Thursday, January 25, 2024

Corvette Racing -- Assessing the 2023 Season

(Editors note: Very special thanks to Charley O’Donnell Robertson, Motor Trend, RACER, and Corvette Racing for material used in this blog post) 

2023 marked the 25th year of Corvette Racing when two C5-R Corvette race cars showed up at Daytona International Speedway for the Rolex 24 At Daytona – the first event for the then-new factory sports car program.

Twenty-five years later, my three standards for a successful racing season for my beloved Corvette Racing teams are:

- Road racing in the GTD-Pro class of IMSA (The International Motor Sports Association, the North American sports car racing sanctioning body based in Daytona Beach, Florida under the jurisdiction of the ACCUS arm of the FIA.)

- Endurance racing in GTE Am class of “WEC” (the FIA World Endurance Championship, organized by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO)), and

- The legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans (which is, technically, part of WEC but it is so huge that I think of it as a distinct event!).

Using these standards, I’m very satisfied with the 2023 season. Here’s why.


This competition provides Corvette with the opportunity to show the mettle of the C8 Corvette on an international stage. I never paid much attention to WEC, but I should have – you will see why below.

2022 was Corvette Racing’s first WEC season, and the freshly minted Corvette C8.R finished the season in second place in its class – GTE Am.

In 2023 the GTE Am class consisted of 14 cars – six Porsche 911 RSR-19s, four Ferrari 488 GTEs, three Aston Martin Vantages, and one Corvette C8.R – competing in seven countries – USA, Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and Bahrain.

The race results were impressive -- Corvette Racing finished 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 1st in the first four races. Like the “Balance of Performance” protocol in IMSA racing, WEC imposes weight (and other) penalties on the most successful cars. Those mounting weight and performance penalties made the final three races a challenge. However, by the fifth race, in Monza, Corvette had secured the championship for the entire season for both the Driver and Manufacturer championships and closed out the season in the final two races with finishes in 2nd and 7th place. Their final points total – 173 – was a dominant finish over the No. 85 Porsche (Iron Dames!) – 118 – and No. 54 Ferrari – 91. It was a fantastic result in just their second year of competition.


Here is how the season progressed.

1000 miles of Sebring:

The first race of the WEC season was a stunning success. The sole Corvette entry was driven by Nicky Catsburg, Ben Keating, and Nicolas Varrone. The Corvette was identical to the 2022 entry, a GTLM/GTE spec car. Two major differences between this entry and the IMSA one are unique pit stop procedures and spec Michelin tires. Ben Keating qualified in 2nd place. The race quickly became a battle between the rivals from Porsche and the Corvette. New driver Varrone maintained 2nd position during his triple stint, seizing the lead when the leading Porsche suffered rear damage and had to pit for repairs. Varrone and Catsburg dominated the 2nd half of the race, finishing two laps ahead of the 2nd place Porsche and 3rd place Ferrari.

6 Hours of Portimao (Portugal): 

The Corvette team traveled to Portugal with a handicap – 30 extra kilograms of “success ballast” due to the Sebring victory and championship lead.

The GTE AM Class saw the Corvette grab pole position with Ben Keating driving. By using the softer (and worn) qualifying tires, Ben couldn't hold the lead, sliding down to third during his first stint. The AF Corse No. 21 Ferrari blasted into the lead at the start but faded into the latter stages of the race. Yet another Ferrari, the No. 83 Richard Mille entry, provided an intense battle throughout the remainder of the race.

The Corvette Team’s pit work was a key factor in offsetting the slower pace difference, as demonstrated on the race’s final pit stop. With 50 minutes remaining, Catsburg came in with the Ferrari hot on his heels but left with a nearly 10-second advantage. As evidenced by the winning margin (only 0.260 seconds), every second counted.

The two cars were side-by-side in places on the final lap, but Catsburg narrowly edged Alessio Rovera to the flag, taking Corvette Racing's 2nd victory in succession.

6 Hours of SPA:

The Corvette entered the third WEC race with their “success ballast” handicap increased from 30 to 45 kilograms.

Wet weather, a safety car-led start of the race, numerous off-track incidents, and untimely pit closing events, pushed the Corvette, at one point, down to 12th place.

Keating and Varrone performed well, improving class position during their stints. For the second race in a row, Catsburg took a starring role at the end, like his win at Portimão. A fourth safety-car period brought the Corvette back to the lead, which resulted in a fierce duel over the final 40 minutes. It didn’t take long for the lighter and quicker No. 25 Aston Martin to find its way back to Catsburg’s rear bumper. At the checkered flag it was a battle for second place as the No. 83 Richard Mille AF Corse (Ferrari) finished first, followed by Corvette, second, and Aston Martin, third. It was another very close finish as Catsburg’s gap over the Aston Martin as only 0.249 seconds. At SPA, the Corvette and Ferrari teams traded places for 1st and 2nd positions, but it was the last time the Richard Mille team would contend for a podium in the 2023 season.

The Corvette Racing team managed to keep its perfect run of podiums intact through the first three races – and more importantly keep its early-season momentum headed into the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

24 Hours of Le Mans:

2023 would be the 100th running of this legendary race and the final LMGTE Am race at Le Mans, as that class is being phased out in favor of the GT-3 format. This would be the third attempt by the C8.R to secure a class victory at Le Mans.

In 2021, the C8.R’s first attempt, the No. 63 Corvette finished P2 after an intense multi-hour contest against the winning Ferrari 488 – the winning margin in 2021, after 24 hours, was only 40 seconds. Here is my post for that race:

24 Hours of Le Mans -- 2021 

In 2022, the C8.R’s second attempt, we were hopeful to “get the job done” – and Corvette Racing nearly did. The Corvette had terrific pace, and the whole team performed well resulting in the Corvette leading the class late in the race. Alex Sims, Tommy Milner, and Nick Tandy seemed to have it all together before disaster struck with just six hours remaining when a prototype car simply crashed into the Corvette on the Mulsanne straight, forcing it into the guardrail. The disappointment was enormous. Finally, in 2023, victory was secured. But, like many Le Mans efforts, victory did not come easily.

Twenty-one cars competed in the LMGTE Am class: seven Ferraris, eight Porsches, five Aston Martins and one Corvette.

The Corvette started from pole position and ran well at the start. In the second hour, a suspension issue (faulty right-front damper) brought the car into the pits for repairs, and we fell back to last place -- two laps down (remember, one lap at Le Mans is 8 miles!). Rainstorms, pace cars, and race control errors all posed additional obstacles for the team. Through the night the drivers clawed their way back to the lead lap, and eventually the class lead. Catsburg and Varrone continued to build on the lead and by the checkered flag the Corvette had a full lap lead over its competitors. In fact, Corvette was so far ahead they didn’t lose the lead when cycling through pit stops.

This quote from “Racer” tells a particularly important story:

“Varonne’s performance must be noted here. The young Argentinian, at his first Le Mans with the team, brushed off his free practice incident in fine style. Towards the end of the race, with the win on the line, he set the fastest lap of the week in GTE Am — faster than anyone managed in qualifying. The result of his final stint was a welcome party from the Corvette mechanics in the garage after he climbed out to hand the C8.R to Catsburg.”

This “Motor Trend” quote best summarizes the closing hours of the race:

“As testimony to its incredible durability and superb engineering, the C8.R really came alive on Sunday morning and, one by one, Nicky began reeling in the opposition. Aided by a series of perfect pit stops, he got back on the lead lap and ultimately fought his way to the front. Any hope for the other LMGTE Am cars vanished in the race's final hours when it became evident that, compared with Corvette, they would have to make one more stop for fuel. . . . only nine of the twenty-one entries were still in the battle to see the checkered flag on Sunday afternoon. Corvette Racing saw it first because the entire team worked together to deliver the program's ninth win at Le Mans. In the race's centenary year, it was both the first and last Le Mans win for the C8.R, because this is the final year for the LMGTE class. Starting in 2024, the all-new Corvette Z06 GT3.R will take up the gauntlet in the quest for glory at Le Mans and around the world.”


Months later, while at the Monterey Classic weekend, we saw the winning Corvette on display in all it's greasy glory.

6 Hours of Monza:

In 2022, Corvette Racing won the Monza event with Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy driving, the first ever Corvette victory in WEC. 2023 would be different, but still in a good way.

Due to the early WEC victories, and the stunning win at Le Mans, the Corvette continued to be saddled with additional weight – the heaviest in the class. The C8.R only qualified sixth, but finished 4th. The 51 points earned at Le Mans, plus the 12 points for the 4th place finish at Monza, gave the Corvette an insurmountable 145 point total – nearly 80 points more than its closest competitor (the Iron Dames Team driving a Porsche). Corvette Racing clinched the GTE Am Drivers and Teams titles to wrap up the program’s first title in WEC competition in just its second year.

6 Hours of Fuji:

With the season’s championship firmly in hand, Corvette Racing returned to the GTE Am podium for the 5th time in six races in Japan with a 2nd place finish in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s Six Hours of Fuji. Drivers Nicky Catsburg, Ben Keating and Nico Varrone continued their historic run in the penultimate contest.

8 hours of Bahrain:

By the time the Corvette arrived in Bahrain, the “success” handicap was extreme – the weight penalty was: 15 kilograms for leading the championship and 10 kilograms for finishing second in the previous race at Fuji on top of 10 extra kilograms added to the car’s minimum weight ahead of the Monza round for a total of 35 kilograms – plus a two-liter decrease in fuel capacity and a 0.6mm restrictor adjustment to limit engine power. I’m surprised that they let them keep the transmission in the car!

A 7th place finish was the best the Corvette could muster, but the season finale was a coronation of the C8.R as a world-class racecar – a fitting finish to its final season in GTE Am.

As the schedule below shows, the C8.R’s performance completely dominated the field from start to finish. No other team had more than one 1st place finish. With five podiums in seven races for Corvette, no other team would have more than two podiums.

We have now reached a transition point for the Corvette brand in WEC. The Corvette Z06 GT3.R will be part of the WEC grid in 2024 in the hands of TF Sport for the LM GT3 category.


Readers of this blog are very familiar with IMSA racing. We have followed the ALMS and IMSA competition since 2012 – when this blog began. We have attended races at: Daytona, Le Mans, Long Beach, Monterey, Road America, Sebring, and Watkins Glen. The C7.R was dominant in IMSA from 2014 to 2019 year as shown in this blog post:

 The C7.R Legacy in IMSA Racing

How would the C8.R mid-engine format compare to the legacy of the C7.R?

The C8.R began racing in IMSA competition in 2020. In that year, the No. 3 Corvette finished in 1st place in the seven-car field, with a winning margin of 33 points over the second place BMW. The No. 4 Corvette finished in 3rd place for the season.

In 2021, the C8.R continued its winning ways over the six-car field with the No. 3 Corvette finishing in 1st place, and the No. 4 Corvette in 2nd place.

In 2022 IMSA changed the rules for entrants to promote the use of the GT3 format. Corvette Racing decided to split the two-car team, sending one Corvette to the WEC competition (as described above) while retaining the other Corvette for the GTD-Pro class of IMSA. The competition improved significantly as the new format attracted 14 different teams fielding competition from Aston Martin, BMW, Ferrari, Lexus, Mercedes, and Porsche.

The 2022 ten-event IMSA season was a disappointment. In the first race, the 24 Hours of Daytona, which we attended, the C8.R had no pace and finished a dismal 6th place in a fourteen-car field. A rebound to 1st place at Sebring raised our spirits, followed by a close race in Long Beach (which we also attended) with a 3rd place finish (the victory was sabotaged by the famous “flying wheel nut” fiasco!). We attended the next race in Monterey – a 4th place finish. Despite five podium finishes, Corvette finished the season 3rd behind Porsche and Lexus.

Similar to WEC, 2023 was the final year of the GTD-Pro class, which will be phased out in 2024 in favor of the GT3 classification. We hoped to improve on the prior year results.

The eleven races in the 2023 season attracted eleven different teams fielding competition from Aston Martin BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Lexus, Mercedes, and Porsche. The Corvette drivers were the same trio as in 2022 – Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor, and for the endurance races, Tommy Milner.


At the 24 hours of Daytona, Antonio qualified the C8.R fourth in GTD Pro. Through the first eight hours, he moved up to second place, turned the car over to Jordan Taylor who took the lead. After 10 hours, a flat tire and damaged brakes dropped the Corvette two laps behind the class leaders. Excellent driving, good work by the pit crew, and favorable full-course yellow period got the Corvette back on the lead lap, in third place in class, by the 16-hour mark. By the end of the 24 hours Corvette finished in 2nd place. A good start to the season.


The next round was the 12 hours of Sebring in which eight cars from eight manufacturers competed. Antonio qualified on the pole to start the race, and the trio of drivers led for many laps despite a rear damper repair. With about 50 minutes to go in the race, Antonio was hit from behind and forced off the track, resulting in a disappointing 5th place finish.

Long Beach:

The IMSA program moved to the west coast for the next two races, the first at Long Beach, an event that the Corvette Team has won more than any other team. Don, Shirley, Nan, and I were in attendance. Antonio only qualified in 4th place because other cars spun in front of him on the narrow track, limiting his ability to go all-out during qualifying. Despite the challenges of the narrow track, the Team finished in 2nd place in the 100 minute race.


The IMSA competitors drove up the California coast to Laguna Seca for the next race, and Nan and I went along too. This was the25th straight year that Corvettes have raced in Monterey. In addition, Antonio became the first driver in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to make 100 starts. Despite qualifying 5th, Antonio and Jordan worked their way to 1st place. The Ason Martin had a quicker pit stop (needing less fuel and no tires), and while running 2nd, under a yellow caution period, the Aston Martin passed the safety car, and Antonio followed him. Unfortunately, that was a really stupid mistake, and they both were given a penalty which cost both Antonio and the Aston Martin the lead. The result was a 4th place finish for Corvette.

Watkins Glen:

Watkins Glen was the next event, with a 6th place qualifying result. Again, determined driving and great pit work put the Corvette in 3rd place. Unfortunately for the Corvette squad, IMSA officials penalized the No. 3 team after the No. 23 Aston Martin drove through the Corvette’s pit box and hit a tire that clearly was inside the C8.R’s pit space. The Corvette team provided the officials with evidence that its tire was within the pit box boundary, but the penalty stood. Another penalty for a faulty tire pressure sensor was assessed, but Jordan and Antonio were able to finish 3rd – their third podium in five races.


Canadian Tire Motorsport Park was the venue for the sixth race. The Corvette qualified 4th, but was able to secure its first 1st place victory. After the first 33 minutes, Jordan pitted for fuel, tires, and a driver change. Antonio exited the pits in 3rd place, but was unable to make any advances on the cars ahead. Then good fortune arrived with 70 minutes left to go when the first and second place cars exited the track after negotiating the first turn. Antonio took the lead and finished in 1st place for the first time in the season.

Lime Rock:

Next up was Lime Rock Park – a short race on a narrow track in Connecticut. Antonio qualified 3rd. The race began and continued with the Aston Matin in the lead, followed by the Lexus, and then the Corvette. With a fuel advantage, the Corvette Team was counting on their ability to take the lead and win the race at the last pit stop. Unfortunately, with 72 minutes remaining in the race, the C8.R stalled while leaving the pit box and Jordan lost almost 10 seconds when the car wouldn't go back into gear. When he got back on the track, Jordan was a distant 4th in class and that’s where he finished.

Road America:

Road America (Wisconsin) is our favorite racetrack – we have been there twice. The Corvette qualified 3rd, and led the race at times during the 2 hour 40 minute race. Antonio was in the lead with 24 minutes to go, when the IMSA sanctioning body assessed a penalty for not meeting the minimum refueling time. The penalty cost Corvette the win, and they ended in 3rd place – the 5th podium in eight races.


It was a hot weekend at Virginia International Raceway in August when Antonio qualified 3rd in class. Antonio quickly moved to 2nd place, behind the season-leading Lexus, and it was a two- car race most of the rest of the way. An excellent pit stop, with 57 minutes to go, propelled Jordan ahead of the Lexus, and the race ended with the Corvette in 1st place – the second 1st place finish for the season, putting them in 2nd place in the point standings for the season. With two races to go, it would be the last podium for the Team.



2023 was the first year that the C8.R would race at the famed Indianapolis track. Jordan qualified in 5th place. The car had no pace throughout the race and finished where it started – 5th place. Despite that disappointing result, Corvette held a slim margin in 2nd place points for the season finale.

Petit Le Mans:

It was a damp day in Georgia when Antonio qualified the Corvette in 2nd place at Petit Le Mans track at Road Atlanta. As the 10-hour race began, the Corvette quickly moved to the lead, and lead the race for 89 of the first 187 laps. While in 1st place, Jordan handed the car to Tommy Milner. Then, with five hours left, an unknown engine problem took the Corvette out of contention, ending the late charge to win the season. The 7th place finish pushed the season point total to a 3rd place finish.




The 2023 results for the C8.R were stunning with runaway successes in both WEC and Le Mans. The IMSA results were not quite as good, but the C8.R was very competitive. Three penalties, one undeserved, cost the Corvette three victories that would have propelled them to first place.

My recommendations, in addition to eliminating the penalties, are to install a really big rear bumper (since being rear-ended twice cost two more victories) and to figure out what the heck is wrong with the dampers and to replace them with better parts!

The 2023 events brought a close the Corvette factory racing era. Since its launch in 1999, the Michigan-based factory team operated by Pratt Miller compiled an incredible record, winning 16 championships, nine victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 127 worldwide race wins.

We were glad to be big Corvette Racing fans for 12 of those years!

Let's see how the new Z06-GT3.R performs!?  On Sunday, January 28, 2024 we will see how the 2024 season begins!


Sunday, December 31, 2023

Nan's Z06

Regular readers of this blog are aware that in October 2023 Nan received her 2024 mid-engine C8 Corvette Stingray.


Nan's C8 Mid-Engine Corvette Stingray 

After receiving the car, she asked for her various deposits, which had been placed with Chevy dealerships, to be returned, with one exception . . .she decided to let her deposit "ride" for the Z06 that had been placed two years ago with MacMulkin Chevrolet in Nashua, New Hampshire (the largest Corvette dealership in the World).

Her thinking was that, since the waiting list was still two to three years into the future, she could stay on their list, and when her slot for a Z06 came to the top of the list, she could decide what she wanted to do.

And she still had her Z06 license plate ready to press into service at the appropriate time.

We were at peace with that decision and thought that we were through buying 2024 Corvettes for now.

On November 8th at 02:13 PM, while shopping at the Dollar Store for Thanksgiving supplies, Nan received an email on her phone from Mark Makarewicz of MacMulkin:

**URGENT** MacMulkin Corvette available Z06

To those of you receiving this email, there is a very rare opportunity currently for our customers that are in California. We have a customer that unfortunately could not complete their purchase of their Z06. This car is currently in CA at a courtesy dealer we work with very frequently (Delillo Chevrolet) They are in Huntington Beach.

This car will not last long!!! If you are interested in moving forward on this car please call or text my personal cell to confirm availability

Then Nan made a big mistake -- she forwarded the message (and the attached window sticker for the car) to me.

By 05:15 PM we were at Delillo Chevrolet to see the car. 

The next day we drove it home.

Now Nan has two 2024 Corvettes.

And guess what she did with her license plate?

Maybe, if I'm good, she will let me drive it?

Finally,  after two years, accolades for the Corvette Z06 continue to pour in.  Below are two recent magazines featuring the Z06 -- the April 2023 Motor Trend announcing that the Z06 was their performance vehicle of the year, and the January CORVETTE magazine containing an article describing the experience driving the Z06 on the track at the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School.