The battle lines are being drawn. It looks like the Europeans are preparing for a fight in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Le Mans class.
The war will be waged at tracks across this continent with more vigor than ever before. Both Chevrolet and Ford know they’re in for a battle royal. The dogged consistency of Chevrolet’s Corvette secured the championship last season, despite not winning a single race. On the other hand, Ford won five times.
We noted combatants’ opinions on IMSA’s Balance of Performance in a previous story in this magazine. Chevrolet’s Doug Fehan and Ford’s Chip Ganassi agreed that the BOP was a “necessary evil.”
A cursory look at the Balance of Performance seems to give an edge to Porsche, BMW and Ferrari. That forces the Yanks to conjure up that ingenuity for which we’re famous.
While weight has remained relatively the same, both Chevrolet and Ford have suffered.
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Chevy’s air restrictor has been reduced and Ford’s turbo boost has been chopped on the top end of the rev range, while BMW gets a boost increase above 5,000 rpm to redline.
Is a little more boost enough to get the boys in the Munich beer halls to lift a stein of lager? Or will Porsche leapfrog the whole bunch? It’s difficult to say what Ferrari will do after running a limited schedule last year.
Gary Pratt is the guy whose name is on the door of the shop that builds the Chevrolet Corvette C7R.
“We’ve been looking at data, section times on the track. We think Porsche and BMW are going to be real strong,” Pratt said. “When you look at the Roar (Roar before the 24), we did good in qualifying; other teams don’t do that. Maybe they’re not looking for the pole. Maybe they don’t want to show their hand. Our two guys (the No. 3 and No. 4 cars) drafted together and we were quickest, but obviously you can’t always do that in the race. It’s usually only good for a lap or two.”
Pratt knows the team has its work cut out for the battle plan sorties and it’s not what you’d see at first glance.
“We did a lot of tire testing and we hope we did a better job in tire testing, maybe Michelin built us a better tire than the other guys,” Pratt said. “That’s what we’re hoping. We are constantly working on our execution and software that will help us make better decisions during the race. We’ve done a fair amount of testing in the offseason. There are certain things we can work on and certain things we can’t.”
The key to Corvette’s continued success has very little to do with horsepower. It will come in the team’s execution.
“Execution, we always try to do better on pit stops,” Fehan said. “We try to get really close to the edge on refueling time. There are a lot of rules on refueling time that we have to follow. If you’re a quarter second or half a second off that’s 50 to 75 feet in pit lane. We have to get that stuff right on the money. Yeah, we saw that at Petit Le Mans. Everybody was pretty damn competitive at Petit.
“Obviously, we hope that that continues on for the rest of the season,’ he added. “What I mean by that is we thought we were pretty good at the beginning of the race, a couple three hours go by and we sunk to the back and a lot of that was in pit strategy. It was temporary and we got back to the front a few hours later. We just have to keep executing so we don’t make any mistakes.”