Raceway just ahead of the Mid-Ohio race. As the accompanying photos show, the new C6.R's appearance is even more aggressive than that of its predecessor. Exaggerated fender bulges at all four corners and a "coke bottle" profile make the GT2 car a menacing presence from any angle. Some of this can be traced to the GT2 class rules, which require that all race cars closely follow the architecture and dimensions of their street-car siblings.
For example, the doors of the new C6.R are in the same position as those of the ZR1 it's patterned on. This is a marked departure from the GT1 car, whose doors were "pushed out" to provide a more flowing design. The team has, however, been allowed to utilize virtually the same wheel-and-tire package it employed in GT1. The center-lock BBS wheels are the same dimensions as before, but this time around are constructed of aluminum alloy instead of magnesium. Shod with the same Michelin racing tires the team used in GT1, required that the wheelwells be bulged and the bodywork extended to encompass them. But despite the new wasp-waisted look, the overall width of the car remains the same as before.
The brakes are again provided by AP Racing, but the rotors are now steel rather than carbon ceramic as on the GT1 car. (The steel rotors are required by GT2 rules, even though the stock ZR1 comes with composite brakes as original equipment.) The BBS wheels are now of peg-drive design, which is a switch from the GT1's peg-drive hub arrangement. This change was an engineering decision intended to bring greater serviceability to the package.
The front fenders have lost their distinctive louvers, but the familiar NACA ducts on the top of the rear fenders remain, providing cooling air to the rear brakes. The waterfall hood design is also carried over from GT1, and the hood itself is an easy-to-remove single-panel affair held in place with quick pins in the front (as before) and latches in the back (a deviation from the previous design). The rear hatch cover is also removable separately, as in the GT1 car, but the rear hatch area retains a floor, as in production Corvettes. As a result, removing the rear cover reveals an area that looks very much like a stock Vette's cargo space. A three-piece removable floor panel gives team mechanics access to the transaxle components and rear suspension.