Corvette Racing Announces Plans for 2009 and 2010 Seasons
DETROIT, Sept. 9, 2008 -- Steve Wesoloski, GM Racing Road Racing Group manager, and Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing program manager, participated in a media teleconference today to outline Corvette Racing's plans for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
It was announced that Corvette Racing will run a limited schedule in the GT1 class in the first half of the 2009 American Le Mans Series season as it prepares for its 10th participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. The team will race in the ALMS GT1 class in Sebring and Long Beach. Following its return from Le Mans, Corvette Racing will compete in the GT2 category in selected ALMS events in 2009 in preparation for a full-season program under new international GT class regulations in 2010.
The following is a transcript of the teleconference.
Steve Wesoloski: "Thanks for joining us today. I'm excited to announce some news regarding Corvette Racing in the future and hopefully put some rumors and speculation to rest. At this time we are announcing our plans for 2009 and 2010. In 2009 we are going to start the season with our current GT1 cars and race Sebring, Long Beach, and then go the pinnacle of our program, Le Mans, to try for our sixth victory in 10 races with the GT1 cars. Coming back for the second half of the season, we will be racing selected races with an all-new GT2-spec Corvette race car.
"We will hopefully see the level of competition that the GT2 class currently has, and we want to join in that fray with other marques that we compete with in the marketplace, such as Porsche, Ferrari, and BMW. Going into 2010, our intent is to go forward with our full factory effort for the championship in the new GT class. The rules will be converging on a single class for 2010. We've been staying abreast with the FIA and ACO, and we have confidence that this new class will be just as exciting while still remaining relevant to the marketplace and relevant to our street car. We intend to continue Corvette's history, taking our current team and technology we've developed and applying it to an all-new car per the rules for 2010.
"We look forward to competing, and that is the main reason for moving in this direction. We want to go where the competition is. We see this class has a lot of potential growth, and it's going to be very exciting for years to come.
"As part of the requirement of the rules, we will eventually be developing customer cars. We have a lot of interest, as you can imagine, from people around the globe wanting to buy a Corvette and go head-to-head with Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, BMW and others.
"I'll turn it over to Doug Fehan to go into some of the details on what we will be building and competing with next year."
Doug Fehan: "Thank you, Steve. I think it's pretty clear to everyone who follows the series that although we have been very successful in the last couple of years with our marketing programs, eventually we were going to need to get some competition. I think that globally that was recognized by both the ACO and FIA, and I think that was the precursor to the new GT rules and regulations using 2010 as the fulcrum to kick everything off.
"We're pretty excited about this, obviously, because we do want somebody to race against. In the current GT configuration as it exists out there with Ferrari, Porsche, and clearly BMW coming, and rumors of Audi, it looks like the place we need to be. It's relevant to our product.
"The C6.R will continue its legacy that began in GT1. That's our goal, that's our objective. It's going to be a difficult road. When you look at some of the race tracks where we race already, the GT2s are within a couple of ticks of where the GT1 cars are. We're going into this with our eyes wide open. We know the level of performance that exists out there, and we're certainly embracing that challenge and looking forward to it.
"In addition, we are going to continue our commitment in racing with E85 cellulosic ethanol in our new GT effort. Initially we are going to start with a 6-liter version of the engine we're running now, the LS7 small-block. Obviously the rules change in 2010, so we'll be developing a 5.5-liter version of the latest GM small-block V-8. That will be in compliance with FIA, and as Steve said, we'll have cars available to customers.
"It's exciting. It's a new chapter in Corvette Racing. We welcome the competition, and we're looking forward to what the future holds for us.
"That concludes my remarks, and now we'll open it up to questions."
This will be an all-new car constructed by Pratt & Miller, is that correct?\
Wesoloski: "Yes, that's correct."
Are there any differences you can mention that won't reveal your competitive position?
Fehan: "First and foremost, the new car will be utilizing an aluminum chassis. We'll be integrating some rather advanced technologies in that chassis. We'll be integrating a steel roll cage into the aluminum chassis. By integration I don't mean glued or bolted, as exists in the current aluminum chassis. We actually have a welding technology we've worked on with suppliers where we utilize friction welding techniques. We'll have details on that as we announce the car. It's pretty exciting stuff, and we're excited to be the first to employ it. Once again, the implementation of technology in the race car precedes the production car. It's all part of our story and the exciting legacy of Corvette."
Wesoloski: "The key is that the new GT rules are very much based on today's GT2 cars, so there will be a lot more production content, a lot more requirement to stick closer to what the cars are on the road. Any substitutions have to come from another large volume GM product, so we'll be sticking a lot closer to production and you'll be seeing a lot more of that content."
Are the 2010 rules going to be another dramatic step, or not that dramatic?
Fehan: "It shouldn't be that dramatic. Those rules are being worked on right now. We've seen some rough drafts of them. They will be very similar to what we will be building for 2009."
Can you tell us what role Ron Fellows will be playing in the future with Corvette Racing as you get into this new technology and the new rules?
Fehan: "We have a tremendous fan base in Canada, and obviously Ron plays a key role in that as witnessed by his successive runs as the most popular driver in the series. In all fairness to everybody here, we don't talk about drivers or their involvement until the final race of the year. Ron has obviously been a key figure since the very inception, and continues to play a very, very important role this year, and we'll have to leave it at that."
I'm aware that you have been with Katech and CRD on the GT2 project until now, will they continue to do development for you, and who's on top on that?
Wesoloski: "We have not determined where we will be building the engines right now. We're working within the GM Powertrain internals and they have a lot of great expertise and technology. As it will be a much more production-based engine, we're going to start with the development there. We'll be spending 2009 developing the proper package for 2010. An engine source has not been determined at this time."
Fehan: "I think it's important to add that throughout the life of the program, Katech and Powertrain have worked together in various aspects to get this done -- essentially Powertrain being responsible for a lot of the design work and Katech being responsible for a lot of the assembly. So it's been a joint effort all along. As we go forward with a new program and more customers, how that is all delineated is still to be determined."
You will use their assistance, will you not?
Wesoloski: "That's yet to be determined."
I'm curious about homologation of the new car, specifically related to the fact there is a GT2 Corvette that Riley built that ran a portion of this season. There is also a Dutch Corvette that ran the LMS series last year as well. With a few different versions of Corvette running in GT2, how is that going to be consolidated or not, at least for next year?
Fehan: "As it exists right now, in the eyes of the FIA, there isn't a Corvette homologated. Ours will be the first and the only homologated car."
Any further development on seeing a (Corvette) GT1 engine available for use in prototypes?
Fehan: "As we have said all along, we continue to evaluate every road racing motorsports opportunity that exists. To date no decision has been made either way on that. The only thing we can confirm is that people have come to us inquiring as to whether or not we have an interest in that. That's something that we're still evaluating."
What were the main determining factors for you just running Sebring, Long Beach, and Le Mans? Why did you pick Long Beach out of the ALMS schedule?
Wesoloski: "That was largely a marketing decision, looking at a very important market for Corvette in the Southern California region. Also it's a big event for our primary sponsor, Compuware. Historically it's been a big event from that aspect. Obviously trying to space things out and give ourselves a little more time to prep for Le Mans factored into it, but the main reason was from the marketing aspect."
Is this car going to be in the lead class for the World GT Championship, and is that something that would be of interest to Corvette Racing?
Fehan: "The way the rules appear to be going to be finalized -- these are FIA rules we're talking about now, not necessarily ACO or ALMS rules -- the GT2 car as we'll call it for the time being will serve as the base car. To get to a GT1, which will be developed off of GT2, right now they're talking about a change in the bodywork, a larger wing, and some different power. That may be a slight oversimplification, but I think you get the gist of what I'm saying. GT1 is like a build-up from the GT2 car, so a guy who had a GT2 car could, in fact, buy a kit from the manufacturer and make it a GT1 car. I think that Stephane Ratel's objective is to have GT1 cars run for that world championship program. Manufacturers are certainly considering it, but the focus seems to be on GT2 right now, and that's where our focus is going to stay for the time being."
How similar are the 2010 GT rules to what we're seeing right now in the 2008 American Le Mans Series?
Wesoloski: "They are very close, but there are some slight modifications. The ACO is interested in slowing down all of the classes at Le Mans, so there will be some further limitations on things like ride height and aerodynamic devices on the cars. Largely they will be the same chassis, with some restrictions on engine displacement that will be eligible for each of the different GT classes. That's one of the ways to differentiate power, by specifying engine displacements that will be allowed to run in GT1 versus GT2."
Is the general consensus that eventually there will be but one GT class?
Fehan: "I don't know that that is necessarily anybody's given direction. Our speculation is that by default that will probably occur. Right now ourselves and the one Aston Martin are the only cars running (in ALMS GT1). In the natural order of things, it's not something that anyone is planning or forcing to have happen. I think it's just been an evolution. If there's nobody there, there won't be a GT1."
Corvette Racing's next event is Petit Le Mans, the 10th round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series, at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., on Saturday, October 4. The 1,000-mile/10-hour race is scheduled to start at 11:15 a.m. EDT. SPEED will televise the race live starting at 11 a.m. EDT.
-credit: gm racing