With the championships decided and anticipation for a new GT2 program building, the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday, October 18, will mark the end of an era for Corvette Racing. The team will conclude its final full season in the GT1 division before beginning its transition to a new global GT class.
The season finale of the 11-race American Le Mans Series will be the final appearance by the championship-winning GT1 Corvettes at the scenic track on California's central coast. The four-hour race into darkness will be a dramatic send-off to the most sophisticated and successful production-based race cars ever created by GM Racing. Corvette Racing will compete in the GT1 class in the first half of the 2009 ALMS season as the team prepares for its 10th participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Following the classic 24-hour endurance race in France, Corvette Racing will then move to the GT2 category in preparation for a full-season program under new international GT class regulations in 2010.
A victory by Johnny O'Connell, Jan Magnussen and Ron Fellows in the 1,000-mile Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on October 4 clinched the GT1 drivers' titles for O'Connell and Magnussen, the seventh straight drivers championship for Chevrolet's factory sports car racing team. Since Corvette Racing made its competition debut in February 1999, the team has won 73 races in 101 events, including three wins at Laguna Seca in 2004, 2005, and 2007. The Corvette crew has won eight consecutive ALMS GT1 team and manufacturers championships.
Yet for all of the team's success in the last 10 seasons, perhaps its most significant victory to date was its overall win in the inaugural Green Challenge, a "race within a race" contested in conjunction with Petit Le Mans. Working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S Department of Energy, and SAE International, the series organizers and the Argonne National Laboratory determined the "greenest" entries in the Prototype and GT classes based on energy used, greenhouse gases emitted, and petroleum fuels displaced.
The Green Challenge was designed to recognize the fastest car with the smallest environmental impact. When the results were tallied, Corvette Racing's No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R had the best (lowest) score among the 37 entries, securing the GT team award for Corvette Racing and the GT manufacturer award for GM. The class-winning Corvette completed 365 laps on the Road Atlanta course, averaging more than 95 mph, and posted a score that was 50 percent better than the LMP2 Porsche that won in the Prototype division (20.391 to 30.690). Corvette Racing also bettered Audi's championship-winning TDI diesel engines (31.319) and entries from Acura, Ferrari, Aston Martin, and Peugeot.
"I think one of the facets of the Green Challenge that motivated the team was that for once we were able to go head-to-head in competition with many of the world's greatest automobile manufacturers," said Corvette program manager Doug Fehan. "When we looked at the numbers, it was clear that Corvette proved itself the best in the world in the Green Challenge."
The cellulosic E85R ethanol that powers the Corvettes' 7.0-liter GM small-block V-8 racing engines played a key role in GM's Green Challenge victory. The Green Challenge formula took into consideration the overall environment impact of the fuel used from "well to wheel" – a comprehensive life cycle analysis from origination to consumption. The fuel used by the Corvette race cars is primarily cellulosic ethanol, made from wood waste collected in the Black Hills National Forest as part of a wildfire prevention program. According to data from the Argonne National Laboratory, greenhouse gas emissions for the winning Corvette were 170 percent better than the first non-E85 finisher in the GT class.
California has long been a bellwether on environmental issues. Recognized by the EPA, DOT and SAE as having the "greenest" race car in the ALMS, Corvette Racing will be on track at Laguna Seca to demonstrate that a renewable alternative fuel like ethanol is part of the solution to America's energy needs.
Corvette Racing’s next event is the Monterey Sports Car Challenge, the season finale of the 2008 American Le Mans Series, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., on Saturday, October 18. The four-hour race is scheduled to start at 2:45 p.m. PDT. NBC will televise the race tape-delayed from 2 to 4 p.m. EDT on Sunday, October 19.