Oct 13, 2020
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General Motors has ruled out the continuation of a full factory Corvette team when it transitions to GT3 machinery next year according to GM’s motorsport competition engineering director Mark Stielow, who confirmed a focus on customer teams only with the new Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.R.

The Detroit manufacturer, which has fielded the works Corvette Racing squad for the last 25 years, will close out its factory chapter at the end of the current IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship seasons, where it is running Chevrolet Corvette C8.Rs in GTD Pro and GTE-Am, respectively.
Stielow, however, confirmed that Corvette will continue to have a presence in the IMSA GTD Pro class next year with two cars, potentially still operated by Pratt Miller Motorsport but under a “hybrid” structure that would feature works support.

“We’re moving into the GT3 platform so we’re going to have a true customer program,” Stielow told Sportscar365 in an exclusive interview. “We’re going through the process right now.

“My team wanted to be very enthusiastic and build a lot of cars; I wanted to keep the launch slow but very high quality.

“So we’re going to launch with hopefully four cars at the Daytona 24-hour; we’ll have two GTD Pros and two GTDs. That’s the plan. We’re trying to get all those things lined up right now.

“We’ll get the cars to our key partners, our key teams in the November timeframe. We’ve got two test cars built, so we’re going to get some the teams we’re going to work with in those cars, get them up to speed.

“When they take delivery of their real car, they’ll be ready to go for IMSA in the Daytona 24-hour. We’ll have some cars in the WEC also.

“The contracts are in the mix right now trying to get that stuff firmed up.”

When asked about the status of the Pratt Miller-run factory squad, which has been in competition since 1999 as a full works outfit, Stielow said that will not continue in the current guise next year.

“We’re not going to have a fully factory funded Corvette race program,” he said. “But we’re going to have a pool of Corvette drivers [that will race with customer teams].

“We’re going to support different teams to a degree but it’s not going to be like Cadillac, which is a fully funded factory effort.

“As we moved into the GT3 platform we wanted to be able to be more customer-based. There was a lot of internal debate inside GM and us about whether we’d want our customers racing against a factory.

“We’re doing a little bit of a hybrid with that.”
Stielow indicated that Pratt Miller is still in the frame to run the cars in GTD Pro, although believed to be under a different banner than Corvette Racing.

“We’re still in the middle of trying to firm that up,” he said.

“We’ve got the [manufacturer] contracts squared away; they’re the constructor of record. We’re still trying to sort out who our Pro effort is going to be. Those contracts aren’t signed yet.

“We’ll have it finalized by the middle of the summer, which is coming up soon.”

He said the remaining initial customers for the Z06 GT3.R have already been decided internally and will be announced soon, with roughly eight cars running globally next year.
Four would be full-season WeatherTech Championship entries, split between GTD Pro and GTD, while GM is expected to secure two slots in the WEC’s new LMGT3 category for customers as well.

“Everybody’s going to be happy,” he said. “We’re also going to have cars in SRO [America] but we’ll have a ramp-out.

“We’re trying to get strategic teams to talk to and make sure they get the cars in capable teams that know how to execute a program.

“We’re trying hard not to sell just to collectors. Everybody that buys a car, we want to make sure they’re racing them.

“Then we’ll hopefully be able to get some deliveries to people who want to run the 2025 season.”
Stielow added that the move away from a full factory operation will be a “big shift” for the company but was made in order to have a larger Corvette competition footprint globally.

“From a General Motors perspective that’s how we’ve historically done it,” he said of a full factory program. “It’s a big shift for our marketing team to be like, ‘What do you mean we’re not going to have the classic two yellow Corvettes?’

“It’s an easy thing from the marketing team to wrap their head around. ‘These are our two pro cars. We have a look and feel… This is the way it’s been for 20 years.’

“Now we’re shifting to a customer model, which is different. Our counterparts in the Corvette marketing side… People don’t like change.

“I think it’s going to be good though because we’ll have more high-level Corvettes racing in more places.”
 
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