Corvette C6.R racecars at 2011 Petit Le Mans - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
The American Le Mans Series provides some of the best road-racing action on television in the U.S., and it's coming back for the 2012 season this weekend for the 12 Hours of Sebring. Along with its return will be the latest iteration of the Corvette Racing C6.R, now in wide-body format.
Based on the ZR1's body work, but powered by a normally-aspirated 5.5-liter V-8 based on the Z06's 7.0-liter unit, the new C6.R is two inches wider than the previous model, now stretching the tapes to 80.6 inches. That's about five inches wider than a road-going ZR1. The extra space is used for wider track width to improve cornering.
Other changes for the 2012 C6.R include a 75-mm higher rear wing mount height, new dive planes on the front end, and 0.4-mm larger inlet restrictors, now measuring 29.2 mm.
As Gary Pratt, Corvette Racing team manager explained the changes, "Last year one of our competitors was granted a waiver to run a car that was 2 inches wider than the GT rules allowed, and the regulations were subsequently changed to allow all of the cars in GT to race with this increased width in 2012. The 2-inch wider track required all-new bodywork and revised suspension components. The updated Corvette C6.R has to go through the homologation (approval) process again, so we had an opportunity to make additional refinements within the parameters of the GT regulations. GM Powertrain engineers went through a similar process with updates in engine tuning and calibrations to improve driveability and throttle response."
But even with the new changes, it won't be a cake walk for the Corvette Racing crew as they take on the best of BMW, Ferrari, and Porsche in the upcoming 12-hour race at Sebring--and through the rest of the 2012 season.
Other challenges await as well, with new drivers learning the track and the series, where different classes race on track at the same time--adding up to tricky traffic and potential danger.
The driver lineup for Corvette at Sebring will see Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin sharing the No. 4 car, and Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 car.
The 12 Hours of Sebring kicks off this Saturday, March 17, at 10:30 a.m. EDT. For those that would like to follow the action live, ESPN3.com will have live video, while ABC will air the race on Sunday, March 18, at noon EDT.