It’s here. The new 2015 Corvette C7.R has been unveiled yesterday at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit alongside its Z06 counterpart. Though the Z06 may be hogging most of the spotlight at this moment, the C7.R is truly an incredible machine. It was co-developed with the Z06 and features the same chassis, engine technologies, and aerodynamics strategy because let’s be honest, the design can’t be more perfect. It’s slated to make its competition debut on January 25th at the 52nd Rolex 24 at Daytona to continue Corvette’s impressive legacy, including 90 global victories and 10 manufacturer championships since the team’s competitive debut with the Corvette C5-R in 1999.
“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.”
Two C7.R race cars will compete in the 2014 season, with the debut race kicking off the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship, which is a series new for this year after the merger of the American Le Mans Series and GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. The C7.R will compete in 11 races all over North America in the GT Le Mans class. In June, the Corvette Racing team will compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTE Pro class, from which they have emerged victorious seven times. The C7.R race cars will have big shoes to fill, as the 2013 season was a huge success for Corvette Racing – five victories as well as manufacturer, team, and driver championships in the GT class for the second season in a row.
Corvette chief engineer, Tadge Juechter, explains that Corvette Racing owes much of their success to the technology transfer between Corvette production cars and race cars.
“Corvette Racing sets the gold standard for technology transfer between the track and street,” said Juechter. “We are continually taking what we learn in competition, and applying it to improve production Corvettes – which then make better race cars. As a result, the new Corvette Z06 is the most track-capable production Corvette ever while the new C7.R is poised to be even more competitive on the race circuit.”
The 2015 Corvette Z06 and the Corvette C7.R share many aerodynamic and architectural design aspects, including the new aluminum frame, which for the first time will be built in-house at the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Laser welding, Flowdrill-machined fasteners and a General Motors-patented aluminum spot-welding process ensure drastically-improved structure strength, meaning the C7.R’s chassis is 40 percent stronger than the C6.R’s.
“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.”
The direct-injected engine is also a shared commodity for the Z06 and C7.R, which enables technology to take the wheel once again after just about disappearing at the end of the GT1 era in 2009. Greater efficiency means significant gains in long-distance endurance at races like Le Mans and Daytona with less time-consuming pit stops.
“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 deliver 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.”
If you ever delve into the design specifics of the C6.R, you’ll notice that the Stingray has adopted many of its aerodynamic details including the forward-tilted radiator, the functional hood and front-quarter panel vents, and the rear transmission and differential cooling intakes. Now look at the newest Z06 and C7.R, and you’ll notice that those aerodynamic cues have been taken to the next level with aggressive cooling and downforce in mind. Similar front splitters, rocker panels, and front- and rear-brake cooling ducts are shared by the newest powerhouses.
“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.”
All of these similarities should not draw one to make conclusions that the two are identical, however, as there are plenty of differences. For instance, the C7.R is powered by the same powertrain as the C6.R due to GT rules limiting the maximum displacement of race cars to 5.5L and prohibiting forced induction. The Z06, in comparison, will boast a supercharged 6.2L under the hood, producing approximately 625 horsepower, though both are based on the same successful small block architecture. In addition, also according to GT regulations, the C7.R’s suspension has been modified to accommodate wider racing tires and larger brakes, and the C7.R’s rear wing is a more significant element of the aero package. Used in conjunction with a larger radiator inlet, the outcome is smoother airflow over the rear wing for more efficient handling and stability at high speeds.
Also, the C7.R’s U.S. National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) ducts have been left behind. On the C6.R, there were two NACA ducts – one on top of each side of the rear bodywork and near the position of the rear wheels for cooling. The C7.R features openings on each rear quarter panel above the brake ducts in an effort to draw air to cool the transaxle and differential.
Keep it locked right here to www.GMHighTechPerformance.com for the latest information on the newest Corvettes as it becomes available.