Corvette racing future in question due to new rules

By GARY WATKINS
AutoWeek Magazine

As reported previously (Competition, May 19), Chevrolet's plan to graduate to the sports-car prototype ranks with a Corvette "look-alike" built to the so-called Evo rules outlined in June 2007 have been put on indefinite hold. The Automobile Club de l'Ouest--which sets the regulations for the Le Mans 24 Hours and the American Le Mans Series--backed away from the concept. Now, General Motors road-racing boss Steve Wesoloski faces another problem, courtesy of the FIA.

While the ACO makes the prototype-class rules, the FIA sets the rules for international GT racing, including the GT1 and GT2 Le Mans classes. New regulations signed off on in principle in late June by the FIA World Motor Sport Council and due to take effect in 2010 will bring the career of the ultrasuccessful Corvette C6.R GT1 contender to an end. Chevy and its racing partner, Pratt & Miller, could build a Corvette to new, low-tech GT1 rules that will form the basis of a world championship in 2010. Yet if it does, it might find itself with an all-too-familiar problem: a lack of competition.

The Swiss Matech team is developing a Ford GT with Ford's approval. Nissan is believed to be evaluating a program for its new GT-R but has yet to acknowledge the project's existence. Lamborghini and smaller niche marques such as Ascari and Mosler might also be represented.

But Chevy wants to race against the other GT grandees--Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin. Along with those companies, it put forward a set of counterproposals at the end of last year. They called for a new, one-class GT structure with cars similar to today's GT2 racers. Instead of accepting that, the FIA has adopted a compromise that will keep GT2 alive and also allow manufacturers to homologate a kit to upgrade a GT2 car to compete against the GT1s. The new GT1 rules will create heavier, low-technology cars using more standard parts. The FIA hopes that this will allow engineering specialists or "tuners," and not just manufacturers, to develop GT1 cars. Wesoloski said that none of the four main manufacturers favors that route.

That might suggest that a GT2 program is Chevy's way forward, but under the new rules, any car whose engine displaces more than 5.5 liters is categorized as a GT1. A standard Corvette street car has 6.2 liters.

Wesoloski said he expects to see a provision that will allow Corvettes to use smaller engines and that GM has not closed the door on GT1 or even prototypes.