The anticipation was high the morning of the 2019 Motul Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta. This final race of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season would keep the fans glued to the track as 34 cars competed. While the team and manufacturer championships were largely determined, each of the driver teams hoped to win this grueling ten hour race, ending three hours after sunset.
Yet, there was more than just the race to hold the fan’s attention. The rumor was out that the 2020 Corvette C8.R, the race version of the new, mid-Engine Corvette, would take to the track. There was no announcement concerning when, but as the hours ticked down to the famed grid walk, where the contestants are lined up near the starting line, the prospects of seeing the new Corvette on the track diminished. The announcers continued to ramble about the race and sponsors with no mention of the C8.R.
The street version of the long awaited mid-engine Corvette had arrived. A white C8 coupe, a convertible and a cutaway version were available for viewing at the Chevrolet display. The car magazines are filled with pictures and descriptions, but what about the race version?
Was the mid-engine C8.R a reality or had its debut been delayed by the lengthy auto worker’s strike? Would Corvette Racing provide a prototype showing its aerodynamic shape, but without the racing chassis and engine?
Then, without fanfare, it arrived! The car flashed in front of thousands of fans and roared around the track. From our vantage point at turn 10, it was clear that this Corvette belonged on the track. The big V-8 conquered the straightaway with ease and the chassis mastered the challenging curves. Like a scalded cat, it accelerated out of the turn, crested the hill and disappear under the bridge. We hoped for a second lap and a chance to prepare our cameras. It was not to be.
The driver’s view of this debut confirmed this spectator’s perspective. Check it out at:
Later, the C8.R was on the front straightaway along with the cars actually racing that day. Again, it looked at home. While it has not won a race, the C8.R has presence. Its dramatic silver livery is inspired by Corvettes of yesterday, like the 1959 Stingray Racer. Its stablemate, the #3 Corvette, will sport the traditional yellow livery of its predecessors.
The C8.R is powered by a 5.5 liter DOHC V-8 producing 500 horsepower. It lacks guttural roar of the C7, but is more pleasing than the rasp of the Ford GT or the Porsche’s distinctive flat-six whine. Perhaps it sounded a bit more like the Cadillac DPi that placed first and second overall in the race – not truly distinctive, yet a sound of restrained power. Read more about this remarkable engine at:
The C8.R sped around the track once again as the remainder of the field assembled for the pace lap. Our view, between turn 1 and 2, confirmed that it has a a racing Corvette’s spirit, even though it has yet to be tested.
Is the C8.R a worthy successor to the rich race history of those yellow Corvettes that preceded it? That question will be answered at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in late January 2020. Until then we are free to speculate.