With The Death Of GTLM, GM May Build A Corvette GT3

Illustration for article titled With The Death Of GTLM, GM May Build A Corvette GT3
Photo: Corvette Racing

Corvette Racing has been such an integral part of IMSA racing for the last two plus decades that it would seem almost impossible to imagine the series continuing to exist without it. The future of the Pratt & Miller program remains in limbo at the moment as the GTLM class it runs in will be phased out at the end of the 2021 season and General Motors hasn’t quite decided what the next step is yet.

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In recent years the GT Le Mans class has been among IMSA’s most successful with factory efforts from Ford, Chevrolet, Porsche, and BMW plus the occasional privateer Ferrari. In 2017, for example, the class had over a dozen entries for Daytona and Sebring. With Porsche and Ford ending their programs, and BMW reducing its efforts in 2021 to only endurance events, the class is living its last days this year. With exploding costs to run in the category, plus the global pandemic-induced budget tightening, it should come as no surprise that Corvette is once again the last man standing in a dying class.

So, in 2022, does GM return to IMSA with a factory-backed GTD Pro category car? The new mid-engine C8.R was introduced just last year and it ran away with the championship. It looks likely to do the same this year with no real competition on the board. That was an incredibly expensive car to develop for the class, so does Chevrolet continue racing it in the FIA WEC where it will remain eligible in 2022, or does it scrap the whole thing and build a new car for yet another class?

“There’s quite a bit of re-engineering to do to turn a car from GT Le Mans class into GT Daytona class,” Laura Wontrop Klauser, General Motors’ sportscar racing program manager, told Motorsport.com. “The rules and regs are close but there’s enough difference between the performance targets that you have to make considerable changes.

“The other big thing is, it’s quite a different mentality to go down a customer platform route with a GT3 car than when you build a GTE car that you know is going to be factory-built and -run. The decisions that you’d make for a factory team could be completely different from what you do for a customer.

“You have to pull a lot of cost out of something that you designed to be factory-run to make it affordable for the customer. And then there’s a couple of nuances that you might have put in that were unique to the team that’s running that car for you, that might not translate well for the masses, the typical customer team.

“So one of the things that we’ve had to look at when trying to figure out where we want to race is the fact that if we go GT3 racing with Corvette, to use the racecar we have today would involve a huge tear-up. We’re likely looking at cutting the car’s cost in half and moving forward from there. So it’s no small feat and, to be honest, I see it as likely being a brand new program; you’re not totally starting from scratch… but really you are!”

Klauser hasn’t given an indication as to when the decision will be made, but did remain steadfast that racing is central to the Corvette brand and a C8.R of some variety will definitely be campaigned in 2022. It’s such a radical car that I’d personally love to see the team go global and dominate on the WEC stage against Ferrari and Porsche. 

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

DISCUSSION

I think part of the issue is that Ferrari and Porsche that you speak of effectively have an entire racing series for each marque that is FIA GT3 or near that (the various Challenge Series and the Porsche Cup, for examples), so in addition to the customer base that already exists for their GT3 efforts worldwide in FIA GT3 -compliance classes they have an ongoing program devoted to ensure that there is literally enough reason to continue their customer support programs for sports car racing. Regardless of what General Motors have planned to continue the C8.R’s efforts GM has to make the case that a C8.R will have some continued factory support for their customers, which has not historically been the case for GM unless you literally go back to the Corvette Challenge Series with the C4.

Most of the reason why so many current FIA GT3 customer cars are so popular - Porsche 911, Mercedes AMG, Nissan GT-R, etc - is that potential individuals that would like to get into racing can purchase an FIA homologated car to class that isn’t an expensive new build but also still has factory support. There’s so many current FIA GT3 homologated cars that are used that’s it’s (relatively speaking) easy to get into GT3 racing. Even historically Corvette race car builders like Callaway often have issues ensuring support for their cars in the future (ex: 10 years ago Dijon Racing in Super GT’s 300 class used to run a Callaway GT3 Corvette, but quickly switched to a GT-R since it was easier to get factory customer support for the car and thus cheaper to operate.).