Virginia International Raceway VIR is a beautiful facility just over the northern North Carolina border in the very south of Virginia. Originally opened in 1957, the track was carved from the natural rolling terrain by men with bulldozers. The track fell on hard times and closed in 1974 before its resurrection as a country club for gear heads that re-opened in 2000 after it was rescued by two New York property developers in 1998.
The original layout of the track remains although it has been widened for all the faster cars of the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship, to fully utilize the flowing and undulating 3.27-mile course.
Corvette Racing has been playing catch-up since Le Mans as they have had to rebuild the #63 car, chassis C7R-003, that was written off in Jan Magnussen’s qualifying crash. In parallel, they had to prepare the Larbre Competition Corvette C7R, chassis C7R-002, for the two races at Watkins Glen and Mosport. Next, they had to freshen the C7R-002 chassis to send it back to Larbre for their next race in the FIA WEC series at the Nürburgring next weekend.
Corvette Racing has also been building two new chassis to get ready for the 2016 season, as new FIA WEC rules mandate that all cars must have a roof hatch that allows Emergency Medical Services to insert a back board behind the driver in the seat should there be a need. This has meant a complete re-design of the C7R integrated rollcage for the cars as well as other technical changes to meet the new rules.
With all of this happening over the last two months Corvette Racing has not had time to test with the new Michelin tires, hence they are still behind the eight ball when it comes to set up compared with the other GTLM Michelin front runners. Hopefully between now and the next round at Circuit of the Americas they will get the time to test, but that won’t fix the other performance dis-advantages Corvette Racing is still suffering from at the hands of the IMSA Adjustments of Performance. We fully expect IMSA to slow the Porsches (and possibly Ferrari) down again before the final two races, otherwise there is little or no point for Corvette or BMW bothering to race as they know exactly where they will finish relative to the Porsches and Ferrari.
Balance Of Power
Michelin has produced what is called a One Stint Tire which all the cars–except the Falken Tires #17 Porsche which is leaving the series at the end of 2015–are now using. Corvette Racing is struggling to get the tire to work as well as the other teams which is part of the problem, the rest of it being Balance Of Power (BOP) adjustments during the season. The latest “adjustment” being IMSA deciding to give Corvette Racing a smaller fuel flow restrictor before the VIR race, meaning that fueling the Corvettes would be even slower than it has been previously at the pit stops during the race.
Then it transpired that the person who told Corvette Racing to use the smaller restrictor actually didn’t have the authority from IMSA to do this, and on the morning of the race IMSA told Corvette Racing they could revert back to the bigger restrictor. However, the team didn’t have time to rebuild the fuel rigs on pit lane bearing in mind the rigs were full of fuel and the pits where being used for lots of other race series, so the team had to use the smaller fuel flow restrictors. Thanks IMSA.
Saturday Qualifying finished with the #911 Porsche on pole ahead of the #912, both Porsches were more than one half-second faster than the rest of the field and over one second faster than the Corvettes which qualified 6th and 7th.
Sunday, race day, and the #4 Corvette showed some surprising pace in the warm-up finishing third behind the Porsches but only a 0.10-second faster than their qualifying time. The race started just after 1 p.m. and the #911 Porsche disappeared off into the distance, never to be headed except during the pit stop cycles. The #62 Ferrari and the #912 Porsche had a good battle throughout the race which the #912 won to take second and the #62 Ferrari took the final step on the podium.
The Corvettes battled hard with the two BMWs for the fourth through seventh places, and for all but the final lap the #17 Falken Tires Porsche was in eighth place. The #4 Corvette stopped on the white flag lap for presumably a splash of fuel and finished eighth. The #3 took sixth having lost the fight to the two BMWs, who both tried hard to lose with a puncture for the #24 causing an extra pit stop and the #25 losing the rear bodywork–they hung on to finish fourth and fifth overall.
Many would argue that COTA was not kind to the Corvettes in 2014, and 2015 is looking to be no different. IMSA will need to actually balance the performance, as these limitations are beginning to seem a bit too subjective.