At the tail end of the Corvette C8’s livestreamed reveal, Chevy rolled out some additional footage of a camouflaged C8 race car—almost definitely an upcoming C8.R. Between the newly teased Corvette C8.R and the newly revealed Porsche 911 RSR, mid-engine is the new black.
It’s probably time to re-check your perspective, though, because if Chevy can make a mid-engine ’Vette and Porsche dared to not make a rear-engined 911 (albeit a track-only version), mid-engine placement works.
Historically, production Corvettes and their track-exclusive counterparts built by Pratt and Miller Engineering are true kin. The C7 was co-developed with the C7.R, which shares Z06’s aluminum frame and direct injection tech. The C8.R won’t have much choice on which generation’s frame to use, we can safely guess, but Chevrolet has not yet revealed any technical details on the C8.R.
The mid-engined C8.R lends further credence to the argument that, initially, might have sounded placating—that Corvette engineers have maxed out the performance of the front-engine format. True, your C6 handles that two-hour odyssey to your lake house just fine—but try 24 hours jockeying with 62 cars at an average speed of 130 mph.
The beauty of endurance racing, technologically and aesthetically, is the diversity. There’s a rainbow of liveries and an alphabet of layouts, not only across the four classes that howl around Le Mans and the Nürburgring but within each class itself. Though FIA regulations have worked out a lot of kinks (throw back to mandatory luggage racks), some argue they’ve swung to the opposite pole by over-constraining the essential ingredients of good racing—weight, aero, tires, and innumerable pit stop logistical details.
Though some may fear creativity is over-constrained in the FIA WEC world, the layout changes could tell a different story, especially because you bet Corvette tweaked and bored and sprung every scrap of performance out of the C6.R and C7.R before the mid-engine move. Porsche engineers did the same—there are certainly easier improvements than rotating an engine.
Corvettes hit the sacred straights of Le Mans as far back as 1960, though the official Corvette Racing team wasn’t established until 1999. Among the many overlapping, head-spinning endurance series, Corvettes first established their dominance in North America with the American Le Mans Series, winning a series-best 10 team championships and 10 manufacturer titles from 1999 to 2013. To this day, Corvette Racing has racked up 8 wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, two at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, and nine at the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
And now, Porsche is coming for Corvette.
Porsche just secured its 108th class win in Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship’s Manufacturers' championship. Though Corvette Racing has focused its efforts in recent years on states-side series, Corvettes still go wheel-to-wheel with Porsches (factory- and privately-raced) across different series—for instance, in the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“To win all titles at the last race of the season and to witness three driver crews on the podium is an incredible story,” said Fritz Enzinger, Porsche Vice President of Porsche Motorsport, in a statement. “We’ve concluded the FIA WEC Super Season with the greatest possible success. Now we aim to secure more titles in the North American IMSA series.”
Cue an ominous drum roll.
The mid-engine move, at least for Corvette Racing, is much-needed.
It’s fascinating that rivals Corvette and Porsche will be wringing similar formats around the twistiest tracks of the world—five years ago, we’d probably never have guessed that. But the similarities will only heighten the critical differences between the teams, the engines, and the drivers, and that means better, purer racing.
Chevy’s small-block V-8 and Porsche’s water-cooled flat-six may have only the smallest of internal details left untweaked, but there’s not a chance of compromise between American small-blocks and Porsche water-cooled flat-sixes. When American and German engineering go head to head, you can be sure that both have complete faith in their inherited tech and creativity is still throwing sparks. No matter where the engine is, the fight will be a spectacle to savor.