A new era brings new hurdles for Corvette C7.R
Andy Bolig - January 27, 2014 10:19 AM
Many buyers are wary of first-year of production vehicles. Imagine competing in a prestigious race such as the 24-hours of Daytona in one!
That is exactly what Chevrolet did with the new Corvette C7.R race cars. While the world was reeling over the newly-introduced, next-gen C7, Corvette Racing was OCD in preparing the C7.Rs for the first endurance race of its life. Ride along with Tommy Milner during one of the night practice sessions at Daytona.
Corvette Racing’s history, both recent and distant, has been riddled with championship wins and awards, so building the next segment to continue on that prestigious path is not to be taken lightly. All the testing in the world cannot prepare any mechanical being for the heat of battle, especially over time.
As the curtain raised over the road course called Daytona, optimism and enthusiasm was at record highs as the high-winding V-8s began to curve their way through the field of competitors. In their competitive debut, both of the team's Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs led the opening round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. The new racing Corvette showed promise with impressive speed and economy.
As the minutes ticked away on the clock, both C7.Rs kept picking away at the competition with Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Ryan Briscoe each having impressive drives to take the No. 3 Corvette C7.R from the rear of the grid at the start, to the class lead at the six-and-a-half hour mark.
The No. 4 car of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Robin Liddell led the Corvette Racing effort until a bearing issue deep within the transmission foiled their lead. Milner, running second at the time, was chasing the eventual race-winning car when the Corvette's gearbox temperature rose dramatically. Milner went directly to the garage where the team diagnosed the problem as a transmission bearing failure. The Corvette Racing crew switched out the gearbox in 30 minutes and sent Milner back to the race but with less than three hours to the checkered flag, time simply ran out.
The No. 3 C7.R's engine began to overheat during Garcia's stint near the halfway mark. He handed over to Briscoe, who was called first to the pits and then to the garage on more than one occasion to try and solve the cooling problem - a task that ultimately proved unsuccessful.
“I was having some issues with some sudden oversteering.” Antonio Garcia explains, “I thought there was oil on the track but it was me that was leaking water from the engine so I spun on my own water. It got worse and worse and we decided to stop to check everything."
"This is an example of how difficult the Rolex 24 can be," said Mark Kent, Chevrolet's Director of Racing. "On one hand, we are very encouraged with the initial showing of the new Chevrolet Corvette C7.R. The promise the car displayed was evident on both the No. 3 and No. 4 side. Unfortunately these things happen in a race as long and grueling as this one. Hats off to the efforts by everyone at Corvette Racing and Team Chevy for their efforts. We will examine these issues, find the root causes and resolve them prior to the next race at Sebring."
In the end, both cars were dogged by issues that would remain unforeseen until brought to light in the heat of battle. The checkered flag dropped with the No. 4 C7.R finishing fifth in the GT Le Mans class. Chevrolet Racing’s efforts were still successful in other classes as the the overall win went to General Motors and its Corvette Daytona Prototype which swept the first three positions, securing the podium for the Bowtie brand.
The next chapter for the Corvette Racing teams could perhaps be summed up best by Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Program Manager "Our return to the Rolex 24 At Daytona proved once again that Corvette Racing never gives up. It was a phenomenal effort by the drivers and crews of both the No. 3 and No. 4 Corvette C7.Rs to get both cars to the front under difficult circumstances. The potential of the C7.R package is clear. Daytona gives so much, but can just as easily take it away. The results may not be what we wanted but, the excitement we generated will be carried right over to Sebring!"
The next round of the TUDOR Championship is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday, March 15.