Though the biggest news surrounding the Corvette team at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans was winning the GTE-Pro Class, there was much buzz surrounding what happened to the number 63 Corvette C7.R before the event actually took place.
Jan Magnussen, piloting the number 63 car, walked away from a nasty crash as his C7.R went head on into a barrier, spinning the car to a slamming halt in the rear across the Porsche corners. It wasn’t a pretty site, but Magnussen walked away unscathed.
Ars Technica decided to dig a little deeper into what goes into making a safer Corvette C7.R. Because, remember, the C7.R starts life as a road-going C7 Corvette Z06 in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
The aluminum frame receives a steel roll cage, but the Corvette team has mastered away around corrosion with the two metals.
“We’re in a unique situation, and it was a challenge,” Fehan told us. “We use a chromoly steel riser, welded to a tapered plug with a threaded body. Next, we match that taper in the aluminum hydroformed rail and insert it to be bonded. But they’re dissimilar metals, and we don’t want galvanic corrosion. The solution was to use an adhesive to bond them together, but we want it as centered as possible to facilitate the bond. So we embed silicon beads into the adhesive, then torque it down into the pocket [in the aluminum rail] so it’s one beads-width all around for a uniform thickness. That gives us uniformity of the adhesive and protection from corrosion.”
Pratt and Miller, the company running GM’s Corvette and Cadillac racing efforts, continues to seek improvements to create a safer racer, however.
Next up will be an even lighter and stronger roll cage, due to need for an escape hatch on the roof of the C7.Rs. The hatch will ensure emergency workers may effectively insert a backboard to stabilize drivers should a spine injury be suspected. Head restraints are also in the works, though, they requite extra time because of the difficulties with changing drivers so often in the shortest amount of time.
As far as the future goes, the Corvette teams sees materials as the greatest advancement for future engineering efforts.
“In my lifetime in this business, 200 mph seems to be a threshold. If you stay 200 or below, survivability is pretty good,” Fehan told Ars Technica. “Above that, the human body is at huge risk; materials fail, energy isn’t absorbed at the rate it should be. I don’t see the point in going more than 200. You can’t tell 200 from 230 at Indianapolis without a stopwatch. When human lives are at stake, I’m not anxious to be a part of that. We’re running at 190 mph. In these cars, for all intents and purposes, that’s safe”