The Friday before the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, Chevrolet announced a brand new Corvette. No, we’re not talking about the electric E-Ray (although there was a beautiful Torch Red one on display inside the Chevrolet Experience Center at Daytona). The car we are excited about is the all-new 2024 C8 Z06 GT3.R.
Corvette Racing has been running the C8.R in the GTLM and GTE Pro (both GT2 specification categories) since the beginning of the 2020 season. Unfortunately, the GTLM category used in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship ended with the final race of the 2021 season. So from the beginning of 2022, Corvette Racing had to transition the car into the GTD Pro Class in IMSA (a GT3 specification category) while also running the car in 2022 in the FIA WEC (World Endurance Championship) GTE Pro Class. To run the C8.R in the GTD Pro Class, Corvette Racing had to apply for a waiver from IMSA to continue running the car, and they made it clear to IMSA that this was only until the new C8 Z06 GT3.R was available. Although we would love to see the GT3.R race now, it will make its first appearance during the 2024 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
Many things make the C8 Z06 GT3.R unique, not the least of which is that the all-aluminum chassis starts life in Bowling Green on the same production line as the street C8 Z06. It is then shipped to Pratt & Miller to be built into the GT3.R race car. Chevrolet must produce a minimum of twenty GT3.R specification Corvettes for the car to be recognized for competition. Laura Klauser, the head of GM’s Sports Car Racing Manager, was very bullish when saying this wasn’t going to be a problem when speaking in 2022. Selling all twenty should not be a problem assuming the price is competitive with similar GT3 specification cars offered by current rivals such as Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, etc. As a point of reference, it should be noted that a brand new 2022 Porsche GT3 Cup car will set you back approximately $270,000, and a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo2 costs more than the $525,000 price tag of its predecessor. The current Acura NSX is $536,000, and the brand-new Ferrari 296 GT3 is more than the $615,000 sticker price of the previous model, the 488 GT3. So there is a lot of scope for Chevrolet when it comes to pricing the cars competitively with its competition.
Although based on the street and track-friendly Corvette Z06 design and its 5.5L flat-plane crankshaft DOHC LT6 engine, the GT3.R won’t be street legal. The track-only race car will be modified with racing-specific equipment and comply with FIA regulations to compete in multiple series worldwide. The brakes will be motorsports-specific (read AP Racing, as this is what was shown on the reveal car) six-piston front/four-piston rear brake system with specific cooling systems and quick-change capabilities, again, similar to the C8.R. The C8 Z06 GT3.R comes with a double-wishbone suspension setup at the front and rear, promoting a high level of adjustability and fitment of racing-specific tire sizes. The rear transaxle will be a six-speed sequential unit, probably from XTrac, as Corvette Racing has a long relationship with the company.
For wheels, Chevrolet and Pratt & Miller chose another company it has worked with many times before with great success. Forgeline Motorsports has developed high-performance wheels for Chevrolet and Pratt & Miller going back as far as 2007 with the championship-winning Pontiac G6 GXP.R. The trio struck gold again in 2017, with Forgeline supplying its forged monoblock GS1R wheels for the championship-winning Camaro GT4.R. So, it only made sense to team with Forgeline Motorsports again and go for the trifecta.
As a result of extensive wind tunnel testing to develop the GT3.R’s lightweight carbon body work and its mid-engine design, there is an incredible amount of grip potential for the race car. Because of this, the engineers at Chevrolet and Pratt & Miller were particularly concerned with the deflection, strength, and durability of the car’s wheels. As a result, they worked with the team at Forgeline Motorsports to develop an application-specific one-piece, forged monoblock wheel just for the GT3.R.
The new Corvette GT3.R is another racing milestone, both for competitive motorsports and for Forgeline. I’m extremely proud of the entire Forgeline team for rising to the task, and I’m excited to see what the SS1R-GT and the GT3.R can accomplish together on the track. –Dave Schardt, Forgeline president
Based on Forgeline’s SS1R-GT wheel, this center-locking forged monoblock design is engineered to deliver unrivaled performance in terms of mass, deflection, strength, and durability. Each of the 20 C8 Z06 GT3.R cars being built will rely on 18×12.5 SS1R-GT wheels to handle the steering duties. Meanwhile, out back, 18×13 steamroller-sized SS1R-GT wheels will handle getting power to the pavement. All the Gt3.R race cars will wear the Forgeline SS1r-GT wheels finished in gloss black.
It’s literally been a lifelong dream to build wheels for the Corvette racing team, one of the most successful racing programs in history. We’re extremely proud to have earned the trust of Chevrolet, Pratt & Miller, and the racing industry and to be presented the opportunity to manufacture the wheels for the new Corvette GT3.R.– Steve Schardt, Forgeline global sales manager
The Corvette Z06 GT3.R will feature a 5.5-liter, flat-plane crankshaft DOHC V8 engine derived from the production Z06. The LT6 engine for the GT3.R originates from the Performance Build Center in Bowling Green, the same line on which all production Corvette Z06 engines are built. The 5.5-liter powerplant shares more than 70 percent of its parts with the production Z06 engine, including the flat-plane crankshaft, connecting rods, cylinder heads, fuel injectors, coils, gaskets, and a variety of other sensors.
Corvette Racing is expected to race one, if not two, of the new GTD-friendly cars at Daytona in 2024. Plus, a number of privateer teams are potentially stepping up to buy the cars. Teams already rumored to be considering switching to the C8 Z06 GT3.R include Rebel Rock Racing, who currently run in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship support series, the IMSA VP Racing Sportscar Challenge, and the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. Ben Keating, who joined Corvette Racing in 2023 as a full factory driver to race in the FIA’s WEC GTE Am Class, is also rumored to be considering buying a car to race in 2024. Corvette Racing needed an amateur driver to allow them to compete in the FIA WEC in 2023. Ben Keating is an ideal candidate as he is a highly successful and experienced amateur Bronze ranked driver and American. He will be joined in the C8.R in 2023 by Dutch Gold-ranked driver Nicky Catsburg and Argentinian Silver-ranked driver Nicolas Varrone.
The timetable for Pratt & Miller is going to be extremely challenging in that the homologation process isn’t expected to be finished until possibly September 2023. This will need to be completed before Pratt & Miller can build the twenty C8 Z06 chassis into the C8 Z06 GT3.R cars. All the teams must present their cars to IMSA at the December Test, prior to the cars needing to be present and correct for the Roar Before The 24 that takes place January 20-21, 2024, just one week before the 2024 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona (27th-28th January 2024). Not only will Pratt & Miller need to produce all of the cars, but they will also be required to produce a spares package for each race car as drivers have a nasty habit of crashing them, and teams will need parts to fix them.
A C8 GT3 specification Corvette is unique in that it is the first GT3 specification Corvette ever to be produced by the factory – albeit not the Bowling Green factory in Kentucky – the Pratt & Miller factory in New Hudson, Michigan. With up to twenty cars available to purchase, it is expected that Laura Klauser and her team will have a lot of work to do in the USA and worldwide supporting many teams, as these cars will be eligible to race in many series and icon races around the world. Porsche, by comparison, produces an average of 140 of their GT3 Cup cars per year, so if the C8 Z06 GT3.R is as successful as the Porsche, then Laura and her team have a lot of scaling up to do!