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Chevy Finally Gets Serious with Corvette Daytona Prototype

DL_corvetteDP_002 Photo courtesy of Chevrolet Motorsports Three years ago, Chevrolet Racing pulled the sheet off of the Corvette Daytona Prototype, to a collective gasp that flowed from the Daytona Speedway across the internet and into the minds of everyone who laid eyes on it. Sprayed the perfect shade of US Racing blue, it was the mid-engine V-8 pushrod Super ‘Vette that everyone had been hoping for, and speculating about, for decades. For years, the yellow factory stock-based C5 and C6 ‘Vettes had been winning in their classes and stamping a steel bowtie across road-racing in both the US and Europe. But class wins are class wins, and the Corvette DP is a different animal. It was designed and custom fabricated wholly as a race car, and built in a partnership between GM, Coyote Cars and GM’s de facto racing squad, Pratt and Miller Engineering. DL_court-SDRmotorsports Photo courtesy of Whelen Engineering That first year the Daytona Prototypes finished 5th and 8th in the 24-hour Florida classic. A buzzkill for the assembled GM suits, but better things were to come and come quickly. In three years, the DP’s have notched up 22 victories and are a constant threat in the IMSA/Tudor United SportsCar Championship. To understand just what a big deal the DP is for GM and endurance racing, we have to go back over 50 years DL_courtesyChevroletNews1963-Chevrolet-Corvette-Grand-Sport-image-2 Photo courtesy of Chevrolet News In 1962, Chevrolet’s Director of High Performance, Zora Arkus-Duntov, began a secret project called, The Lightweight. Ford was rolling full bore in their “Total Performance” program. Shelby’s Cobras were winning everything in sight and Chevy’s Corvette challengers were just too heavy to make an impact. Even worse, GM was officially sticking to a 1957 agreement banning direct factory involvement in racing. With Chevy Division head, Bunky Knudson giving his thumbs-up, Arkus-Duntov and his team would create an 1800lb racing-only monster, eventually christened the Corvette Grand Sport. Every component was built to bring the fight to Ford, Ferrari, Porsche and any top-tier team thinking they’ve got a right to stand at the top of the podium. The Grand Sports looked plain mean. Where Ferrari and Porsche relied on sculpted, flowing lines and the Shelby Cobras were voluptuous, the Corvette C2's angular lines on the Grand Sport were cut open for air pressure-relieving slats and other competition modifications. Five prototype Grand Sports were built before parent company GM got a whiff of what was cookin’ in the raceshop. They pulled the plug, the five undeveloped Grand Sport prototypes went to private teams, and Chevy sat out the glory era of road racing. The Corvette Daytona Prototype manages to be both an exotic race-only machine built for a single purpose and a familiar branding exercise for Chevrolet.  In spite of the engine sitting in back, behind the driver, the DP body specifically wears enough Corvette design cues to make it instantly recognizable. The first versions even had a kind of split-window treatment to honor the ’63 Grand Sport bloodline. This time, the car would be allowed to develop it’s full potential. The GM boardrooms had changed over the years, and interest in endurance racing was kicked into high gear by the victories that the GT-Class Corvettes were notching up. Visions of a full-boogie endurance racer, dominating all challengers seemed within grasp. DL_actionexpressracing Photo courtesy of Whelen Engineering Chevy’s gamble with the Corvette DP paid off almost immediately with outright wins at Watkins Glen and other classic US tracks. Daytona eluded them with a 5th in 2012 and a 2nd in 2013. Wins were great, and the DP was always in the hunt, but as far as Chevy was concerned the big prize was its namesake, the classic 24 Hours of Daytona. Everything came together for Chevrolet in 2014 with a Corvette DP sweep, the cars taking 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. DL_courtesy whelenengeneering-ActionExpress_4.race_24hDaytona_josemariodias_0773 Photo courtesy of Whelen Engineering The new C7 street ‘Vetts are lookers. GM finally cut loose whatever had been holding their designers back. They’ve conjured up a profile that seems a couple of phases beyond their usual slow evolution. The power is almost off the charts, as is expected. More importantly, the new ‘Vette FINALLY has a cockpit that doesn’t look like it was lifted out of a ten year old Chevy Malibu. The 2015 version of the Daytona Prototype looks better than ever, taking advantage of the exotic new styling cues from the production version. And right out of the box, the car is a contender. At Daytona qualifying this year, the ‘Vette DP was setting the pace, and it was only bad luck that put the team into second place at the finish behind a Riley Ford Eco-Boost. Yes, Eco-Boost, as in the turbo four banger that sounds kinda funny that Ford is pushing in their new Mustang. Except the Riley endurance racing version has six cylinders and huge horsepower. Ford is basing their stunning new GT Supercar powerplant on this engine. Which brings the question- will Ford develop their new GT into an endurance racer? Rumors are rampant. Will Ford and Chevy factory efforts finally battle at the 24hrs of Daytona? At Sebring? DL_CDP_courtesyof imsatudoecha_Sebring Courtesy of IMSA/Tudor United SportsCar Championship Speaking of Sebring, the Corvette DP brought it all home in 2015, on the heels of their second place disappointment at 2015 24 Hours of Daytona. The last Chevy-powered car to win Sebring was a Jim Hall Chaparral in 1964. Finishing 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th at 2015 12 Hours of Sebring, the V8 bowtie cars are growling a message to Ford and anyone else who is keeping track... Times have changed, and we’re serious about this - anybody wanting to pop the champagne, has to get through us first. This is the time of the Corvette. Never before have they been so potent and so technologically advanced, both on the street and on the track. Not since the mid-60’s have they been as desirable and on-target in their styling. The ’Vette - America’s Sportscar - is finally living up to its promise and it’s potential. Like the Grand Sport of ’63, The Corvette Daytona Prototype was conceived not just as a class winner, but as a contender for outright victories over the best and most advanced prototypes racing. Now, what about all those rumors of a mid-engine C8 Corvette for 2017? Anyone have any idea of what it might look like? The Corvette Daytona Prototypes will be fighting it out on the streets of Long Beach this weekend. Feel the power. Go to IMSA.com for the full 2015 schedule.
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