24 Hours of Le Mans – The Corvette C8.R's journey into known territory
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24 Hours of Le Mans – The Corvette C8.R's journey into known territory

Every year since 2000, Corvette can be counted on to cross the Atlantic for Le Mans. The C5-Rs (2000-2004), C6.Rs (2006-2013) and C7.Rs (2014-2019) and their huge V8s have waged battle at the legendary circuit. Easily recognizable by their roar, their liveries also set them apart and now the C8.R will carry on the legacy.

Operation Reconquer

It is a given that every year you will see a pair of Corvettes on the sections of national road added to the circuit for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Well, except in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the tradition. The American team, its drivers, cars, engineers and mechanics stayed at home. It was as heartbreaking for team members as it was for the marque's executives and for fans. From this absence was born a strong desire: to return as quickly as possible and to sound every day of the week, at noon precisely, the famous foghorn.

Jordan Taylor, with Corvette Racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans without interruption between 2012 and 2017, confirms the team couldn't wait to be back. "Everyone lives for that event. It’s the biggest event for the team and in sports car racing. Having missed last year is going to make everyone want to win it that much more and get back there as fast as possible."

A member of a legendary American racing family, including at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (his brother Ricky boasts six participations and his father Wayne, 13), Jordan Taylor knows how much it means to a driver to compete at Le Mans. "Having to watch Le Mans on TV isn’t the easiest thing. As a kid watching it, it’s an amazing race and you grow to love it and want to be there one day. Once you get there the magnitude of the event, the people, the fans, the atmosphere…it’s like no other race. So when you get that feeling and emotion, you don’t want to lose it...it makes you miss it that much more and be that much more motivated to go back and be competitive."

Tommy Milner has represented Corvette Racing since 2011, so it has been 10 years since he left is role as an official BMW driver to join the "Boys." He has won the LMGTE Pro class twice (2011 and 2015) and has also been extremely impatient to return to the race he loves. "This is a race that for a lot of people is a bucket-list item. To go there once is special. Each time going back is more so."

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Yellow and Striking

The main challenge for the Corvette Racing team is the jump into the unknown. Painted yellow and still equipped with a V8, the Corvette C8.R first burst onto the scene in the U.S. in 2020 and will take the track for the first time at Le Mans. Everything is new, so the team will need to accelerate its learning curve to face off against the other two officially entered manufacturers, Ferrari and Porsche. The C8.Rs took advantage of Test Day with decent results. With a time of 3:53.440 for the #64 and 3:54.281 for the #63, they are certainly trailing the lead Porsches (3:52.901 for the #92 and 3:52.904 for the #91), but the foundation is good. The car has all it needs to win. The aerodynamics in particular have been finessed to close the gap noticed in the previous generation vis-à-vis the competition. The revised position of the engine block (moved from the front to a central rear location) will inevitably affect weight distribution and the car's behavior on the track. The drivers will need to find their bearings and quickly.

The Corvettes will focus on assessing and monitoring their opposition before going on the attack. A win is possible since Corvette Racing has already had an excellent showing with the C8.R in a 24-hour race: Daytona in January thanks to the #3 shared by Nick Catsburg, Antonio García and Jordan Taylor. Joining forces this week at the wheel of the #63, the three drivers are aware of their potential, as are Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy and Alexander Sims in the #64. Who will claim the top step on the class podium on Sunday, Corvette?