General Motors confirmed to The Drive today that its brand-new Chevrolet Corvette C8.R race car will not be going to this year’s rescheduled 24 Hours of Le Mans. Le Mans had been rescheduled from its traditional June date to Sept. 19-20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Corvette Racing has a long history of competing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, so our decision to not participate in this historic race this year was not an easy one,” Jim Campbell, General Motors U.S. Vice President of Performance and Motorsports told The Drive via email. “Several factors played into our decision, including current conditions and the rescheduled timing. We’re proud Corvette Racing has been invited to the 24 Hours of Le Mans over the past 20 years and regret that we won’t be participating this year. We hope we have the opportunity to race at Le Mans again.”
This year was supposed to be the debut of the first mid-engine Corvette to run at Le Mans. The famous endurance race was originally scheduled to run on June 13-14 this year.
The C8.R made its debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona this year, which was the only race it was able to do before the novel coronavirus forced the racing world into lockdown. The highest-placing C8.R drove to a respectable fourth-place finish, while its sister car had a lengthy oil leak that took them hours to repair. It was a respectable performance for a new race car, though, with problems that seemed fixable with further racing and development.
Campbell’s announcement comes as the world is still dealing with COVID-19, both as a viral threat as well as an economy-tanking force. Experts who spoke with the New York Times predict that the pandemic itself will drag into 2021 or 2022.
Meanwhile, most of General Motors’ manufacturing has been on hold over health concerns, although notably, the Corvette plant was one that kept running at a vastly reduced capacity. The U.S. unemployment rate is nearly 15%, which as the Washington Post notes, is the worst it’s been since the Great Depression. Even as GM and other companies resume building new cars, fewer consumers are in a position to buy them.
The optics of sending a race car to France right now wouldn’t be great, so we’ll see the C8.R race again when the world is ready. Some of its other planned races could be easier to make, including the IMSA races in North America that are still currently scheduled to resume at the end of June. That includes what would have been the C8.R’s next race, the 12 Hours of Sebring, which was rescheduled for November.
Corvette Racing is not the only North American team to pull out of the rescheduled Le Mans date. Porsche, who debuted a new 911 RSR for 2020, withdrew its two North American-based cars from the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans as well, Racer reports. Instead of a four-car onslaught, only the two full-season World Endurance Championship 911 RSRs will compete in Le Mans as a result.
Correction [12:24 p.m.]: A previous version of this post mentioned the 12 Hours of Sebring as IMSA’s next race, but their season calendar is set to restart with June’s 6 Hours of the Glen at the time of this writing.
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