General Motors developed the Corvette C8.R alongside the C8 Corvette Stingray and Convertible – so it couldn’t just be going around testing the yet-to-be-revealed car in the open at different racetracks across America. While it was caught testing once at Road America and then again under the cover of darkness at Sebring, you can bet that GM wasn’t too pleased to see that photos and videos from those outings had made their way online.
So how were Corvette Racing’s drivers able to give feedback to Pratt & Miller and Chevrolet throughout the development of the Corvette C8.R with such little available track time? Tommy Milner, who has been a Corvette Racing driver since 2011, gave us a little more insight into the new mid-engine race car’s development process during an interview at the 2019 SEMA Show in Las Vegas earlier this month.
“This time around, we did a lot of simulation work,” Milner said. “So we just drove a fake version of the car, in some ways… but ultimately what it was going to be. So we were able to try some aero settings and geometry things that you can tweak on after the fact, but it obviously gives you a window to work in. These are all things that you can do in real life, but sometimes it’s cost-prohibitive for the car, aero-wise or suspension wise.”
Professional-grade racing simulators allow the manufacturer or race team to plug-in real setup data that is relevant to the car they are trying to simulate, allowing them to work on the car’s setup without having to actually take the car out to the track, which can be extremely costly. Formula 1 teams will even have one of their simulator drivers actively working on different setups during a race weekend, allowing the team to make more calculated changes to the setup while at the track – even if they are thousands of kilometres away. Corvette Racing isn’t a Formula 1 team, obviously, but F1’s use of this technology is indicative of just how important it’s becoming with regard to setup work and car development.
Corvette Racing’s work in the simulator will also help Milner and his teammates hit the ground running once the 2020 season kicks off in January. They may not have a ton of seat time in the C8.R, but they’ve been driving a virtual version of the car for months, getting used to its cornering balance, power delivery and other characteristics that may be different from the front-engine Corvette C7.R.