Corvette is awaiting the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s decision on the future of its GT-based category in order to determine future commitments.
The American manufacturer is one of the parties in a rapidly changing landscape for GT competition on both sides of the Atlantic, with several organizing bodies choosing different approaches to combat declining grid sizes in the factory-backed GTE formulas in both the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship.
While IMSA announced earlier this year that it would be abandoning its GTE-based GTLM formula in favour of a GT3-based category in 2022, the ACO’s plans for the future of its category have yet to be currently announced.
It is currently understood that the ACO is set to do away with the GTE Pro category for the 2023 season and run only a Pro-Am category, before abandoning the GTE ruleset in favor of a GT3 approach altogether in 2024.
While not yet officially confirmed, the ACO is expected to likely be unveiling more details during its traditional pre-Le Mans press conference on Friday.
For Corvette, further confirmation on its future plans with regard to GT racing in the WEC and the 24 Hours of Le Mans could be a determining factor to figure out its further presence in GT racing, according to General Motors sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser.
“We’re just as excited as all of you to hear what they have to say,” Klauser told MotorsportWeek.com “Because it’ll help us as we’re figuring out what we want to do for the future. We know that everything’s the same next year.”
“So that’s good to know, as we’re trying to figure out what we’re doing next year, our biggest question mark for next year was what IMSA was up to, because they were making the big changes in the GT space.”
“So now that we have that information from Road America, that’s been helpful to kind of get ourselves figured out for 2022.”
“But then if you look beyond, you know, I know that ACO is dealing with the same problem that IMSA was dealing with, where the car counts are coming down, and they’re trying to figure out how to balance that.”
“So we’re anxious to find out where their head’s at in terms of switching to GT3, if, when, and what that would look like, Pro Am, all that stuff.”
“And we’re hoping that they can shed some light this weekend for us as we get the schedule, but it’s gonna come down to what they’re willing to share, I think.”
In the short term, Corvette will no longer be able to campaign its C8.R in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship because the car is built to the GTE specification that IMSA has opted to abandon.
Corvette, instead, has been presented with two possible options to still run the C8.R: campaign the car in additional World Endurance Championship rounds outside of Le Mans, or move along with IMSA’s GT3 plans.
According to Klauser, Corvette has evaluated doing more WEC races but is also working together with IMSA to allow the C8.R to keep competing in the GTD Pro category. It has, however, not currently publicly committed to a GT3 programme.
“We have definitely looked at the idea of doing the WEC season,” Klauser said. “We’ve also been looking at home. IMSA is giving us a path to make some small modifications to the car to be eligible to race, but it comes with an attachment. In order to do that, we also have to then guarantee that we’re going to switch into a GT3 car.”
“In order to do that, we also have to then guarantee that we’re going to switch into a GT three car as we should, right, they can’t give us a bypass for several years, that’s not fair, it’s only a little bit of time to get that platform put together.”
“So we’re working through, you know, are we interested in committing to GT3, is that what we want for the future and then so then we would have the option to stay in the IMSA series as well working with them as a, you know, multi year plan to get there.”
Klauser went on to say that Corvette would like to continue to race the GTE car, but that its current market share and public awareness in the United States is an important factor in deciding where to continue racing.
“Clearly, the car is done,” she said in reference to the C8.R. “It is a GTE car, it is eligible to race here [at Le Mans]. So that is something we’ve talked about and looked into.”
“Most of our customers that buy the production car are in the United States. So the IMSA series really is good from that standpoint, that we’re reaching out, and we have some of the biggest crowds, I mean, I can’t speak to over here, but in the US for sure, we have the biggest crowds in the US and for racing a Corvette, crowds around the IMSA series.
“So a lot of our fans and customers come and they want to see us and that’s something that we pay a lot of attention to, and we understand.”
“So it’s a balance to try and figure out, how do you make sure that you keep your fanbase happy. And then you also explore new opportunities if they work and make sense.”
GT3 commitment would ‘take a little while’
Corvette has not yet decided if it wishes to go down the GT3 route. Were it to commit, it would provide the manufacturer with some significant challenges to set up a GT3 programme.
Klauser explained that these challenges go far beyond the initial conversion of the C8.R into something that would be permitted to race in GTD Pro.
“Everyone needs to be in a performance window. So if we can just do a couple modifications to the car and put it in the same window as the rest of the GT3 platforms, then you know, they’ll give us the pass.
“But the spirit of GT3 is that you have a customer program associated with it and our current vehicles are GTE cars. They were never designed to be full on customer where, you know, the price was right and the support structure and everything.
“That’s not there, so in order to do that, we would need to revisit the car itself, redesign it to fit GT3 specs, including price being a huge one. And then also figuring out how to set up that support structure to make sure that customers have what they need and they can be successful.”
“So it’s not something that we can snap our fingers and have in a day, it’s going to take a little while to get it stood up and be ready. And since it’ll be the first big effort into that, we want to make sure that we come off on the right foot, we do it correctly.”
“We don’t want people’s first experience with Corvette Racing from a customer standpoint to be disappointing and that they tarnish our reputation.”
Finally, Klauser said that the potential bridge between the GTE and GT3 platform, which was referred to as the GT Convergence Package, could currently be ready for the start of the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship in case of a commitment to GT3 rules by the American manufacturer.
“We haven’t committed to where we’re being next year, that announcement hopefully will come out soon as we’re kind of laying down the last little pieces. But if we go down that path, then the car will be ready to roll in January.”