In Le Mans and in the American IMSA SportsCar Championship, the factory Corvettes have been fan favorites for many years. From 2024, customers can also start with a GT3 version of the high-performance variant Z06.
Regardless of whether it's series production or racing: Corvette fans currently have many reasons to enjoy the present and the near future. After the presentation of the sharpened C8 version Z06 (see video) had caused a lot of excitement, the motorsport department followed suit in the past and the newly started season: As in 2022, Corvette Racing is contesting the entire season in addition to the IMSA in the World Sportscar Championship (WEC) with one car each.
For the legendary works team, it is the most ambitious program in the 25-year history. So the Americans not only have to handle the logistics for two championships, but also look after two different race offshoots of the C8.R. While the GTE version continues to compete in the WEC, and thus also in Le Mans, a performance-restricted variant is used in the IMSA.
First real customer sports car from Corvette Racing
In America, the GT3 has been replacing the GTE as the new top GT class since 2022 under the name "GTD-Pro". In the WEC, this step will not take place until 2024. To make it easier for Corvette to transition from GTE to GT3, IMSA allowed two transition years with the C8.R. The steam hammer with its 5.5-liter V8 mid-engine is castrated in terms of horsepower and the rear wing. In addition, the ABS that is mandatory for the GT3 must be installed.
From 2024, a real GT3 Corvette with factory DNA will replace the C8.R and make race tracks unsafe all over the planet. GT3 "Vetten" from the tuner Callaway have already celebrated some successes in Germany, but this time the Z06 GT3.R will be created entirely under the supervision of GM. As part of the 24 Hours of Daytona in January 2023, the finished version of Corvette Racing's first real customer racing car was shown to the public.
As usual, the high-revving 5.5-liter DOHC LT6 V8 with a flat crankshaft is used as the drive. This currently also fires the C8.R and helped with the development of the slightly modified counterpart in the high-performance Z06 variant. The final GT3 engine will be more stock based compared to the GTE version. According to Chevrolet, the engines match more than 70 percent. Common parts include, for example, the crankshaft, connecting rods, cylinder heads, injection nozzles, coils, seals and a large number of sensors.
Birth at Corvette's Bowling Green plant
Each Z06 GT3.R is based on the same aluminum chassis that the road Z06 uses, and consequently - just like every engine - is made at their plant in Bowling Green, TX Born in Kentucky.At this point, the previous service provider Pratt Miller (formerly: Pratt & Miller) comes into play, which should continue to provide support with know-how and production capacities. In the first step, he welds a steel roll cage into the aluminum chassis. Added to this is a side crash structure between the cage and the driver's door, which features a carbon fiber and Kevlar outer shell and is filled with an aluminum honeycomb construction.
The GT3.R also adopts the concept of the double wishbone suspension on both axles from the series Z06, albeit with motorsport-specific springs and dampers. A racing brake system works behind the 18-inch wheels in the C8.R specification.
The biggest visual difference is of course the aerodynamic components. The rear wing, which is suspended from two gooseneck supports, stands out here. A carbon splitter sits under the front apron, which channels the air towards the underbody, which in turn directs it with other aerodynamic devices to the rear diffuser, which is also made of carbon fibre. In addition, the air intakes are enlarged all around. Instead of a rear window, there is a bonnet that transports warm air to the engine compartment via slits.
Corvette Z06 GT3.R comes full circle
In an interview with Sportscar365, Laura Wontrop Klauser, program manager for GM's sports car motorsport projects, explained the development line from the C8.R to the production Z06 and the Z06 GT3.R: "We didn't plan it that way, but it comes full circle in a nice way. The production Z06 will be the perfect 'organ donor' for the GT3 car."
The same is currently still in the test phase and should be delivered in several steps from the third quarter of 2023. The focus is initially on the motorsport markets in North America (four cars for the IMSA) and Europe (two chassis for the WEC). SRO series such as the Intercontinental GT Challenge are also evaluated. The customer racing Corvette is set to make its racing debut at next year's 24 Hours of Daytona. With suitable demand and a rapidly growing customer program with supporting engineers and infrastructure (trucks with spare parts, etc.), larger batches are also conceivable. Prices will be announced at a later date.
Since Chevrolet manufactures the car according to FIA specifications, it can be used in all series with GT3 cars. From 2024, for example, teams could compete with a Corvette in the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring, in the ADAC GT Masters and in the DTM - but in the best-case scenario, there will only be cars for this from 2025. So there will still be plenty of V8 fans worldwide (before) Enjoy the distinctive sound of racing Corvettes.
With the Z06 GT3.R, Corvette Racing is launching the first real customer racing car in its history.The car is said to be largely the same as the road version and will fight for victories from the 2024 season.