Chevy Corvette C8.R: Flat-Planes, 500 Horsepower & Cool Rumors

  • Corvette C8.R is Chevy’s first mid-engine race car to compete in IMSA’s GTLM class.
  • The C8.R is based on the foundation and architecture of the 2020 Corvette Stingray.
  • The rumor mill is swirling with the kinds of things that make us excited if they are true. 

Chevy just rolled out the racing incarnation of the next-gen Vette, and it’s as wow-inducing as the road-going counterpart. Normally, we don’t write too much about racing here at Automoblog, but there’s some very interesting stuff to pay attention to on the Chevy Corvette C8.R. And you’ll likely get a chance to see it, even if you never make it to a track.

“We have looked forward to racing a production-based, mid-engine Corvette for a long time,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President of Performance and Motorsports. “The debut of the C8.R is the result of immense collaboration between GM Engineering, Propulsion, Design, and the Corvette Racing team.”

Chevy Corvette C8.R: Class Action

One of the niceties about the racing series the Corvette competes in, IMSA’s GTLM class, is how rules stipulate it has to be a “production-based” car. No crazy, one-off land missiles with turbine ashtrays or stuff like that. Nope, if you’re going to run the GTLM class (or GT Le Mans class) your car has to be pretty close to what you see on the road. Ergo, what you see on this Vette race car is stuff you will eventually see on a Vette road car. In so many words, IMSA says the class serves as a proving ground for manufacturers.

“It was important for us to develop the new race car alongside the production car, so that each product could properly take advantage of the new architecture,” explained Ed Piatek, Corvette Chief Engineer. “The benefits of this mid-engine supercar, including its incredible balance and connected-to-the-road feel, will be obvious on the street and the track.”

The C8.R utilizes a 2020 Stingray chassis from the Bowling Green Assembly plant. The chassis is modified to meet race series requirements. Photo: Chevrolet.

What Engine Does The Corvette CR.8 Have?

Of particular importance are the racing developments in the drivetrain. To comply with the IMSA engine displacement rules, the C8.R sports a 5.5-liter, naturally-aspirated V8. The mill puts out 500 horsepower and 480 ft-lb. of torque. Yes, that’s less than the production version that has us so excited. However, this about a rule-making thing called the balance of power. It’s an “inside baseball” kind of thing, so I won’t go into it (even though I would love to for the next 34,234 words or so).

What’s important is how the race motor is not based on the road-going one. It is supposedly an overhead cam engine, versus the single cam down in the V like the production block; and – this is a very big and – it’s a flat-plane crank layout. This is even more inside baseball techno geekery, but, briefly, a flat-plane crank means you have a 180 degrees between crank throws. That all boils down to (a little) more vibration, a very throaty engine and – this is the cool part – more power for a given displacement.

Related: Will the 2020 Corvette Stingray change minds and win hearts?

The interesting thing about this engine choice is that no Chevy production motor is a flat-plane crank layout. So if the Vette is going to race one, that means Chevy is going to have to produce one. Even better, they need to sell it to every knuckle-dragging, grease-stained, mouth-breathing gearhead out there. You know; us!

With a lower center of gravity and more weight distribution on the wheels, Corvette Racing worked closely with Michelin to optimize tire compounds. The C8.R will ride on 18-inch Michelin Pilot Sport GT competition tires. Photo: Chevrolet.

Rumor Mill Is Churning

Chevy didn’t officially say it, but if you add two and two here, you’re going to come up with: Chevy will be putting an all-new, flat-plane crank V8 in the Corvette and doing it soon. Meaning, there is another, even higher performance version of the Vette headed for our streets. The current rumors say this mill is destined for the new Z06. Even more rumors say this plant will have a couple of big turbos bolted to it, and then it’ll be dropped into the Z06. Either way, if you thought the “normal” 8th Gen Vette sounded good, it’s about to get even better.

The race Corvette receives a new, more compact Xtrac six-speed sequential gearbox. This transmission was specifically-developed in order to provide room at the back of the C8.R for a race-specific diffuser. Which means we could also see either (or both) of those – the new Xtrac box or the bigger diffuser – on the road as well. There’s little kick ups and flips here and there for more downforce generation. The body has been tweaked and creased as well. Per the regulations, that’ll end up on a production car too.

So will that Cessna-sized carbon fiber rear wing sitting on the Vette’s tight little derriere.

The No. 4 car features a new silver livery inspired by the 1973 Chevrolet Aerovette and 1959 Corvette Stingray Racer. Photo: Chevrolet.

Racing Debut

The Chevy Corvette C8.R will make its racing debut during the Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 25th, 2020. And given how I heard guys from the racing department at Porsche were freaking out over the C8.R, I’m betting it’ll beat the competition like a drum.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle formatFollow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Chevy Corvette C8.R Gallery

Photos & Source: Chevrolet.

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