Noise — it’s vital to the racing experience. Try watching a minute of F1 on mute. You can’t. It’s even worse if you try it during a race like Le Mans, and that’s because there are so many wonderful and different noises to listen to, from turbo-diesels to big flat-sixes. Even still, in a race like that, there’s one engine note that really stands out — the small-block V-8, like the one under the hood of Corvette Racing’s car. The loud, grumbling, burly, 5.5-liter V-8 is prominent in the pack of polished-but-high-strung engines around it. We’ve gotten to know the V-8’s noise well. It powered Corvette Racing’s C6.R for a while, and it looks like we’ll get to know it even better now that it’s moving into a new car — the C7.R.
With an all-new Corvette Stingray on sale, it’s not surprising that Chevrolet and Corvette Racing will be running an all-new racing car in the unfortunately named Tudor United Sports Car Championship, formed after American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series merged last year. The C7.R debuts alongside the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. That’s because Chevy wants to hit you over the head with the fact that the automaker co-developed the Z06 with Corvette Racing’s newest toy.
Racing-car technology influences road-car technology. It’s one of the main reasons manufacturers go racing. The Stingray takes some of its tech from the outgoing C6.R — for example, its forward-tilted radiator, functional hood vent, and rear cooling intakes — and Chevy inevitably will take lessons for Corvette Racing’s experiences with the C7.R to develop an even better next-generation Corvette. But, please, let’s not get into C8 speculating. Let’s focus on the C7.R. It shares its aluminum frame, as well as similar splitters and cooling ducts, with the road-going Z06, but not engines. Why? The C6.R’s block is already homologated for the racing series, and GT rules limit the maximum displacement to 5.5 liters. So it’s easier to stick with the C6.R’s engine. The engine does, however, benefit from direct injection this year now that the technology has been added to the new Corvette lineup. According to Chevy, direct injection could improve fuel economy about three percent, which could be enough to bypass one pit stop during an endurance race.
Corvette Racing will field two C7.Rs during the 2014 racing season, starting later this month at the 52nd Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 25 and 26. The racing cars turned laps at the Roar Before the 24 test days in Daytona earlier this month, but both were camouflaged. The cars you’ll see at the Rolex 24 at Daytona will be in full Corvette Racing livery. The C7.R will compete in the GT Le Mans class, in 11 races around North America. It is also expected to compete in June at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Chevrolet and Corvette Racing have won seven times in the GTE Pro class. For most races, four full-season drivers will pilot the C7.Rs. Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen won last year’s GT champions in American Le Mans, and Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner got third in the ALMS GT championship with two wins after earning the class title in 2012.
We’re excited to see another generation of Corvette heading to the racetrack, but not as excited as we are to hear its small block again. Make sure that your television is not on mute during the C7.R’s racing debut at the 52nd Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 25 and 26.