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C8.R confirmed with 5.5-litre V8 | Update

Mid-engined racer gets 500hp 5.5-litre and an all-new list of surrounding components in a bid for Le Mans glory

By Sam Sheehan / Friday, October 11, 2019

Chevrolet has followed up last week’s C8.R track footage with confirmation that the racer will use a 5.5-litre V8 instead of the road machine’s thumping 6.2. It turns out that the decision to go with the smaller engine is partly down to regulations set out by America’s IMSA series, in which Chevy’s new car will compete, but also due to the fact that power balancing hardware trims output to around 500hp and 480lb ft of torque – meaning the lighter motor is more than up to the job.

Last week we expressed concern around the flat-plane crank unit’s vocals (in the story below), but new footage suggests it will at least sound suitably muscular in certain parts of the rev band. In contrast to the higher-pitched wail of the first video, in this one we hear proper V8 rumble. It still has nothing on the thunder of the C7.R’s old small block, but the technical advantages afforded by the C8.R’s midship setup are enormous – and might just amount to something to really worry the likes of Ford and Porsche.

With its powerplant now located behind the cabin, the Corvette racing car can utilise the vacant space up front – which provides a boot in the road car – for a large radiator, meaning no smaller ones are located further forward, as before. This simpler, closer-to-the-middle location has benefits for mass and weight distribution; as does the introduction of a more compact Xtrac six-speed sequential, which also frees up space for a larger diffuser at the back.

Couple this tighter powertrain packaging with a structure that’s said to be both stiffer and lighter than its predecessor’s and, well, put it this way: the battle for honours in the Le Mans GTE category is looking very good for 2020. The C8.R will, however, first focus its attentions on the Daytona 24 Hours in January – expect Chevy’s European rivals to be paying very close attention to how this clean sheet Corvette does at that challenging US race.

“We have looked forward to racing a production-based mid-engine Corvette for a long time,” said Jim Campbell, Chevy’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. As Corvette Racing enters its third decade of competition, we’re excited to begin the next chapter.”

Previous story: 03.10.2019

The GTLM category of Le Mans is as famous for its varying engine soundtracks as it is for close fought racing. It’s always had an eclectic mix, but in recent years the Corvettes have provided the most dominating vocals in the class by some margin. Since Aston Martin’s Vantage racers switched to turbocharged AMG power, the C7.R Chevy's front-mounted 5.5-litre small block was the unmistakable ear drum-rattler at the the Circuit de la Sarthe. 

That’s set to change in 2020, however, with the introduction of the C7’s successor, the C8.R, which officially unveiled in tandem with the Corvette convertible last night. The all-new mid-mounted racer sounds nothing like the 6.2-litre V8-powered road car – it’s more squawk than thunder – so although Chevy has refrained from announcing technical specs, we think it’s using the 5.5-litre flat-plane crank V8 that’s rumoured to be introduced later on. The noise is certainly appropriate for such a lump and the use of the smaller motor in competition would make sense.

While it may not be as pretty (or yellow!) as its predecessors, the new C8.R certainly looks the ticket, with the low-set nose and extended rear deck appearing ready made for the canards, skirts and enormous rear wing of a GTLM racer. That’s no coincidence, of course – Chevy’s switch to a mid-engined layout was partly encouraged by the resulting boost to on-track balance. But for those of us who valued the violent vibrations of a cross-plane crank and pushrod small block, it’s the end of an era.

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