Corvette Racing's drivers are confident that the brand can retain its GTE Pro class title in the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans, following updates to the two C6.R racers.
The car is now two inches wider than it was in 2011, with a number of other changes made alongside this.
“The engineering team ran extensive computer simulations to evaluate the effects of a wider body,” said team manager Gary Pratt, of the Pratt & Miller firm that runs the Corvette Racing operation.
“There is a fine balance between the aerodynamic drag produced by a larger frontal area and the handling improvements that come with a wider track. We expected that the wider body would be better at many of the circuits in the U.S., and the simulations indicated that it would be an improvement at Le Mans as well.
“Although Le Mans is a big, high-speed track, a significant percentage of the lap is spent cornering and braking. With the chicanes on the Mulsanne Straight and fast corners like the Porsche Curves, the wide-body design is beneficial.”
Antonio Garcia was part of the winning driver lineup in 2011 in the #73, and is this year joined by Jan Magnussen who switches from the sister car as well as newcomer Jordan Taylor.
“I think we are in a really good position,” said Spaniard Garcia, whose victory last year was his third at Le Mans. “I’m happy to be back with Jan because we won together in 2009, and it will be good to have Jordan in the car.
“From what we have seen in testing, the car is more predictable and that should give us the opportunity to be a touch more relaxed – although at Le Mans, ‘relaxed’ is not the word.”
Dane Magnussen has won his class on four occasions, all with Corvette.
“I’m really looking forward to this year’s Le Mans with all of the new developments on the car,” he said. “I think we have a better understanding and feel for the car than last year, and it seems to be more stable. Le Mans is about a lot of things – top speed is only one of them. I’m confident that we will be able to go to the front again.”
Tommy Milner won his first Le Mans with Corvette last year, but has now traded places with Magnussen to drive the #74 alongside Brits Oliver Gavin and Richard Westbrook.
“Being consistent and not making mistakes are crucial at Le Mans,” said American Milner. “Last year we didn’t have the fastest car in the class, but it was consistent.
“The team didn’t make any errors, and when our competition had just one small issue, it put them on the back foot. If the speed is there, that’s great – but the way to win it is to stop only for fuel, tires and driver changes. That will put you in the best position at the end of the race.”
Gavin has raced at Le Mans for Corvette every year since 2002, winning on that first occasion and on three straight years between 2004 and 2006. Three straight non-finishes have prevented him from adding to that tally.
“This race is like no other,” Gavin said. “It’s exceptionally long, exceptionally tough, and high pressure for everybody in the team. It’s a highly charged atmosphere in that pit box for the entire 24 hours. You just cannot let up, take your eye off the ball for a single moment, or the 24 Hours of Le Mans will bite you. You must be smart, be consistent, and use your head.”