Dan Scanlan reports from Daytona on the Special Edition Grand Sports that honor Corvette Racing’s four full-time drivers: Antonio Garcia, Oliver Gavin, Jan Magnussen and Tommy Milner.
Chevrolet Racing had a winning way with its Corvette C6.R racecar with Ron Fellows at the wheel. Based on the Corvette Z06 and its 7-liter LS7 V-8, the C6.R won 39 GT1 races in ALMS, including 12 consecutive wins from 2005-06, and 25 more from 2007 to 2009.
It was so good that Chevrolet made history by creating the limited-to-399 white-and-red Chevrolet Ron Fellows ALMS GT1 Champion Corvette Z06, below, in 2007. It got chrome wheels, a low-profile rear spoiler, and Arctic White paint with red-and-silver stripes on the front fenders, evoking the Corvette GT1s that Fellows navigated to victory. Add Ron’s autograph on a fender stripe, and for $77,500 you could get one with the Z06 7-liter, 505-horsepower engine.
It was a cold and windy Saturday only a few weeks ago when Chevrolet made history again. For only the second time, a pair of Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs competed in this year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona against Porsches, BMWs, Lexuses, Ferraris, Ford GTs and rain. At the same time, four special Grand Sport models were shown to thousands of race fans at the Chevrolet Media Center behind Daytona’s pits.Under cloudy skies, four Drivers Series Special Edition Corvette Grand Sports, designed by factory drivers Antonio Garcia, Oliver Gavin, Jan Magnussen and Tommy Milner were showcased against the backdrop of serious racing. Thank Chevrolet exterior design manager Kirk Bennion, a racing fan there watching his team cars compete at the Rolex 24, for the four, according to Corvette Marketing Manager Todd Christensen.
“He thought, boy what a perfect opportunity to engage our championship winning drivers with our Corvette design themes,” Christensen said. “Corvette is sort of the epitome of track to street, and everything we do in racing has an influence on our street cars. And since we were just clean off a three-peat for team championship, they thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do one for each of the drivers?’ So it’s just having a little bit of fun bringing some of the drivers’ personality in.”
First, some numbers. Chevrolet sold 18,791 Corvettes in 2018. That’s 25.079 percent of the luxury sports car segment, beating the Porsche 911 (7.5 percent/9,647 sold), the company says. The Grand Sport was 26 percent of Corvette sales: 6,402 Coupe and 1,139 convertibles. And, the favorite color was Arctic White at 19 percent.
Lined up infield were the No. 001s of the four Drivers Series cars, specific exterior color and unique graphics inspired by each driver, Christensen said. Nothing exotic was done to the Grand Sports, just raiding the “parts bin,” he said.
“So what are the current options, colors and features?,” he said. “Luckily Corvette has a lot of combinations and are very customizable and Kirk (Bennion) had some ideas. Well versed in Corvettes, the drivers gave designers input at race tracks last year, plus at the race shop and during conference calls”, Christensen said. The results were dramatic, even under cloudy skies.
Gavin’s Edition is Shadow Gray with Torch Red center vent stripe and fender hash marks, Carbon Flash mirrors, black wheels with red stripes, red brake calipers and Adrenaline Red interior with red seat belts. It looks a bit like Oliver Gavin’s well-known racing helmet, which is dark blue with a bright stripe down the center.
“That’s where they started the theme – get close to his helmet that he’s used for his whole career, and a pretty iconic design,” Christensen said. “It’s tying it all in, the dark gray color that has a blue tint so it’s close to his helmet. The red stripe down the center, relates to GS heritage stripes. The unique wheels with red stripe and red calipers and red interior round out the theme.”Magnussen went old school with the Fellows-style Arctic White with Crystal Red stripes and gray fender hash marks, body-color mirrors, black wheels with red stripe and red brake calipers and a Jet Black interior with red seat belts. There’s red stitching on 3LT trim. Racecar yellow graces the Garcia Edition, with a Jake stinger stripe, red hash marks, Carbon Flash mirrors, black wheels with red stripe and red brake calipers. It’s all black inside with yellow stitching on 3LT trim. Jan Magnussen, below, letting the crowd know about the C7.R racecar.
And Milner’s is Elkhart Lake Blue with silver stripes and red hash marks, body-color mirrors, black wheels with red stripe and red brake calipers. Jet Black Suede interior (leather seats on 1LT) with red seat belts are inside. Antonio Garcia’s Special Edition Grand Sport, below.
Collectors love numbered editions, so a driver-specific plaque is just ahead of the gear shift. “Each one has the driver’s name and they are individually numbered, so as we build these cars, each series will have a sequence of numbers,” Christensen said “These are all No. 01 of each series. We decided not to limit it. We will see what happens.”
Chevrolet didn’t go big with festivities introducing the cars. They just parked them at its media center at Daytona a few days before the Rolex 24, then did an official event a day before the race and a brief news release. But a few folks saw them early and blogged about their significance, so the four were swarmed all race weekend-long.
The Grand Sports have wide fenders and rear quarter panels to handle the 19-inch front and 20-inch rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport run-flat summer-only tires, plus functional brake ducts and enhanced cooling package and 14.6-inch front/14.4-inch rear Brembo brakes. Six-piston calipers live in front, and four-piston in back. The cars have Magnetic Ride Control, specific stabilizer bars and unique springs, plus electronic limited-slip differential and five-position Driver Mode Selector. An optional Z07 package adds larger carbon ceramic-matrix brake rotors and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 summer-only tires.
Powered by an aluminum dry-sump, 460-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8, the 0 to 60-mph sprint takes just 3.6 seconds with a 7-speed manual or 8-speed paddle shifter automatic. There’s also active exhaust and 5-position Drive Mode Selector to fine-tune steering feel, suspension damping, and throttle response. The leather bucket seats face a hide-covered dashboard with familiar wrap-around gauge package with carbon fiber accents. The flat-bottomed steering wheel carries familiar GM controls, while the HVAC and audio controls were familiar too.
Base price of a ‘19 Grand Sport 1LT is $65,900, while the 2LT starts at $70,355 and the 3LT is $75,645. The Drivers Series Package adds $5,000 to the price of a 1LT or 2LT Grand Sport, and $6,000 to the price of a 3LT. Production begins now. As for whether this is the last special edition C7 Corvette before the next generation, long-awaited mid-engine C8 comes out, Christensen said he “can neither confirm nor deny” with a smile.
The Corvette drivers who customized these cars didn’t fare too well at Daytona. The No. 3 C7.R led the team’s effort with a sixth-place class finish, and the No. 4 finished 8th in class. But Sebring is coming soon. And Corvette Racing has won 99 races in IMSA competition since 1999, the most of any professional sports car racing team based in North America.