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Posts tagged “Corvette C8.R

Ultimate Corvette Expected to Go PHEV

General Motors is plugging into EVs in a big way. And, among a wide range of electrified models set to come out over the next several years, one is expected to wear the Chevrolet Corvette badge.

GM CEO Mary Barra has repeatedly said the automaker is on a “path to an all-electric future.”

Several officials have acknowledge the C8 Corvette was designed to be electrified, though they have to confirm what form that will take.

A plug-based ‘Vette would focus on performance – likely nudging 700 hp or more — rather than mileage, though it likely also would be the most efficient version of the sports car.

When “spy shots” began circulating last week showing a plug hanging out of the nose of a new Corvette undergoing winter testing its was initially reported this was the rumored battery version of the sports car.

Parent General Motors subsequently explained that the pics had caught a conventional, gas-powered 2020 ‘Vette,” but the episode only underscores expectations Chevrolet is, indeed developing an electric Corvette — something an assortment of executives, including GM President Mark Reuss have taken pains not to deny.

If anything, Reuss effectively confirmed it is only a question of time, noting last July that the eighth-generation Corvette just coming to market will have to comply with the company’s “strategy of 0-0-0: zero emissions, zero crashes, zero congestion.”

But exactly what that means – or, more precisely, what form that would take – is far from certain.

GM officials have made it clear there will continue to be an assortment of different ‘Vette variants, perhaps more than we’ve seen in the past. During the July unveiling of the C8, several Corvette insiders told Ride that the new, mid-engine platform was specifically designed to allow the use of electric drive, with a battery pack placed below the load floor. What type of system it will be is the real question.

Only a few years ago, GM seemed focused on both conventional and plug-in hybrids, the original Chevy Volt being a good example of its PHEV strategy. But it has pulled the plug on Volt and is, for the most part, moving towards pure battery-electric vehicles. The current example is the Chevrolet Bolt EV, with an all-electric Cadillac SUV dues later this year. Among the nearly two dozen other BEVs under development: a battery pickup expected to revive the Hummer name.

For those who still think of battery drive as slow and boring, no need to worry, however. Making 100% of their torque the moment they start spinning, electric motors can deliver insane levels of torque given enough power. The “conventional” hybrid Acura NSX is one example. The plug-in Lincoln Aviator is the fastest and most powerful version of that SUV. And whether you’re talking Tesla Model S with Ludicrous Mode or the new Porsche Taycan Turbo 4S, pure BEVs can be blindingly fast.

If anything, says Sam Abuelsamid, principal auto analyst with Navigant Research, “no doubt about it,” a battery-based Corvette will be the quickest ever, “easily getting into the 700 horsepower range, with over 1,000 NM torque, and launching from 0 to 60 in under 2 seconds.”

A conventional hybrid, even one as exotic as the NSX, is unlikely, various sources indicate. The question, then, is whether Corvette goes all-electric or plug-in hybrid. Abuelsamid is one who believes it will be a BEV, though the evidence is still too vague to be certain. One high-level insider cautioned Ride last July it would be difficult to squeeze in enough batteries to deliver the range BEV buyers would expect. But pulling out the internal combustion engine and transmission could solve that.

Do expect the electric drivetrain to be all-wheel-drive, with motors front and back, every source has agreed upon, something critical in order to get all that power to the pavement.

Another unanswered question is what an electrified Corvette might be called. Some sources have hinted this will be the next-generation Z06, others that it might replace the old ZR1, the traditional pinnacle of the Corvette line-up. There has long been speculation Chevy might be working up a Corvette Zora, an homage to the sports car’s legendary first chief engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov, and what better way to do that?

How soon? “A bit more than” 24 months was the best answer we could get from insider GM. That’s a bit further out than many expected, but the GM strike last autumn appeared to have pushed back development efforts.

WHY THIS MATTERS

The C8 is the first production Corvette to adopt a mid-engine layout, boosting performance to supercar levels at a fraction of the sale price global competitors demand. An electric ‘Vette, whether PHEV or BEV, would pose an even bigger challenge to exotic brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin.

Source: Paul Eisenstein for Ride.Tech.


Corvette C8.R vs C7.R sound comparison

DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – JANUARY 03: #3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R, GTLM: Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor, Nicky Catsburg during the Daytona January testing at Daytona International Speedway on January 03, 2020 in Daytona International Speedway, United States of America. (Photo by Richard Dole / LAT Images)

Sports car racing fans have come to know the sound of Corvette Racing’s menacing V8 engines as one of IMSA’s most unmistakable soundtracks. The punch to the chest delivered by the Corvette C7.R through the 2019 season, and all of its predecessors dating back to the program’s debut in 1999, was as unique as it was thrilling.

It makes the brand’s greatest shift with its mid-engine C8.R (pictured above) — which debuts in competition this week at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, featuring a fresh V8 motor with an entirely different voice — a new experience for Corvette fans. Thanks to the move to a flat-plane crankshaft in the 5.5-liter naturally-aspirated powerplants, the C8.Rs strike the ears with a higher pitch that, in typical Corvette Racing fashion, is unlike anything else in the field.

Which exhaust note sounds better? Take a listen to the C8.R from testing at the Roar Before The 24, and from a C7.R during December Daytona testing in 2016, and you decide.

C8.R
C7.R

Original Source: Marshall Pruett for Racer.com


2020 Corvette Convertible Order Banks Are Officially Open

Expect to see them on dealership lots by summer.

As the world prepares for the new Chevrolet Corvette to finally enter production, many people may not realize that it’s only part of the 2020 C8 story. Corvette Blogger reports that Chevrolet dealerships are now able to place orders for the 2020 Corvette Convertible. We’ve confirmed with a GM representative that order banks are indeed open.

The convertible debuted a few months after the official C8 launch, but in many ways it’s been overshadowed by another Corvette model that hasn’t been revealed just yet. The C8.R race car made a surprise appearance at the end of the convertible’s debut event in Florida, and while it’s not a production-ready machine, its high-revving, DOHC flat-plane-crank V8 is virtually guaranteed to appear in a future ‘Vette. The likely candidate is a new Z06, but we still aren’t sure when it will arrive. In the meantime, the irony of the C8.R stealing the show at the convertible’s own reveal isn’t lost on us.

We suspect Corvette buyers aren’t overlooking the convertible, however. Chevrolet has said that 2020 C8 preorders are all but filled, so the drop top could be the last chance for buyers to get in on the mid-engine Corvette’s first production year. Opting for the convertible is a $7,500 premium over the hardtop, and it’s available with all the same options and trim levels. That includes the Z51 performance package which bumps the 6.2-liter V8 to 495 horsepower, and since the Corvette was designed from the beginning to be a convertible, Chevrolet says there’s no loss in performance when going roofless.

According to Corvette Blogger, there are no restrictions on convertible orders save for the number of cars a dealer is allocated. Rumors says that convertible production will begin in April, which would have them on dealer lots just in time for summer.

Source: Corvette Blogger via CNET Roadshow


First Mid-Engine Chevy Corvette Sold for $3 Million at Auction

Barrett-Jackson sold the first C8 Corvette off the line for the Detroit Children’s Fund charity, and NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick snapped it up.

  • The Barrett-Jackson auction company got $3 million for the very first 2020 Chevrolet Corvette off the line at its January auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, with all proceeds going to a Detroit educational charity.
  • The mid-engine C8 Corvette with VIN 001 gets the Z51 Performance package and the 495-hp 6.2-liter LT2 V-8, and the winning bidder was NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick.
  • This same auction house sold the last C7 Corvette last spring and took in $2.7 million for a different charity.

UPDATE 1/19/20: NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick was the winning bidder, paying $3 million for C8 Corvette no. 1 at a high-spirited charity auction event on Saturday featuring GM CEO Mary Barra on the stage. Although the car present at the auction was red, Barrett-Jackson said the actual first car will be “a black-on-black Corvette 3LT loaded with every available option, scheduled to be built during the first quarter of 2020.”

We’ve seen this before: automakers offering the first example of a highly anticipated new model up for auction to benefit a charity. This time, General Motors will auction off the first mid-engine Corvette off the line at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale Auction in January. All proceeds will go to the Detroit Children’s Fund, which benefits underfunded Detroit public schools.

VIN 001 of the C8 Corvette Stingray is powered by a 495-hp 6.2-liter LT2 V-8 and is equipped with the Z51 performance package, which adds an electronically controlled limited-slip differential with a shorter final-drive ratio, Brembo brakes, a performance exhaust, heavy-duty cooling system, and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires.

GM CEO Mary Barra and winning bidder Rick Hendrick pose during the Barrett-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale on January 18.

There’s no doubt this example will go for well over the $59,995 starting price of the C8 Stingray. Only a few months ago, the final front-engine C7 Corvette sold for $2.7 million at the Barrett-Jackson Northeast Auction in June, and the first Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 off the line sold for an insane $1.1 million at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction in January, both also for charity.

Source: Car and Driver; Conner Hoffman


Big C8 news!

And we literally mean “big.”

With production of the all-new 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray about to get underway next month, attention is now turning towards future variants. More specifically, the E-Ray, the first of two hybrids planned (the second likely named Zora), as well as the Z06, and, eventually, the ZR1. While we don’t have a precise timeframe as to when any of those will arrive, it goes without saying the Corvette engineering team led by Tadge Juechter is hard at work this very moment.

Details remain mostly vague, but GM Authority has learned something very cool about the C8 Z06. An inside source familiar with the project is claiming the C8 Z06 will sport a massive rear wing, even bigger than what’s found on the outgoing C7 Corvette ZR1. What’s more, it’ll produce higher levels of downforce and create less drag.

Although the C8.R race car has a big rear wing of its own, the Z06’s will differ in both appearance and functionality. Think more along the lines of the rear wing on the Koenigsegg Agera RS. Another unknown is whether or not the C8 Z06 will come with the rear wing as standard or if it will be optional. Some sources are claiming the Corvette team is leaning towards making it standard.

Assuming all goes to plan, the next Z06 could arrive in about two years’ time. Instead of the naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 with 490 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque, the C8 Z06 is expected to have a new NA 5.5-liter V8 with a flat-plane crank. Expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 hp.

Additional elements will include an improved suspension, brakes, and additional aerodynamic components aside from the rear wing. There shouldn’t be any mistaking the C8 Z06 for the C8 Stingray, even when the latter is equipped with the Z51 performance package. It should also go without saying the Z06 will command a significant price premium. A fully-loaded 2020 Corvette Stingray will surpass $100,000, so don’t expect the Z06 to cost any less.

Source; Jay Traugott; Carbuzz


Is the new midengine Corvette too good to be true?

“Wow — thank you so much, ma’am!” gushes a young parking attendant at the Jonathan Club in Santa Monica. “It made my day to see this car in person!”

That’s the contagious effect the all-new 2020 Corvette Stingray has on just about everyone. A toddler in a stroller pointed and squealed as I rolled by. A well-dressed businessman was studying the car with appreciation when I emerged from a store. “I’ve never been a Corvette guy, but I can actually see myself owning one of these,” he told me before jumping into his Audi R8.

Of course, $300,000-plus Lamborghinis and McLarens garner longing looks, but they don’t provoke the ear-to-ear grins that Chevy’s latest does. I have rarely seen a vehicle elicit so much joy, so consistently, as I did in the two days I had the eye-popping “Rapid Blue” version GM lent me for testing.

Chevy gave the world its first peek of the C8 (its internal name) last July, at an unveiling in a hangar in Tustin to a standing-room-only crowd of media, collectors and influencers. Chevy chose SoCal for the launch because it’s the most important market for the car — which is the first in the model’s 67-year history in which the engine sits behind, not in front of, the driver. At the event, journalists commented to me that it looked like a Ferrari, to which I replied, “Is looking like a Ferrari a bad thing?!”

Last month, I got the call: It was finally time to test-drive a pre-production version. When I slid behind the steering wheel, I entered a whole other world of aromatic leather, slick driver-centric controls and intuitive next-gen tech. I pushed the start button and the 6.2-liter V8’s 495 horses raucously screamed to life over my shoulder.

I headed to test-drive heaven — California 1. Almost immediately I was laughing at all the G-forces I could easily conjure with the steering wheel and my right foot. I played with the paddle shifters like a pinball machine (in automatic mode, the eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission is far faster than me—or you—but where’s the fun in that?).

From Malibu’s twistiest canyons to heavy 101 traffic, the Stingray ticked all the boxes. Cornering: tenacious grip without body roll. Steering: light and responsive. Brakes: grabbier than a pickpocket. Off-the-line acceleration: near-psychedelic pull with a dash of wheelspin, even with traction control on. Acceleration at speed: Just about terrifying, if it didn’t feel so darn capable and well-sorted.

I am not gushing. I’m merely reporting the delicious facts.

I am fortunate to have driven some of the best cars on the planet. So, when I say the new Vette exceeded my expectations, consider that a sizable understatement. And now perhaps the best news of all: The Corvette’s base price is $59,995. If you wanted to buy a midengine sports car with this level of capability from a European competitor, you’d have to spend five times as much, minimum.

GM has been producing competent Corvettes since the 1950s — two-seaters long on under-the-hood oomph but short on the kind of snob appeal that Aston Martins, Porsches and the like command. For all the performance prowess over time, there has always been some defensiveness on the part of Vette owners, who often cite one of the model’s best stats — its dollar-to-horsepower ratio. Those numbers are indeed impressive, but sports cars are about sex appeal; not every buyer sees the desirability of a lower sticker price over, say, Italian sheet metal.

Ironically, Corvette’s spiritual father and first chief engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov, was himself European — Belgian-born and a successful endurance sports car racer. Duntov joined GM in 1953 after seeing the first Corvette concept earlier that year in New York City (constructed, under the skin, largely out of GM truck parts, including Chevy’s “Blue Flame” six-cylinder engine).

From the beginning, Duntov dreamed of a midengine version of the Corvette, where the engine’s weight would help to balance the car’s handling and allow for a clear view over a short hood. He constantly lobbied GM’s top brass to bring such a forward-leaning configuration to market.

But the costs and engineering required to shoehorn a powerful V8 engine into a small space without the benefit of a long hood were onerous. So were other technical challenges — cramped passenger space, little cargo room and no place to tuck a convertible roof, to name a few. Eventually, Duntov and his successors built several midengine concepts but never a production version.

Fast-forward to today. According to Tadge Juechter, Corvette’s chief engineer, his team had finally reached the limit of how much performance they could squeeze out of the Corvette’s front-engine architecture. Also, it was clear the car’s loyal buyers were aging. Those factors, along with huge strides in areas like materials science and production capabilities, gave Juechter and his team the moment they had been waiting for.

But would the car’s traditional owners feel abandoned? “On the marketing side, this was a huge endeavor. We did a heck of a lot of research,” says Steve Majoros, director of Chevrolet cars and crossovers marketing. “Could we retain loyalists and also attract new buyers who appreciate the configuration but who don’t have the best perception of the Corvette brand?”

Apparently, yes. “Die-hard Corvette fans didn’t believe that Chevy would really do it, but now that they’ve seen the car, no one is complaining,” says Mike Vietro, the founder of Corvette Mike, an Anaheim-based specialty sales, service and restoration shop that has been around for 38 years.

Think about it: a $60,000 midengine V8, capable of a sub-three-second zero-to-60 time, with the looks of a European exotic and the reliability and affordability of an American-made car. Against the odds, Chevy has managed to achieve the best of both worlds.

“The C8 demonstrates GM’s technical capability to run with the big boys in performance but at Chevy prices — one of the brand’s key philosophies,” says Don Runkle, former chief engineer for Chevrolet. “Another is a focus on racing. The new Vette epitomizes both.”

To that point, the C8’s track version, the C8.R, will make its endurance racing debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 26. “With this new Corvette, there’s a direct linkage between the production-car and the racing programs,” says Majoros. “Working with the racing side is a great way to test new technologies that may find their way into production, and it’s also an internal training ground for engineering talent.”

From the epic expense of motorsports to the relatively low-volume nature of a sports car, it’s a small miracle, really, that the Corvette has survived at all, even putting aside where its pumping heart resides. Given economic downturns, gas price fluctuations, priority on new and greener powertrains, and the killing off of entire GM brands such as Pontiac, Saturn and Oldsmobile, the car‘s endurance is testament indeed to its accomplishments and fan base.

So thank you, Chevy, for finally doing what Duntov envisioned and for setting a new high-water mark for an irresistible, ultra-high-performance car that is also financially approachable as well as user-friendly. If that doesn’t have the Corvette’s far pricier competitors quaking, I’ll bet the sales numbers will. According to Chevy, already 45,000 consumers have preordered a car online; deliveries begin in February.

2020 Chevrolet Stingray Coupe

Price: $59,995; $83,825 as tested

Engine: 6.2-liter V8

Horsepower: 490; 495 as tested with optional Z51 performance package

Torque: 465 lb.-ft. – 470 lb.-ft. as tested

0 to 60: 3 seconds; 2.8 seconds as tested

Original Source: Sue Calloway; LA times


The C8 Corvette and Other NACTOY Finalists Discussed on Autoline TV

The 2020 Corvette Stingray was named as one of the three finalists for the prestigious North American Car of the Year Award and the winner will be named Monday morning (Jan 13th) in Detroit. The all-new mid-engine Corvette does have some stiff competition as it’s facing off against the redesigned Toyota Supra and the Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan.

If you’re looking for a scouting report on the three finalists, you’ve come to the right place!

In this recent episode of Autoline This Week, host John McElroy is joined by panelists Gary Vasilash, Jeff Gilbert and Lindsay Brooke to discuss the contenders up for what is by far the most important vehicle award of the year. All four members of the panel are “NACTOY Jurors” who tested each of the cars and they all weigh in on the strengths and weaknesses of each vehicle.

After watching this episode, I am feeling pretty good about the Corvette Stingray’s chances, but that Sonata does have a ton of style and technology for a $30K vehicle so it won’t be a given. Check out the full conversation below:

From Autoline Network via YouTube:

The North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year (NACTOY) jury comprises roughly 50 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada. Every year they vote on the best new cars, trucks and utility vehicles that came out in North America. Three of the NACTOY jurors join us on Autoline This Week to discuss the three cars that made it to the finalists’ list, as well as some of the cars that did not make the list. They also predict which vehicles will win the awards for best car, truck and utility.

Panel: Garry Vasilash, Automotive Design & Production Jeff Gilbert, WWJ NewsRadio 950 Lindsay Brooke, SAE International John McElroy, Autoline.tv

Detroit Bureau Steve Burns will be live at the NACTOY award ceremony and will bring us any breaking news from the event. The North American Car, Truck, and Utility Vehicle of the Year awards will be announced on January 13, 2020, at 8 a.m. in Detroit.

Keith Cornett; Corvette Blogger


Corvette Poised for Sebring WEC Return

#3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R, GTLM: Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor, Nicky Catsburg

Corvette Racing set for COTA-Sebring double FIA WEC run with C8.R

Corvette Racing looks set to contest the 1000 Miles of Sebring, in what would be the second consecutive FIA World Endurance Championship outing for the new Chevrolet Corvette C8.R.

Sportscar365 has learned that provisional plans are in place to run the Sebring WEC race alongside its two-car factory GT Le Mans class program in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring the following day.

It would come as one of the prerequisites from the ACO, which has stipulated that the Pratt & Miller-run team must run in at least two regular-season WEC races in order to be guaranteed a pair of GTE-Pro entries for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The team ran the Shanghai WEC race in 2018 in addition to Sebring last year with its previous-gen Corvette C7.R.

While declining to comment or confirm on any WEC plans beyond its COTA entry, Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan said that it’s been their intention to run two regular-season races in the 2019-20 WEC season.

“Right now, that’s the plan but we’re running down a road,” Fehan told Sportscar365.

“We haven’t refined what exactly that plan is going to be. I couldn’t give you every detail and widget.

“We’ve been busy for a couple of years trying to race and design, build and develop the new car. This adds to the challenge of all of that.

“I think most people would understand that we don’t have it completely defined yet.

“It’s a case of dealing it in an orderly fashion.

“We can’t become overwhelmed too much with what’s going on down the road when we have to focus on what we need to accomplish [in Daytona] in a couple of weeks.”

While set to give the new mid-engined GTE contender its competition debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona later this month, the car’s second race will come just four weeks later at Circuit of The Americas, with a single entry having been submitted for the WEC replacement round.

Fehan said details on that program, including drivers, have yet to be determined.

He explained the reason for doing the additional WEC races is to “try as best we can” to support the globe-trotting championship.

“We understand the value that has to the sanctioning body and the value to the global fan base,” he said.

“We know it’s important but they also know the business side of it that prevents us from doing both things. They get that.

“I think they also appreciate how hard we’re trying to make all of the accommodations we can to keep the ball moving down the field. 

“It’s not easy for us and they know it’s not easy for us and they appreciate that.”

No Issues in 2019 ‘Super Sebring’ Endeavor

Fehan said the team faced no issues in its double-duty endeavor at Sebring last year, in what was only the second-ever time the team raced three cars between two different series on the same weekend. 

In addition to its over-the-wall crew and several other staff, drivers Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller took part in both Friday’s eight-hour WEC race and the around-the-clock IMSA enduro the day later.

“That worked out great,” Fehan said. “We were lucky because we had enough equipment.

“It’s not like you can piggyback what you have set up. You’ve got to have a completely additional set of stuff.

“Between stuff that we had in stock and stuff that we had for the Cadillac program, we had enough in place.

“That system is getting better and we learned from that on all the things we did right and all the things that we know we could improve upon.”

Source John Dagys; SportsCar365


Fassler impressed after first laps in new Corvette

The waiting is over for Marcel Fassler. This weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 was the first opportunity for the three-time Le Mans winner to drive the revolutionary mid-engine Corvette Stingray C8.8 — either in a test or even on a simulator — and he likes what he’s found.

“I heard really good things beforehand, so I was really looking forward to my very first drive,” said Fassler. “I finally got my first chance on Friday, and I am more than positively surprised how good and how much fun it is to drive. It’s difficult to compare both cars, because they are completely different in how they were built and set up, but this is a big step forward. I’ve enjoyed every lap in this car around the track.”

Fassler won GTLM honors as part of a 1-2 outing for Corvette Racing in his Rolex 24 debut in 2016, with his car prevailing by 0.034s in the closest class finish in event history. The 43-year-old Swiss driver enjoyed the changing conditions at the Roar — which have ranging from a warm Friday to a wet Saturday to a sunny but chilly Sunday — as he tested the silver No. 4 Stingray with Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin.

“The weather this weekend is the best we could have,” Fassler said. “Now we know hot conditions, we know wet conditions and today we’ll work with colder conditions. Experience shows that everything can happen at Daytona. It can be super warm or freezing cold, or a lot of rain like last year.”

Antonio Garcia, who shares the traditional yellow No. 3 Corvette with Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg, was also pleased with the progress of the C8.R.

“It’s going the right way,” said Garcia, a two-time Rolex 24 winner. “We’ve got to gather as much data as possible to prepare for the first race of the season — the first race for the actual car. It’s going to be very difficult for us, because we don’t know how the car is going to behave, with a lot of unknowns. I think we’re as prepared as we can be, and we are using this test to be even more prepared. So far, it’s going well. But in racing, you never know. We’re probably the best team out there to get with a new car, and so far it looks good and drives good. I can’t wait until the start of the race.”

Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan shares the optimism of his drivers.

“Everything operationally has worked out well,” Fehan said. “The cars are performing well. We haven’t had any major issues in durability and reliability — things we are looking for here. Every day we come out we write another page in setup and learning about the chassis and aero on the car. So every lap’s an important lap.”

Original Source: J.J O’Malley; Racer


‘Everyday Supercar’: A New Corvette Puts a Target on Ferrari’s Back

The $60,000 Stingray pushes its engine to the middle and expectations through the roof.

The new Corvette Stingray is racking up rapturous reviews and dominating industry awards.

From its dream-car debut in 1953 at the Motorama show at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, the Chevrolet Corvette has kept its engine up front, where sports-car tradition says it belongs.

But with sales of many fast, fun cars on the wane — blame the rise of dully practical S.U.V.s, an aging boomer audience or a declining car culture — the Corvette’s creators saw the need for a radical about-face. The 2020 Corvette Stingray has moved its engine behind the driver and passenger, adopting the physics-approved layout that brought Ferdinand Porsche his first racing successes in the 1930s. Today, this approach is associated with money-torching supercars from Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren.

The long-awaited “mid-engine” Corvette easily outruns its formidable predecessor, as I learned during a time-warping desert drive near Tortilla Flat, Ariz. The eighth-generation “C8” Corvette is earning rapturous reviews and dominating industry awards, as a car that can take on European exotics that cost $200,000 and more, but at a $59,995 base price that reads like a misprint.

“It’s certainly a great moment in the car business,” said Eddie Alterman, chief brand officer for Hearst Autos and a former editor in chief of Car and Driver. “It’s nothing less than the democratization of the supercar.”

At General Motors, that democratization includes a virtual decree that Chevy’s relatively blue-collar baby generate vastly more sales than, say, its Porsche 911 nemesis, enough to earn its keep in profits. Yet sales of sports cars and muscle cars have plunged by nearly half since 2000, on track for just 230,000 this year, according to analysts at Motor Intelligence. A reborn Toyota Supra, despite huge fanfare, has found a lukewarm 500 buyers a month since its summer debut, fewer than one-quarter of the expected 25,000 to 30,000 first-year sales of the Corvette.

At Porsche, a single sport utility vehicle, the Macan, finds more buyers than all the brand’s sports cars and Panamera sedans combined. Unsurprisingly, the world’s speed merchants, including Lamborghini, Bentley and Jaguar, have developed S.U.V.s into their best-sellers around the world, with entries from Aston Martin and Ferrari on the way. Some of those companies had vowed to never sully their names with a sport utility. Never mind.

Into this minefield steps Tadge Juechter. As just the fourth chief engineer in the Corvette’s fabled 67-year history, Mr. Juechter holds one of the most scrutinized positions in the American industry, his every utterance parsed for clues to the ’Vette’s future.

The previous-generation Corvette, the first to wear the Stingray badge since 1968, also generated robust sales beginning in 2014. Yet Mr. Juechter and his team saw a car nearing its end, both in technical terms and its ability to win new buyers.

“We saw an aging demographic, the same faces at Corvette events year after year,” he said.

That honking, 6.2-liter V8 up front had become an Achilles’ heel. The Corvette’s top-shelf, $121,000 ZR1 edition was already pumping out 755 horsepower, keeping pace in an unprecedented industry horsepower war. Moving the engine aftward — shifting critical weight over driven rear wheels — became the only way to apply such monstrous force to the pavement while improving traction and stability.

The move risked alienating the Corvette’s tradition-loving buyer base. At a design clinic for owners of various sports cars, Mr. Juechter discovered that current customers were split roughly 50-50 on the mid-engine switch. But among supercar owners that Chevy hoped to conquer, 90 percent favored it.

“We had to go for it,” Mr. Juechter said. “We did it purely for physics rules, but the byproduct was that it would also appeal to a new generation. We try to respect the past, but not be stuck in the past.”

G.M. had teased the faithful for decades, experimenting with a midmounted layout in a series of fanciful prototypes, beginning with the CERV 1 (for Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle) in 1959. Finally, for the 2020 model year, the near-mythical mid-engine Corvette is here, including the coupe’s Ferrari-esque view of its V8, provocatively exposed below a glass cover.

The public’s first glimpse of the car, in April, supported the Corvette engineering team’s confidence. Mr. Juechter drove a prototype, its body work disguised by a black-and-white pattern, through a bustling Times Square, with Mary Barra, the G.M. chief, riding shotgun. Rolling, windows down, Mr. Juechter heard younger voices yelling, “Mid-engine Corvette!”

“We imprinted on young people a super passion for this car,” he said. “Our job is to push that, that every drive can be a joy, an adventure.”

Dodging Times Square tourists and Ubers in a 495-horsepower, roughly 190-m.p.h. sports car is one form of adventure. But in my Arizona test, including roller-coaster desert curves, this new model combined moonshot acceleration, handling, tech and versatility like no rival remotely near its price. That includes a 2.8-second catapult to 60 miles an hour, on a par with a $250,000 Ferrari 488 GTB; a sharply improved, jet-fighter-inspired cockpit; and a GPS-based video data system that records street or track drives, overlays them with animated telemetry readouts and lets drivers analyze their performance with racing software.

The Corvette is notably aerodynamic, and gets solid mileage.
New sports cars are safe and approachable for amateurs, yet still rewarding for skilled pilots.

“It doesn’t have the operatic Sturm und Drang of a Ferrari or Lamborghini, but it really is an everyday supercar,” Mr. Alterman said.

Fuel economy is surprisingly decent, roughly 26 to 28 miles per gallon at a steady highway cruise. The Corvette is notably aerodynamic, and can deactivate half its cylinders to save fuel. The latest driver-adjustable magnetic suspension, a G.M.-first technology now adopted by several European exotics, lets the ’Vette drive as smoothly as some luxury cars in its Touring mode, despite the sleeping-bear V8 just over your shoulder.

“It couldn’t be just a weekend toy,” Mr. Juechter said. “A lot of people use this as their only car.”

Perhaps because do-it-all S.U.V.s are strong-arming sales — and definitely because today’s fans won’t put up with punishing rides or dodgy reliability — the worldwide trend is all about more practical sports cars that are safe and approachable for amateurs, yet still rewarding for skilled pilots.

Many mid-engine exotics lack a trunk, because the engine hogs the space. Yet Corvette designers made room for a trunk that can fit two golf bags, in addition to the Porsche-style “frunk” up front where the engine used to go.

Even the carefree convertible model doesn’t neglect its chores, with an ingenious powered soft-top that tucks away without stealing an inch of luggage space. Welcome practicality does bring a visual downside: The wide, chunky rear deck makes the ’Vette a bit back heavy.

Proper fits aside, wishful fans didn’t find a little red-ribboned Corvette under their Christmas tree: A now-settled G.M. strike has delayed production until February. For Chevy’s pampered halo car, only about 12 units each hour will roll off the production line in Bowling Green, Ky., down the road from the National Corvette Museum.

In anticipation of huge demand, more than 400 workers have been hired to fill a second daily shift, including employees laid off from Chevy’s closed plant in Lordstown, Ohio. (G.M. plans to open a new battery plant there, part of a $2.3 billion joint venture with LG Chem of South Korea.)

Mr. Juechter is confident that Chevrolet can sell every Corvette it can build, for now. The real test comes after the initial frenzy subsides. Mr. Alterman points to an increasingly short, roughly 18-month shelf life for such high-profile performers, with fickle buyers and collectors always in pursuit of the hot new thing. He sees the Corvette borrowing from Porsche’s ultra-profitable playbook, keeping the lineup fresh with myriad styles, performance upgrades and personalization options.

Though Mr. Juechter wouldn’t comment on future models, the cottage industry of Corvette rumors cites development of a hybrid ’Vette with up to 900 horsepower.

The dominance of S.U.V.s and the momentous shift to electrics has automakers playing offense.

Aside from an industry explosion of superpowered sport utilities, Ford ignited a controversy when it unveiled a Tesla-baiting electric S.U.V. and called it the Mustang Mach E. The traditional Mustang is enjoying its own golden age of performance, including a bonkers Shelby GT500 with 760 horsepower and an affordable four-cylinder model that gets 32 m.p.g. on the highway. Yet Mustang sales continue to tumble.

And while traditionalists are crying foul over the Mustang Mach E — first S.U.V.s stole customers, now they’re stealing legendary names — Mr. Alterman suggests that this heresy won’t be the last. A five-seat, Corvette-branded S.U.V. could be the most “everyday supercar” of all.

“You’ve got that sub-brand of the Mustang that’s so evocative,” he said, “so why not draw on it? There’s an opportunity for Chevy to do the same thing.”

Original Source Lawrence Ulrich; NY Times


Garcia: “Big Steps” to Come With Corvette C8.R at Roar

Corvette Racing drivers on anticipation of Roar Before Rolex 24 with new mid-engined C8.R…

Antonio Garcia believes there will be “big steps” to come in the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R’s development as the new-for-2020 mid-engined GT Le Mans class contender makes its public debut in this weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24.

The Pratt & Miller-built Corvette, along with Porsche’s 2019-spec 911 RSR, are the two all-new GTE-spec cars set for their first official competitive outings in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition during the three-day mandatory test.

While having already completed private testing at the 3.56-mile oval/road course, Garcia believe every lap will matter in their plan for the weekend.

“There is a lot to discover and develop,” Garcia said. “Usually your starting point is better than what you previously had.

“But this is completely different. We are still in the early stages with this new Corvette.

“There will be big steps for sure.

“I don’t know when we will get to the point where we will start making little steps. We need to run this car and we need to race it to find out where we are against our competition.

“We are concentrating on our own work. Whenever it becomes race time, we will know where we actually are.”

Garcia’s new full-season co-driver Jordan Taylor said they won’t necessarily be concerned about pace at the Roar, which will also set the pit lane and garage allocations through a qualifying session on Sunday morning.

The 28-year-old, who makes the switch from his family’s Wayne Taylor Racing operation, said little things, such as driver changes, will be a focal point as well once they achieve the targeted baseline.

“As many laps as we can get at the Roar and going through the program, getting all the drivers on the same page from a setup point of view and then the little things like pit stops and driver changes will be different than what we’ve had in the past,” he said.

“The car is a little more tricky to get in and out.

“Understanding that muscle memory of the process of getting in and out, where the seatbelts go, where the drinks bottle is, where the air hose goes… those little details that we haven’t refined that were refined with the C7.R are things that will show up in a 24-hour event, so those are things we will need to check off the list at the Roar.”

Gavin: “Very Structured” Plan for Weekend

Team veteran Oliver Gavin, who returns to the No. 4 entry alongside Tommy Milner, said that coming away with achieving 60 or 70 percent of their list will be considered a “big win” over the weekend.

“The team is going to have a very structured plan,” Gavin said. “And that’s one of the things that’s so good about Corvette Racing. We plan our time and fundamentally understand what all we have to work through and the list of things we need to achieve.

“The third drivers will need time in the car. We’ll all have to work through that program and procedure as best we can.

“Certainly we’ll learn a huge amount every time we go on track just with how certain tires work, how the braking package works, the aero setup, weight placement… all kinds of different thoughts that the team will look to work through.

“We know that of that list of 50 things we want to try and achieve, the chances are that if we can come away with 60 or 70 percent of that done, it’s a pretty big win.”

Original Source; John Dagys. Sportscar365