It’s understandable if you missed it, given all the earth-shaking news revealed at the coming out party for the 2020 Corvette. But at the very end of the debut, just after GM president Mark Reuss shocked the world with his announcement that the all-new mid-engine Corvette would start below $60,000, a video played that flashed a camouflaged version of the Corvette race car, as well as the convertible.
Chevrolet confirmed to MotorTrend that the camoed race car—equipped with a massive rear wing and diffuser and ground-hugging front splitter—that flashed on screen is indeed the C8.R, but that was hardly a surprise. C8.R spy photos and videos have been around the web for years, and now that the C8 is live and available for order, the racing version is expected to make its debut soon, most likely in January at the 2020 24 Hours of Daytona.
Neither Reuss nor Chevrolet provided any details on what will power the C8.R, but news that the base-model Stingray will be equipped with a 495-horsepower 6.2-liter LT2 V-8 has only poured race gas on the speculation of what will power the C8.R. Smart money says Corvette Racing will rely on a variant of the LT5.5 V-8, derived from the ZR-1, that powered the C7.R, as endurance racing demands ultimate reliability, the kind that only years of development can bring. However, there has been a lot of speculation that Cadillac’s 4.2-liter twin-turbo Blackwing V-8, an engine championed by Reuss, will eventually power C8.R.
When it does begin racing, the C8.R will have big, front-engine racing shoes to fill. The Corvette Racing team has a storied 20-year history in sports car, grand touring, and endurance racing series, including the American Le Mans Series, Pirelli World Challenge, and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Corvette Racing’s most notable wins have come at the 24 Hours of Daytona, where it has been a class winner twice (2015 and 2016) and overall winner once (2001). The team’s record is even better at the vaunted 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the C5.R, C6.R, and C7.R Corvettes have combined won their class eight times. However, the last win in France was in 2015, so the pressure is on for the C8.R to deliver, and not just against traditional rivals like Porsche. In the 2020–2021 season, a new “hypercar” class comes to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, that should see racing variants of the Aston Martin Valkyrie, McLaren Senna, and Mercedes-Benz Project One. Whether the C8.R will actually challenge these rivals head to head in class remains to be seen, but we certainly hope so.
Can a race car built on the back of a $60,000 American icon really challenge exotic hypercars from foreign lands? Wait a minute, of course it can—and has—for the past 20 years. All that’s changed is, well, everything. By moving to a mid-engine platform, the Corvette Racing C8.R officially takes the gloves off. Stay tuned.
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