DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Corvette Racing knew it would be challenged entering the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as it transitioned from the outgoing GT Le Mans (GTLM) class into the new GTD PRO class. But the two-time defending GTLM champion team endured a rough debut at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The No. 3 Corvette C8.R GTD shared by Jordan Taylor, Antonio Garcia and Nicky Catsburg finished sixth in GTD PRO after battling an electrical issue, 13 laps in arrears of the class-winning Pfaff Motorsports Porsche, while the No. 4 Corvette (with drivers Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy and Marco Sorensen) took 10th place in a field of 13 after sustaining significant damage in an incident on a restart.
The struggle was not unexpected. With GTLM concluding, Corvette Racing worked closely with IMSA to homologate the mid-engine C8.R in an interim specification for 2022 and ’23 while Chevrolet works to develop the Corvette platform to the worldwide FIA GT3 standard for customer sale in 2024.
That involved a great deal of work reconfiguring the passenger side of the race car’s interior to accommodate the ballast box mandatory in GT3 competition. Corvette was also required to integrate anti-lock braking (ABS) and a limited-slip differential to bring the C8.R into compliance. Corvette Racing’s on-track testing program with the new car was limited to two days at VIRginia International Raceway in November 2021.
The team held realistic expectations for the GTD PRO debut, and the car itself performed much as expected in the Rolex 24.
“Coming into Daytona, we knew we had a lot to learn,” said Taylor, who teamed with Garcia for two consecutive GTLM titles in 2020 and ‘21. “All things considered, I think we showed some decent pace at times throughout the weekend. We definitely weren’t where we wanted to be pace-wise, but I think it’s kind of still early days for us to understand the class – what it’s going to take to be competitive with understanding the way the control tire works, the ABS system and the few other little changes we have. If we hadn’t had our mechanical issues, I think we could have been a little higher up in the top five.
“We’re coming into a class that has a lot of professional drivers and teams that have been in this class, running these exact cars for the last few years,” he continued. “We knew it would be difficult; we didn’t expect to be from a pace point of view where we were, but from an execution point of view, pit stop and strategy-wise, we were doing a good job. The drivers didn’t make any mistakes on track. It was just a couple little mechanical issues that took us out of the fight. With that, I think we kind of understand where we are as a team.”
IMSA made Balance of Performance (BoP) adjustments between the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test weekend and the Rolex 24 race to address Corvette’s deficit in straight-line speed, a change that pleased Corvette Racing team manager Marc Maurini.
“There was a lot of data gathered at Daytona that showed in the infield, or ‘handling’ section of the track, we were right on par with most of the rest of the field,” Maurini said. “Daytona is a unique BoP, and really, performance is determined there by top speed and performance on the banking. That’s not a component of a lot of these tracks, but power is still the first order of success in these cars.
“We focused on what we could make an impact on and effect during the race weekend,” Maurini added. “We worked on chassis balance and the operational aspects of running a factory-level racing program to be sure that we executed there, and I feel we did.”
The Rolex 24 is currently the only race where both Corvettes are expected to race together in 2022. The No. 3 is set for the full WeatherTech Championship season, with the next race the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours at Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts on March 19. The No. 4 becomes the No. 64 for a full season in the GTE Pro class of the FIA World Endurance Championship, whose season starts with the 1000 Miles of Sebring the day prior to the 12-hour race.
The split IMSA/WEC effort is an ambitious undertaking for Corvette Racing, all taking place while Chevrolet is developing the customer GT3 version of the C8.R.
“It’s been a little bit of a challenge for us to run split programs with a similar level of resources,” Maurini said. “There’s a lot more going into that even than with a standard two-car entry. To run two concurrent race programs is double the preparation, double the planning.
“But getting data on those WEC tracks will certainly be useful when we are setting design targets for our new GT3 car, and the main benefit is being more prepared in terms of readiness ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” he added. “Recently, with Le Mans becoming part of the WEC calendar, with the rules communizing toward the WEC sporting regulation, it’s very difficult to show up there as a single entrant and operate at the level those factory teams operate at when you’re competing in their playground. We will certainly be at a higher level of readiness and be able to put our best foot forward at Le Mans, which is one of the primary objectives for the program this year.”
Taylor said that Corvette Racing will arrive at Sebring on the heels of a productive test at the legendary airfield circuit. He believes the No. 3 Corvette will benefit from what the No. 64 Corvette encounters and learns in the WEC race the day before.
Corvette Racing has claimed a dozen class wins at the Twelve Hours of Sebring in the team’s 24-year history.
“From a strategy point of view and track evolution, those are little details we can learn from those guys,” Taylor observed. “But it will be different. Obviously, it’s nice to have two cars, to have two bullets in the gun, and we were able to split strategies in the past to account for other guys and kind of guarantee one of our cars would be in good position. That’s going to be different, but at the same time, we can put full focus onto one car in each series while sharing some resources. It’s exciting.
“I think it’s cool to have a car in both series,” Taylor concluded. “When we went to Le Mans last year, we hadn’t run with that series all year long. We had also missed the previous year, so come Le Mans time, I think it’s going to help us to have more experience to understand the rules and the tires and be ready to go on both sides of the pond.”