The exact car count for the combined TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Prototype class won't be known until the entry list for January's season opener at the Rolex 24 at Daytona is revealed, but you can count on a heavy presence from the title-winning manufacturer.
“We're going to return with what we believe will be a strong lineup of Corvette DPs,” GM Racing director Mark Kent told RACER. “We still don't have all of the teams in place; some are still finalizing their plans for next year. Bob Stallings and the GAINSCO team are still figuring out what they are going to do and Enzo Potolicchio's 8Star team is in a similar place, I believe, but we definitely have Wayne Taylor Racing returning next year. Spirit of Daytona is returning, Action Express is returning – the core of our group from this year.
“We're adding a Corvette DP from Marsh Racing, and we're hopeful we'll have Stallings back and the 8Star team as well. We should have a significant number of Corvette DPs in the Prototype class when the new season gets started.”
Kent's partners at Pratt & Miller and Earnhardt Childress Racing have been busy working on the major development the Corvette DPs will use next season, including an increase in downforce from IMSA's new, mandated DP aero package, and an increase in displacement for the Bowtie's angry DP V8.
“We've been working with ECR engines to develop a new 5.5-liter version of our small-block Chevy, and that's been going quite well, and we've been working with the series as they develop the rules to help them meet their goal of balancing the P2 class and DP class in a manner that's cost-effective and will also maintain the look of the Daytona Prototypes,” Kent added. “We don't want to significantly change the looks of the Corvette to maintain that balance and I think we've been successful in that process with the series.”
IMSA's move toward using sonic air restrictors to balance horsepower between the cars in the Prototype class has required DP manufacturers to come up with new mounting solutions.
“Most of the changes being made for performance are beneath the car – the diffuser and all of that,” Kent continued. “We've made sure we don't need to add an air scoop to the top of the cars – although it would probably be easiest – to regulate air restrictors and such, so we've worked with the series to come up with a way to incorporate those air restrictors underneath the existing bodywork. As we move forward, we've worked together on a set of rules that hopefully meets everybody's requirements instead of hurting one group in particular.”
Next year the TUDOR Championship will have the fleet of Corvette DPs, the Corvette Racing GT Le Mans team, an entire PC class filled with Chevy-powered prototypes and Camaros racing in the Continental Tire Series (RIGHT). Keeping the messaging straight with so many cars flying the GM banner, according to Kent, is a great problem to have.
“Each of the classes within the series allows us a unique opportunity to share our message. The Continental Tire GS class, for example, allows us to race a nearly production Camaro Z28. You go up from there to the GT Le Mans class, and that class has always been a great place for technology transfer. The chief engineer for the Corvette has attended almost every race over the years, and that car and that class is really the pinnacle of the tech transfer between the street and the track.
“And if you move up to DP, it's not a production car, but it does use a production-based small-block Chevy and it provides us the opportunity to demonstrate the performance potential of that engine and gives us the chance to run for the overall win. We look at the Corvette DP and see styling cues from the past and the present. All three classes offer us promotional capabilities that we feel are very important.”