Corvette Racing prepares to step down to GT2
The start of the 2009 American Le Mans Series will mark the end of an era for Corvette Racing. GM’s factory team will focus on its transition to a new GT2 program that will debut in the second half of the season. Program manager Doug Fehan shed some light on the project after last weekend’s Monterey Sports Car Championships presented by Patr¢n.
The team announced plans in September to move from the GT1 class that it has dominated since 2001. Corvette Racing has won eight consecutive team championships, and its drivers have won seven straight titles in the American Le Mans Series. There also is the matter of five victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the quest for a sixth will be the final race in GT1.
Fehan says the debut of the GT2 entry likely will come at Mid-Ohio. It will revolve around a next-generation Corvette C6.R that again will compete on cellulosic E85. The car will have steel brakes, a smaller wing and a little less horsepower than the current GT1 car. Other than that, Fehan said, it will look exactly the same as now.
“The engineering work is completed and we’ll be starting in the next week to 10 days actually assembling the car,” Fehan said. “We’ve done the simulations on it. We know what the rules are and we know what the other cars are capable of. When we finally come out we’ll do the best job we possibly can.”
As easy as Corvette has made GT1 look for the last eight years, it will be equally as tough in GT2. Porsche and Ferrari are the two premier marques in the class with BMW’s factory effort returning for 2009. Panoz also likely will figure into the mix as will teams from Aston Martin, Dodge and Ford, among others.
“Don’t look for us to dominate right out of the shoot - it’s not going not to happen,” Fehan said. “Rear-engine and mid-engine cars have a distinct advantage in that classification. We know the challenges that lie ahead for a front-engine car and we are prepared to meet them. Let’s not forget too that we spent the first two years struggling with (the GT1) car. It took us awhile to get us up to speed and we expect that same kind of learning curve. We are prepared for it.”
He also anticipates customer car sales starting in 2010 for both American and European teams.
“We want to dominate as quickly as we possibly can,” Fehan said. “This team is not a team that likes to sit back and take their time. Everything we do from unloading the trucks to packing up…is a race, and that’s the spirit we bring forward every day. We want to take forward the heritage we’ve created for Corvette. We’ve worked pretty darn hard over the last 10 years to change the image of that car on a global basis and we plan to uphold that image as we go forward.”
The 2009 American Le Mans Series season starts with the 57th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday, March 21. It will mark the 100th race in the history of the American Le Mans Series. SPEED will televise the race live. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage on americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA’s Live Timing & Scoring.