Corvette Racing Teleconference Transcript August 4, 2009 Corvette Racing Provides Details on GT2 Corvette C6.R DETROIT -- Corvette Racing released information on the GT2 version of the Corvette C6.R race car in a media teleconference today.
Corvette Racing Teleconference Transcript
August 4, 2009
Corvette Racing Provides Details on GT2 Corvette C6.R
DETROIT -- Corvette Racing released information on the GT2 version of the Corvette C6.R race car in a media teleconference today. The following are highlights of the teleconference. The next-generation Corvette C6.R will make its competition debut in the GT2 class at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the sixth round of the 2009 American Le Mans Series on August 6-8.
Mark Kent, GM Racing manager: "Over the past decade, Corvette Racing has had some amazing accomplishments in the GTS and GT1 classes of competition, including winning 77 races and eight consecutive ALMS championships. Corvette Racing's success has truly been an amazing story, and like most great stories, Corvette Racing's story consists of several chapters. Last month, after Corvette Racing's sixth victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, we finished a chapter in Corvette Racing's story by retiring the GT1 Corvettes. We're here today to start the next chapter in Corvette Racing.
"Corvette Racing is moving toward the future of production-based sports car racing with the introduction of the next-generation Corvette C6.R race car. With the international regulations converging around a single GT class, Corvette Racing will continue its motorsports heritage by racing against manufacturers and marques that Corvette competes with in the marketplace, while also increasing the production content of the C6.R race car and the relevance of racing to our customers. This is truly a step that positions Corvette Racing for the future of production-based sports car racing worldwide, and a move that is perfectly aligned with GM's marketing and business objectives in racing.
"The all-new Corvette C6.R will debut this weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and it will compete the balance of the season in the GT2 category of the American Le Mans Series. Based on the Corvette ZR1 supercar, the next-generation Corvette C6.R has even stronger links to the production version of America's performance icon than its predecessor. While the new C6.R will have new graphics, it will retain the Velocity Yellow and black color combination that has become synonymous with Corvette Racing. We will also continue with the support of our long-time sponsors and technical partners. Compuware is the team's primary sponsor, with Mobil 1 supplying low-friction lubricants and Michelin providing its world-class racing tires. Corvette Racing's sponsors also include XM Satellite Radio, UAW-GM, Genuine Corvette Accessories, Bose, Motorola, PRS Guitars, and BBS.
"While much of the hardware is changing, Corvette Racing's roster of championship-winning drivers remains the same. Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen will share the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R, and Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta will drive the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6. R. Then at Petit Le Mans, they will be joined by Antonio Garcia and Marcel Fassler.
"We look forward to competing against a strong field of outstanding competitors. The competition will be fierce and we know that in order to win the American Le Mans GT2 class not only takes a great team and great drivers, but it also takes a great race car. We believe our new GT2 Corvette C6.R is a great car. To tell you more about the new race car, I would like to introduce GM Racing's program manager for Corvette Racing, Doug Fehan."
Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing program manager: "Thank you, Mark. Just from an historical perspective, I know questions are going to be out there, why the move? It should be fairly obvious to most who follow the sport that throughout the last decade after we dispatched the Viper and Saleen and Ferrari and then finally Aston Martin, there was literally very little competition on a global basis to race in the existing GT1 category. Back in the late fall of 2006 and early in 2007, we had begun discussions on what the future of Corvette was going to be as far its performance on a global stage in racing. It looked to me and to others that the GT category was still going to remain strong, but it was going to be heading off in the direction of GT2. Porsche had pretty much dominated that, Ferrari was making moves to come over, other manufacturers were looking at it. So we began a quest to do some research on how we would approach that. We also knew at that point what we had on the table with the new ZR1, the highest performance car that GM has ever built, which was going to be coming along in that same timeframe. We thought it might be advantageous to take a look if it made some sense to move to the GT2 category. As it turned out, it was correct. The last two years we've been racing, as people like to say, racing ourselves, but quite frankly, there hasn't been much better competition than ourselves. Anybody who has watched any of the races, I think can see that to be true.
"2008 was our most challenging year since we started racing, and it was for a couple reasons. Number one, Le Mans has always been the cornerstone of our program, and we wanted to ensure that our last effort there at Le Mans was going to deliver us the results that Corvette deserves, and that would be a victory. We focused on that. We ran a couple of races at the beginning of the year to keep the team sharp, to keep the drivers sharp, to keep the organization running and operating at the level at which we had become accustomed to operating. But alongside of that, at the same time we were busting our butts back at the shop designing, developing and building the new GT2 car. We were doing that with the same group of people, so they were really doing double time back there. It was pretty impressive to watch that happen. The cadence that Pratt & Miller had laid out from an engineering standpoint, then a build standpoint, then a test standpoint, and now finally debuting at Mid-Ohio was very well orchestrated, very well thought out. A lot of time was spent planning and organizing, all the while doing that on the most expeditious timeframe and the most expeditious budget that racing, I think, has ever seen. We have become very lean, very quick, and we have become very efficient. I think you'll see at Mid-Ohio this weekend what I'm talking about.
"Technical differences between the cars? Pick up the rulebook and it will pretty much run through it. Broad brush, when you look at the car, it's going to look identical to a ZR1. It is the exact same body shape. The only difference is it has fender flares on it -- the rules require that. A careful eye would tell you that if you looked at our GT1 car, the side profile of the car was identical to the production car. What we did, according to the rules, we sectioned the body down the top of the front and rear quarter panels, so essentially we added those louvers that widened the front fenders. When we got to the outside areas of the car, they were production, which made for a pretty cool long, low looking race car.
"The GT2 rules don't allow you to do that, so consequently the fenders that are on the car are the same fenders, the quarter panels are the same quarter panels, virtually the same hood -- those dimensions are identical to the production vehicle. The headlamp buckets and lenses are exactly the same size. In the GT1 you might not have noticed it, but they were about 5/4 scale; we blew that up so that proportionately it looked cool. To me anyway, it makes a much meaner looking race car when you put those fender flares on there. We're pretty excited about it.
"The rules also require that you run a little smaller front splitter, virtually production. The chord length on the rear wing is reduced, so it's a little smaller wing, obviously resulting in less downforce than the GT1 car. Probably the biggest and most challenging change was the GT1 was a production steel chassis. In the GT2 car, it is an aluminum chassis. The engineers at Pratt & Miller have done an absolutely outstanding job, and we can give you more details later, on how they have integrated a steel roll cage into an aluminum chassis. Others who have that same problem merely put some saddle clamps, bolt them on, build the roll cage off of that, which functionally works, but not up to the safety standards we like to employ at GM and GM Racing. The system we have developed is fairly technical, fairly unique, and has had a lot of testing on it from the standpoint of strength and driver protection. We're pretty proud of that, we're pretty excited about it, and in the end it helps make a much better race car as well.
"In addition, we're not going to be running carbon brakes. According to the GT2 rules, for cost consideration, we'll be running steel brakes, which by the way, we ran back in 1999 when we debuted at the 24 Hours of Daytona. So we're back to steel brakes on the cars.
"The other significant change is that race engines are now going to be built in-house. The GM Powertrain Performance Center, which is literally across the street from the race shop, is where all the production ZR1 engines are hand built, and the same folks are going to be building our race engines. We're going to start this year with a 6-liter version of our 7-liter motor, essentially the same engine but just with a little different crankshaft. It will be same bore, the same bore centers, just a different stroke to get it to the 6-liter limit that's required by the rules. Next year the rules change to 5.5 liters, and that will be a brand-new engine based on a new-generation family of V8 engines that are utilized throughout the GM line of production cars. So that's going to be an exciting time for us when we bring that out.
"We had some great racing in GT1, and I think it's been a tremendous chapter in Corvette Racing's history. I know we've been proud to be part of it, and we've worked very hard to make Corvette be recognized as one of the world's greatest sports cars. That heritage has been honed by the racing and Le Mans victories we have achieved. I think we're going to find some amazing competition in GT2. When you look at what's coming, you have BMW there, you have Porsche there, Ferrari there, Aston Martin there, Panoz there, and Jaguar coming along. Those of you who followed Spa last weekend saw that Audi snuck their GT3 car into the GT2 category, so I think we might be seeing some movement from them to enter this fray. You get seven or eight global manufacturers competing in a GT series and the quality of the American Le Mans Series and Le Mans is going to make for some exciting racing. We're excited to be part of it.
"I'll close now and turn it over to Tadge, and he's going to elaborate on some of the real relevance that racing has brought to the production Corvette."
Tadge Juechter, Corvette chief engineer: "Thanks, Doug. Sitting in my seat on the production side, I'd say the move to GT2 is an extension of the trajectory we've been on. I've been with Corvette since the early '90s, and when we were doing the C5, we were worrying about getting the car on the street and then decided to go racing. So the race team kind of followed the production car. Over the last 10 years, the production and race teams have gotten closer and closer together, learning to capitalize on each other's strengths, learning to leverage the synergies that can come from racing. On the weekend, not just getting the glory and spreading it to the street car, but the actual technology sharing. So midway through that 10-year span we brought out the C6 and that point we made a big deal out of doing the Z06 and C6.R in parallel, to the point that the race car debuted at Sebring at the same time the very first production cars were running down the line in Bowling Green. Those cars were really developed in parallel, and really maximized the sharing that can occur.
"We talked extensively about prior development that is shared between the cars. The race car, of course, provides lots of aero understanding and the technology behind that, the computational fluid dynamics enables you to predict what's going to happen ahead of time without expensive wind tunnel time. It's been a real windfall, so to speak, for the production car. We proved the horsepower delivery, engine efficiency, cylinder head design, the lube system. Traditionally large-scale manufacturers like General Motors have not had strengths in understanding the lube system that is required for the incredible environment that racing sees, the incredible stresses on the engine and the demands on the lubrication system. We wouldn't have the dry sump system that we have today on the Z06 and ZR1 if it wasn't for our partnership with the race team. And the list goes on and on -- composite materials, tire technology, you name it.
"The street car is also looked at as a very important starting point for the race car. Things like the shape of our greenhouse, the windshield, side glass, back window, the teardrop shape that's been a signature for Corvette for about 50 years has proven to be an extremely efficient aerodynamic shape. Since you need to stay close to the street car, having the street car with that shape is a great enabler. Little things you don't even notice like having the cool air inlet at the proper height to the ground like it was engineered on the Z06 makes for very efficient cooling on the race car. And then the production car, even when we were in GT1, was a source for relatively low cost and validated components that could help keep the cost of the race program down. I dare to say that virtually none of the other GT1 competitors had any of the production parts in their race cars, but that was not true of us. We had quite a number of parts that were either exactly production or lightly modified or heavily modified versions of the production parts that were on the race cars.
"For me, moving to GT2 only makes us able to leverage those ties even stronger. I'm really excited to bring the race car and the street car closer together and the teams ever closer together. I'm looking forward to the endurance racing crucible that is GT2, and like Doug was saying, the highly capable manufacturers that are going to be engaged in the series are going to drive progress extremely rapidly. I look at racing as the most cost-effective way to improve performance on a four-wheel vehicle, and that's what Corvette is all about. We'll probably share more about the additional commonalties between the street car and the race car, but the list will be much, much longer in GT2. My favorite is the production steering column, which means the race drivers will be able to hop in the car, adjust the tilt wheel, be able to adjust the power telescoping wheel to fit their particular driving position. I think it's going to be a very comfortable, very easy car to drive. I'm looking forward to providing as many of those production components to the race car as absolutely possible. That's the summary from where I sit, so I'd like to turn it over to Johnny for his comments."
Johnny O'Connell, driver No 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R: "Thanks, Tadge. I tell you, after months and months of Doug swearing us to being completely top secret and having thousands of Corvette fans asking you about the car, it's nice finally to have the opportunity to talk about it. Like everything Corvette Racing does, the new car is amazing. Tadge talked about driver comfort, and it is so nice. I'm a little taller than Jan, at least until he hits puberty (laughs), and being able to move the steering wheel up, down, forward and back is a great thing that we have now. It has retained so many of the very cool qualities of the GT1 car. When we're in Le Mans and here in the States as well, one of the things a lot of the fans are concerned with, they really wanted to make sure it still sounds like a Corvette. It very much does.
"Some people might think we're not excited because all drivers want to be in the prototype category, but all of us just want to go where the competition is. Corvette Racing had done such an amazing job, proving to the world how great that GT1 car was, that people stopped wanting to race us because more or less they were racing for third. Now we're once again in the position where we're the underdog. We're going to have to prove ourselves. People forget that when Corvette Racing started there were several years of being beaten and learning. The French just told them, 'Build a better car,' not giving them any breaks. That is what everybody at Corvette Racing did, spearheaded by Doug, pushing people as hard as they can and getting the best people involved. So we're very excited about entering a new chapter where all four drivers are going to be tested again, and the team as well, to see if we're really as good as we think we are.
"The past couple of years, people think that we haven't been pushing ourselves very hard, but you never race anyone harder than your teammate, especially when you have the exact same stuff. I think that all four of us who are driving the cars are quite confident in our abilities to get out there and learn our strengths versus the other cars. I will say in typical Pratt & Miller style, they have designed an amazing car. Very rarely do you debut a car in testing and not have problems, and from Day 1, when we have gone testing, we were getting in eight hours of running and data collecting.
"The biggest change is with us having less aero now, we're driving the car, sliding it a little more, but also the switch from carbon rotors to steel rotors has meant an adjustment for us. That in itself shows the strength of Corvette engineers. When we first ran the car, there were some issues, and all of the drivers were having a difficult time with it. Over the months, the engineers were going through data, looking at things and changing bits. When we ran the car a week ago, every single issue we had with regard to braking performance had been resolved. That really is the strength of Corvette Racing. It's the engineers' ability, Gary Pratt's ability, Doug Fehan's ability to address these issues and make sure we have the tools we need to be competitive.
"Our expectations going into Mid-Ohio this weekend, we expect to look good. We have what we know is a good race car, but what we don't know is where our strengths and weaknesses are versus the competitors. The Porsche, for example, having its engine in the rear, I'm expecting they might be a little bit stronger coming off the corners. The physics involved in that vehicle design kind of dictate it might have that advantage. As we move forward, we have high expectations. It would be very cool to get a car on the podium -- hopefully the No. 3 car. But we're realistic, knowing we're kind of the new kids on the block with a ton of experience, but we're going to have to figure out how these guys race. We'll come away from this weekend with a lot of experience that hopefully will mean in a couple of races we'll once again be the guys that everyone is chasing.
"You can probably hear it in my voice that it's been a while since we've done battle, and we are very much looking forward to it."
Continued in part 2