UPDATE: IMSA is expected to waive the Corvette Racing C8.R to the GTD class for the 2022 season. This would effectively put the Corvette C8.R in contention with FIA GT3 race cars, despite not sharing the same spec. Balance of Performance (BOP) measures from IMSA are expected to help even things out. Beyond the 2022 season remains a mystery. The story continues below.
The sports car racing world is dealing with a bit of a shakeup in regards to recent rule changes that significantly adjusts race car classes and how that will shape the competitive landscape of sports car racing and prototype racing for the near-to-mid future. The main disturbance in the Force is that IMSA – where Corvette Racing mostly competes – is eliminating the GTLM class at the end of the 2021 season, while splitting its GTD class in two with the announcement of GTD Pro. In turn, this could spell trouble for the future of the C8.R as we know it.
IMSA was already facing a shrinking GTLM grid (which is FIA GTE by a different name), with the withdrawal of the Ford GT racing program, and Porsche reducing its efforts to just one car. Meanwhile, the GTD grid – mirroring the FIA GT3 class – features a depth of 20 cars.
Meanwhile, the FIA and ACO – the governing bodies behind the 24 Hours of Le Mans – have yet to announce their riddance of the GTE class, which is split between the factory-backed GTE Pro and well-heeled GTE Am groups. Therefore, Corvette Racing stands to be eligible in the two FIA races it competes in a year, but soon ineligible for the the entire IMSA season.
Adjusting the class of the Corvette Racing C8.R is no easy task. In a recent report from Sportscar365, recently-appointed GM racing program manager Laura Wontrop-Klauser ruled out a fully homologated GT3 Corvette C8.R (IMSA GTD class) for 2022, following up on the words of Corvette Racing team manager Ben Johnson, who told the same publication in August 2020 that converting the C8.R – which has only been racing since January 2020 – from GTE spec to GT3 is a “relatively large task.”
Meanwhile, team leaders are hopeful that there could be a compromise with IMSA to potentially run an adapted version of its current GTE-spec Corvette C8.R in GTD Pro. In doing so, Corvette Racing would continue to compete effectively with its rivals, and the life of the current C8.R likely wouldn’t be cut short.
To the favor of Corvette Racing, IMSA hasn’t always been one to follow its own rules, especially when it comes to manufacturers. For instance, when BMW was briefly racing the M6, IMSA allowed the team to race GT3-focused car as a GTLM car, despite being built to the GT3 spec. It’s possible Corvette Racing could compete in the remaining GTD class – which are GT3 cars – with Balance of Performance (BOP) put on the No. 03 and No. 04 C8.R Corvettes.
Then there’s Callaway Competition, which is based in Leingarten, Germany. The racing company currently builds the C7 Corvette GT3, and Partner in Callaway Competition Reeves Callaway thinks that a GT3 version of the C8 Corvette may still be a few years out.
“Our deal with GM is that we’re the homologation holder for the car, having homologated the C7 GT3-R on behalf of GM. And the homologation for the C7 runs out around 2024 or 2025,” Reeves told MC&T. “So until then the car is eligible for GT3 competition anywhere in the world. And if there’s a GT3 version of the C8, that will presumably be enough time for development of it before the homologation runs out in the C7.”
The C7 Corvette GT3 debuted in October 2015, and has since seen several victories.
“Callaway was authorized to design, develop, homologate, produce, and campaign the C7 GT3. And as one of the longest standing participants in GT3 racing, we have won several championships over the years in what is generally agreed to be the most competitive form of sports car racing,” said Callaway. “The dots that need to be connected are that GT3 regulations require a customer-based program. The Callaway program for GT3 has competed in and won against the most capable manufacturers in the world. Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley are formidable. We are happy with our record. And we would certainly be pleased to have the opportunity to assist in carrying the Corvette flag forward.”
However, the FIA World Endurance Championship and ACO do not field GT3 cars. Thus, the C7 Corvette GT3 sits out of iconic races such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but is eligible to compete in IMSA, SRO and other major touring and GT car leagues around the globe, such as Germany’s ADAC GT Masters, the same sanctioning body which races the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. That said, Le Mans is on Callaway’s mind.
“The C7 Corvette GT3 doesn’t compete at Le Mans, but now that GTE is going away, we think the possibility exists for acceptance of GT3 cars,” said Callaway.
Then there’s the formation of the LMDh and Hypercar classes. Wontrop-Klauser has openly said that LMDh has caught the attention of Cadillac and Corvette Racing.
Circling back to the official endeavors of Chevrolet’s sports car racing program, the LMDh and Hypercar classes may play perfectly into the future product plans of Corvette, even though nobody is talking just yet. This is because the C8 Corvette family is expecting two future hybrid variants: the E-Ray, and later, the 1,000 horsepower Zora hypercar flagship. The mighty C8 Corvette Zora hybrid could use either the IMSA LMDh or FIA Hypercar class to validate its cutting-edge hybrid technology, perhaps at the expense of the Cadillac Racing program, although it’s still too early to tell for sure.
While General Motors hasn’t come forward with a finalized blueprint of its mid- to long-term racing plans, it’s likely not going to be for much longer.