Millions of enthusiasts were looking forward to this year’s Roar Before the 24, the official three-day dress-rehearsal for the up-coming Daytona 24-hour race, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s opening event January 25-26.
This year, Corvette Racing brought their all-new C8.Rs for some much-needed track time at speed. While the low growl of the big-bore V8 is relegated to the history books, the high-revving, flat-plane-crank’d 5.5L V8 definitely gave fans what they were wanting. We’ve all heard the C8.R belt out a few revs for the fans, but this was the first time enthusiasts and fans had open access to the car to hear the drivers belt out some sweet sounds around the racetrack. They were not disappointed.
While the mid-engine C8.R is an unproven entity on track, the design is in response to a needed increase in performance and handling over the previous year’s front-engine design. The change of layout was not taken lightly by GM and its engineers. Months of on-track testing and work in Chevrolet Racing’s simulator aided in the development of the new Corvette. Even so, Corvette Racing’s Doug Fehan put it best, “Track time is the only way to get there!”
Altogether, the pair of Mobil 1/SiriusXM Corvettes completed 341 laps, which equals 1,213.96 miles around the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona. Besides track time, the teams practiced driver changes, as well as maintenance items such as brakes and wheel/tire swaps.
Doug Fehan explained that the focus of testing was to achieve the level of reliability that Corvette Racing has been known for in recent generations. Testing sessions before the Christmas holiday and working out a reasonable level of durability before the public event helped ensure the C8.R’s time at the Roar was most beneficial.
The Roar also gives the drivers time to get acquainted with the new Corvette, as well as each other. Starting his first season with Corvette Racing, Nicky Catsburg is set to team with Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor at the wheel of the No. 3 Corvette for the long-distance endurance races. In the No. 4 Corvette, Marcel Fässler will join the pairing of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner for all three of IMSA’s premier endurance races. These races will include the Rolex 24, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, and season-ending Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Antonio Garcia confided, “Every lap counts when you are testing, especially with a new car.” Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner gives insight into some of the lessons learned during each of those laps. “I think we were a little bit out of the window to start with here in figuring the tires out,” he said. “Each day that has gone by, we have gotten the car a little bit better for each of us to drive and a little bit faster…We’ve made a lot of progress with the Corvette C8.R the last two days.”
Tommy Milner posted Corvette Racing’s best time of the weekend during qualifying with a 1:42.793 (124.671 mph) pass in the No. 4 Corvette. Antonio Garcia wasn’t far behind in the No. 3 Corvette with a lap of 1:43.131 (124.263 mph) that he will drive with Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg.
Getting faster was the main reason for such a drastic change to a mid-engine format. While the final results are quite promising that Corvette Racing has met their goal, the proof will come during the team’s first outing in contesting with the world at the Rolex 24 hour race held later this month. Until then, the team will be scouring the data, hoping to answer all the questions that may arise during the heat of battle. There’s still a lot to be done and a short time to do it.
We’ve made a lot of progress with the Corvette C8.R the last two days. – Tommy Milner, Corvette Racing
Like so many other enthusiasts, we’ll be waiting to watch Team Corvette duke it out in their first outing with the new car. Such a clean-slate approach erases some of the hard-learned lessons from the previous design but also opens up a whole new horizon of opportunity – both for good and bad.
Veteran Corvette Racing team member Oliver Gavin put it all in perspective, “It’s very rare to come to the Roar and then the Rolex 24 with a brand-new car and have absolutely everything covered. We’ve all been through this race many times and know what it can throw at you. We’re all eyes-open but somewhat satisfied with how things have gone and progressed.”
Good luck to the team. We’ll be watching and cheering them on!