Corvette Racing at Daytona: Dress rehearsal for Rolex 24

Three-day test for defending GT Le Mans race-winning team

Detroit – Corvette Racing’s march to what it hopes is a second straight victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona continues this week with the annual Roar Before the 24 – a three-day test at Daytona International Speedway. It is the final on-track session ahead of the opening of the 2016 International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) season.

Corvette Racing is a two-time winner in the Rolex 24: overall in 2001 and last year in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. Two new 2016-spec Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs are set for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the full IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – including the Rolex 24.

The team has spent the offseason developing and testing the Corvette C7.Rs including a two-day test at Daytona in November. Five of the six Corvette Racing drivers for the Rolex 24 attended: full-season pilots Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen, Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner; plus endurance driver Mike Rockenfeller.

Corvette Racing a two-time winner in Rolex 24

Garcia and Magnussen, who were teammates in the victorious No. 3 Corvette C7.R last year, will drive with Rockenfeller at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida. In the No. 4 Corvette C7.R, Gavin and Milner will drive in the two events with Marcel Fässler, a past World Champion in the FIA World Endurance Championship and part of Corvette Racing’s endurance lineup in 2009.

Nearly a year ago, the No. 3 Corvette C7.R won at Daytona by 0.478 seconds while Gavin and Milner were part of the third-place pairing in class. It started a season in which Corvette Racing claimed endurance racing’s Triple Crown – the Rolex 24, Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans. No team had won all three races in the same season in 15 years.

Evolution of the Corvette C7.R for 2016

A new round of technical regulations for 2016 by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, the governing body for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, allows manufacturers additional freedom in the design of GTE cars. Those include the 2016 Corvette C7.R and others cars competing in the GTE Pro class at Le Mans and GT Le Mans in IMSA’s top-level sports car championship.

The aim of the new rules is to enhance the performance of top-level GT cars while making them safer – an area where Corvette Racing has been endurance racing’s leader.

Most notable in the updated racing Corvette is an FIA-mandated roof hatch that allows safety workers to insert an extraction device into the cockpit in order to secure a driver’s head, neck and spine in the event of an injury. An improved racing seat also includes more pronounced side restraints and meets higher structural performance requirements.

Corvette Racing has been a trendsetter in the area of driver safety for a number of years. Head restraints have been part of the driver cell in years past, and the team developed a side-impact structure to help dissipate the force of a collision. The primary chassis structure from the Corvette Z06 production car also is a fundamental component of the crash system.

New rules allow for a significant increase in aerodynamic performance for the 2016-spec Corvette C7.R. A new, larger splitter and a large, 3-D diffuser with tunnels underneath create more downforce while improving efficiency. The rear wing is located 15 centimeters farther rearward on the 2016 Corvette C7.R, and there are larger and more efficient rocker skirts present, as well.

The powertrain on the Corvette C7.R is unchanged with a 5.5-liter V-8 Chevrolet small block powering the race car. The Corvette C7.R will use E20 fuel during the IMSA season and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Rolex 24 was the site of Corvette Racing’s debut on Jan. 31, 1999. Since that first race, the team has competed in more than 170 events around the globe with 97 victories worldwide – including three wins in 2015 – along with 10 team and manufacturer championships in the American Le Mans Series and eight victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

All six Corvette Racing endurance drivers set to attend

Antonio Garcia, No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: “It has been a busy offseason for everyone at Corvette Racing. Everyone on the team has worked very hard to get the new Corvette C7.R ready for 2016. We have made a large amount of progress in all the testing we’ve done so far. The potential is there for this to be a better Corvette than we have had the last two seasons - possibly the best one I’ve driven. We will look to take those final steps this weekend at Daytona and put ourselves in the best possible position for another win in the Rolex 24.”

Jan Magnussen, No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: “It’s always nice going back to a place where you’ve won races. Daytona was tremendous last year for everyone on the team so naturally we’re coming here with high expectations. We have had an extensive test program with the updates to the Corvette C7.R, which will be a big benefit going into this race. There is hardly any time during the week of the race to do any setup work. You really need to maximize the amount of time you have at the Roar to put yourself in a good spot heading into the Rolex.”

Mike Rockenfeller, No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: “Getting seat-time in the Corvette C7.R in November was a good experience. I enjoyed getting to know everyone on the team and understanding the processes within Corvette Racing. It’s important to get all you can out of these opportunities ahead of such a big event like Daytona. That level of preparation allows you to work down toward the smaller items that typically make the difference in 24-hour races like the Rolex.”

Oliver Gavin, No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: “I’m really pleased with the amount of testing we’ve done on this new Corvette C7.R. It’s been great to see how the feel of the car has progressed since the first time we all sat in it. But we know that we have to be on the top of our game in the GTLM class. We saw in last year’s race how important it is to have a car that is fast and reliable around Daytona. We’ll have three days this weekend to work toward our baseline setup for the race. Every session is important since the race-week schedule is incredibly compressed. I’m confident that with the work we’ve done so far that we will be in great shape.”

Tommy Milner, No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: “It’s been a whirlwind offseason for everyone at Corvette Racing with a massive amount of testing and development for 2016. But if you look back at past years, that’s where this team has excelled. With how competitive our class is, you need that time in order to arrive at Daytona with the car as well-sorted as possible. It puts you in a great position for the race as you’re able to work with your crews and engineers on fine-tuning your strategy and setup for the race. That was the case last season and I’m confident we will be in that same spot again this year.”

Marcel Fässler, No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: “I’m looking forward to returning to the Corvette Racing team. There always has been a high level of respect for the Corvette Racing program, especially considering the success they have at Le Mans. They always seem to come out with great cars and advanced technologies, and how nice the car is to drive and position of the drivers in the car. Everyone has really high levels of respect for this program, and that shows in the team’s results over the years.”

Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Program Manager: “This year’s Roar is important to Corvette Racing for a number of reasons. You always like to measure yourself against the competition, which this year includes brand new race cars from our competitors. But our primary focus is on the continued development and preparation our Corvette C7.Rs. As defending Rolex 24 champion, our goal is repeating the success we earned last year, and it all starts at the Roar.”

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About this article
Series IMSA
Event Daytona January testing
Track Daytona International Speedway
Drivers Antonio Garcia , Jan Magnussen , Marcel Fassler , Oliver Gavin , Mike Rockenfeller , Tommy Milner
Teams Corvette Racing
Article type Preview