Corvette Racing switches plans

AutoWeek Magazine

The future direction of Corvette Racing is up in the air after General Motors decided to shelve its plan to build a Corvette-based prototype for the by-all-rights-dead Le Mans Evo class.

But don't expect the Pratt & Miller-run Corvette program to disappear soon. Also, Evo-class cars, in theory, still could begin racing in 2010--if anyone elects to build them, which is unlikely.

According to GM road-racing boss Steve Wesoloski, the company backed away from plans to develop an Evo Corvette because of cost concerns and because the final regulations of revised Le Mans classes, including GT classes, remain questionable. He did, however, leave the door open to reviving the Corvette Evo program should the class resurface.

"I'm not giving up," Wesoloski said. "Overall [race] wins are still my target." (The GT1-class Corvettes that now race in the American Le Mans Series and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans are contenders for class wins only.)

In June 2007, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest announced its intention to introduce the new Evo class. The class would allow only closed-cockpit coupes with reduced performance and bodywork that resembled actual road cars, rather than the radical-looking LMP1 cars used today. The new cars were originally slated to be eligible beginning in 2009 and would have replaced the existing breed of LMP1 prototypes entirely by 2011. Evo coupes were then set to debut in 2010, when they would race against existing LMP1 cars, which would have been outlawed from 2011. The ACO's latest plan appears set to stick with today's prototypes--probably for years to come--modified to reduce performance, so building a car to Evo rules makes little sense. If a manufacturer does build an Evo car, the ACO will balance performance via technical rules to ensure that all of the cars are competitive with one another despite their drastically different designs.

The change comes as a result of complaints from other manufacturers now racing in LMP1, such as Peugeot and Audi.

As for Corvette Racing's immediate future, GM's contract with Pratt & Miller runs through the 2010 season, which means that Corvettes are likely to continue racing for at least that long. The only questions are in what class and with what car.

Today's GT1 regulations are not long for this world, with a single, combined class set to replace them. Sources say the new rules will be much closer to existing GT2 regulations, meaning less exotic cars and technology, which also theoretically means reduced costs.

Wesoloski said that the FIA and the ACO are working with GM, Porsche, Aston Martin and Ferrari to produce a class that allows all four companies to compete head-to-head, so a new GM machine is on the horizon for 2010, no matter what.