Corvette Corner: Corvette Racing Heads to China with First Entry in WEC Six Hours of Shanghai

A single Corvette Racing C7.R is entered in the World Endurance Championship’s (WEC) Six Hours of Shanghai on November 16-18. The C7.R, piloted by regular Corvette Racing drivers Oliver Gavin and Tommie Milner, will carry their usual number 64, but will be painted a striking silver with red and black design elements to promote Chevrolet’s new Redline Special Edition vehicles in China. The Shanghai International Circuit is only Corvettes Racing’s second racing venue outside of North America in its twenty years of competition. Is this Corvette Racing’s first step toward regular competition in the World Endurance Championship?

Corvette Racing Travels to China

Although the names and faces of the Corvette Racing contingent at the upcoming Six Hours of Shanghai will be familiar, you may not recognize their car. Sure, the number will be 64 as at Le Mans, but the Corvette will be silver, not the traditional yellow. The striking silver livery will have red and black design elements, hallmarks of Chevrolet’s new series of Redline Special Edition vehicles on sale in China. According to Alan Batey, GM executive vice president and president of GM North America and Global Chevrolet, the Redline vehicles will, “…project a younger, sportier image to meet the changing demands of Chinese consumers.”

Over the next year, Chevrolet will introduce Redline vehicles across its lineup, including car, truck, and SUV market segments, all of which will have black wheels, and feature distinct red hash marks, black nameplates with a red outline, blacked-out grilles and black Chevrolet bowtie logos. Ollie Gavin, for one, is happy with the change in Corvette colors. “I’ve driven three generations of Corvettes—C5-R, C6.R, and C7.R—all in yellow. To see it now in the Redline livery is fantastic! It’s cool, it’s new, and it’s sharp. The crowd in Shanghai certainly will be taken aback by seeing a Corvette in the Redline livery.”

Corvettes Racing in the World Endurance Championship

Shanghai will be Corvette Racing’s second appearance in the WEC—the first experience being in 2014 at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) when the American round of the WEC was held on the same weekend as IMSA’s Lone Star Le Mans Race. A third Corvette was entered in the WEC and driven by Tommie Milner, Jordan Taylor and Rickie Taylor to a seventh-place finish in the GTE Pro class.

When Corvette Racing’s drivers head out for the first practice at the 16-turn, 5.451 kilometer (3.387 mile), Herman Tilke-designed Shanghai International Circuit on November 16, they will see cars that look familiar from their trips to Le Mans. This year’s LMGTE Pro class, in which Corvette competes, will have eleven entries including two Ford GTs, two BMW M8s, two Porsche 911 RSRs, two Ferrari 488s, and two Aston Martin Vantage AMRs, all Le Mans veterans.

Gavin and Milner are at somewhat of a disadvantage in that neither has any racing experience at the Shanghai track, although Ollie has done some testing for other teams, and both will have a steep learning curve in the available practice time. The circuit has two long straights connected by much slower twisty bits which, from other reports, can cause serious tire wear issues if the drivers don’t make a conscious effort to conserve their tires. The track record for the LMGTE Pro class is 1 minute and 59.578 seconds set by Michael Christensen in a Porsche 911 RSR last year. Even if Corvette Racing accomplishes the unlikely result of winning right out of the box, they would not be the first Corvette to win here. That feat belongs to the French team Larbre Competition, who won the LMGTE Am class in a Corvette at Shanghai in 2012.

Is Shanghai a Preview of Things to Come?

Everyone at Corvette Racing is looking forward to Shanghai. The team has overcome every obstacle they’ve encountered by never losing focus on their objectives and is generally considered to be, from top to bottom, one of the best teams in racing today. In their twenty-year history, Corvette Racing has scored 107 global victories, including eight Le Mans class wins, and won 13 IMSA Team Championships along with 12 Manufacturer and Driver titles. The team has completed more than 280,000 racing miles in 20 years. Corvette Racing’s success over time may be unparalleled in motorsports.

But the fact remains that Corvette Racing has raced almost entirely in North America, venturing outside their comfort zone only once a year to go to Le Mans. Is their appearance in Shanghai and their rumored WEC entry in the One Thousand Miles of Sebring this coming March tentative steps onto the world endurance stage? Only time will tell. One thing for sure is that the team has never backed down from a challenge and they are not likely to slink away from the challenge of success in the WEC.

What does Shanghai mean to the drivers? Ollie Gavin thinks, “It’s fantastic to go to Shanghai and compete in the World Endurance Championship. We know it’s tight, it’s tough, and very competitive. We are going there to be competitive, to run up front and to go for victory. Whenever Corvette Racing goes anywhere, it’s to win.”

Tommie Milner says, “We’re excited to challenge ourselves in the World Endurance Championship. Usually it’s at Le Mans, but to do it at a place like Shanghai in more of a sprint format will be a lot of fun. It will be a big challenge – just like it is here in the U.S. Everyone in the FIA WEC is on top of their game.”

After 20 years, Corvette Racing has one more step left up the ladder—success on the world stage. We think the drivers’ attitudes above speak for the whole team and as avid Corvette Racing fans, we say, “Bring it on!”

Mark your calendars for the weekend of November 16 – 18, when Corvette Racing steps into the world endurance competition arena. To get you revved up in the meantime, our video will take you on a lap around the visually striking Shanghai International Circuit in a Toyota LMP 1 prototype narrated by three-time Le Mans winner Allan McNish.


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