Right next to the much anticipated unveiling of the C7 Z06 Corvette, Chevrolet pulled the cover off an equally impressive Corvette meant to dominate an entirely different arena, the new C7.R road racer. Developed at the same time as its Z06 cousin, Chevy’s newest racer shares a lot of components and design with its sister Corvette model. The two cars represent the closest collaboration ever seen between the development of a pure race and street legal version of the same car.
“When it comes to endurance racing, Corvette has been the benchmark of success for nearly 15 years,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “A great deal of the team’s success can be attributed to the symbiotic relationship between Corvette Racing and the production vehicles. The 2015 Corvette Z06 and new C7.R will be more competitive on the street and track due to successful design of the Corvette Stingray – which itself is heavily based on the C6.R race car.”
Corvette Racing will field two C7.R race cars in 2014, starting later this month at the 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 25-26. The race kicks off the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – a new series debuting this year after the merger of the American Le Mans Series and GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. The C7.R will compete in the GT Le Mans class in 11 races around North America.
The C7.R shares the same aluminum frame as the Z06, 40% stronger than the steel frame of the C6.R race car.
“In the first lap in the C7.R, the drivers felt the increase in chassis stiffness,” said Mark Kent, director of Racing for Chevrolet. “The drivers instantly noticed that the C7.R handling was better over changing surface features and rough track segments. This is important as our drivers don’t always stay on the smooth pavement, and are constantly driving over curbing at corner apexes.”
Power comes from an LT based, 5.5 liter direct-injected V-8, cranking out 488 horsepower. Class rules limit engines to 5.5 liters of displacement, with no forced induction. The C7.R engine uses dry sump oiling, and is naturally aspirated. The direct injection system gives the new race engine more power and efficiency.
“Direct injection offers two advantages for the race team,” said Kent. “First, it offers drivers more precise throttle control, so that even the smallest changes in the driver’s throttle position delivers a proportional response from the engine. Second, direct injection typically improves fuel economy about 3 percent. That could be enough to bypass one fuel stop during a 24-hour race. Given that races are often won and lost in the pits, a 3 percent gain in fuel economy could translate to a significant advantage in track position.”
On the aero side, the C7.R was developed concurrently with the new Z06, using lessons learned from the aero packages on the C6.R Corvettes. The Z06 and C7.R take that aerodynamic foundation to the next level, sharing aggressive design features for increased cooling of the brakes and engine, along with greatly increased aerodynamic downforce, including similar front splitters, rocker panels, and front- and rear-brake cooling ducts.
“We worked concurrently with the race team developing the aerodynamic packages for the Z06 and the C7.R,” said Juechter. “We even used the same modeling software to test both cars, enabling us to share data and wind-tunnel test results. As a result, the aerodynamics of the production Z06 produce the most downforce of any production car GM has ever tested, and we are closing in on the aero performance of a dedicated race car.”
The new C7.R will make its racing debut at the 2014 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, January 25-26.