Despite yesterday’s news that Corvette Racing is on the 2021 Le Mans 24hr entry list, nothing has yet been made public about the iconic American brand’s racing activities from 2022 onward.
Just ahead of this year’s Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, IMSA announced that this will be the final year for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Le Mans class, which has seen fulltime entrants dwindle to just three – Corvette Racing’s pair of C8.Rs and the Proton WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR. Since last year, the CORE autosport-run works Porsches have disappeared, while the Rahal Letterman Lanigan-run BMW M8s are taking part only in the four longest races, competing for the Michelin Endurance Cup.
For 2022, IMSA will be introducing GTD Pro for GT3 cars with all-Pro driver lineups, as opposed to the current GT Daytona class, in which GT3 machines – currently coming from nine different manufacturers – are piloted by Pro-Am or Am-Am driver combos.
Klauser, who now heads up both the Cadillac Prototype program (the future of which she recently discussed here) and the Corvette GT program, suggested racing will remain part of the C8.R’s future, but the precise form it will take from next year is still being mulled over at GM’s top level. The new-for-2020 C8.R dominated GTLM last year, and two months ago the mid-engined machine added Rolex 24 glory to its list of achievements.
However, Klauser pointed out there are several aspects to consider before GM will commit to switching its racing efforts from GTLM to GT3/GTD-class cars that could be run by both the works Corvette Racing squad, and by privateers.
“There’s quite a bit of re-engineering to do to turn a car from GT Le Mans class into GT Daytona class,” she told Motorsport.com. “The rules and regs are close but there’s enough difference between the performance targets that you have to make considerable changes.
“The other big thing is, it’s quite a different mentality to go down a customer platform route with a GT3 car than when you build a GTE car that you know is going to be factory-built and -run. The decisions that you’d make for a factory team could be completely different from what you do for a customer.
“You have to pull a lot of cost out of something that you designed to be factory-run to make it affordable for the customer. And then there’s a couple of nuances that you might have put in that were unique to the team that’s running that car for you, that might not translate well for the masses, the typical customer team.
“So one of the things that we’ve had to look at when trying to figure out where we want to race is the fact that if we go GT3 racing with Corvette, to use the racecar we have today would involve a huge tear-up. We’re likely looking at cutting the car’s cost in half and moving forward from there. So it’s no small feat and, to be honest, I see it as likely being a brand new program; you’re not totally starting from scratch… but really you are!”
Asked how many GT3/GTD-spec Corvette C8.Rs would have to be sold in order to recoup the investment made, Klauser replied: “That’s a good question and one we’ve really gotten into. I think the real answer – and this is true almost across the board in motorsport – is that you don’t get the investment back.
“Our perspective is that you have to look at it beyond cashflow. We’re out there racing in order to spread awareness, and we also go racing for that technology transfer between the racecar and the production car. And vice versa – it does go a little bit both ways. So we don’t need to have a zero balance sheet at the end for us to still walk away and feel like we were successful.
“We’re hoping the portfolio we put together will continue that; we’ll have the opportunity to spread awareness, to match up the right brands with the right classes, and then to have that tech transfer be at the forefront between the racing program and the factory program.”
Klauser gave further cause for optimism that the C8.R would remain in competition both in IMSA and at Le Mans next year by commenting: “When you look at racing and Corvette, it’s not even a need to go racing – it’s a want, it’s a desire. It’s so important to the DNA of the brand.
“The program team is all-in when it comes to us campaigning the car on the racetrack, they’re all into the idea of building the production car and the racecar side by side. It’s part of the program, and I can’t ever see a situation where we’d walk away from that because it’s embedded into what Corvette is.
“In terms of being able to compete at Le Mans, absolutely, that’s one of the things we pride ourselves in, and we missed it so much last year. It’s a huge part of the history of Corvette Racing and we look forward to having the opportunity to return.”
Klauser isn’t projecting when GM might announce the C8.R’s future in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program
“That’s TBD,” she said, “because IMSA still hasn’t finalized what the GTD Pro/GTD class split is going to look like and how Corvette could fit into that. Without knowing exactly what we’d be signing up for, we can’t make a smart decision for our program.
“But I know this is high priority for IMSA as well as the GT manufacturers, so things are moving along. Stay tuned!”