With three different cars across two series, General Motors is a key part of IMSA racing. Cadillac has the bulk of entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class, with cars in the hands of three teams and holds the top two spots in the drivers and team championships; Corvette Racing is a staple of the GT category, currently leading in GTD Pro; and there is a Camaro GT4 competing in the GS class of IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Rebel Rock Racing. But as GM works on winning championships with its current cars, it’s preparing for the LMDh and GT3 future.
RACER sat down with Laura Klauser, GM’s sports car racing program manager, to talk about what’s coming and how its future competition cars are progressing.
Q: What would you say is the current overall philosophy of GM’s current sports car racing efforts?
LAURA KLAUSER: When it comes to racing in general, especially in sports cars, there are two main things. One is exposure, showing the world what incredible products we have. And even in the case of LMDh, or the current DPi, OK, you can’t go to a Cadillac showroom and buy a DPI car to drive on the street. You wouldn’t want to — the potholes would kill you in Michigan. But the essence of Cadillac and the design flair and just the fact that we’re there racing is really eye-opening to a lot of people, and it attracts them into our dealerships to check out our production V product so they can see, ‘Hey, I can’t get the DPi, but I can get this V Blackwing.’ So that’s really important to us to have that awareness.
It’s also the technology transfer. And it’s not one-for-one like maybe it was in the past, where the car that was on the racetrack was identical to what you were buying. But it’s all of the tools that we use to get ready for racing on the weekends: our simulation work, our static work that we do in the design, understanding the wind tunnel and the aero and what affects what. All that gets fed right back into production. The cool thing is, as GM is transitioning to our electric future, things like understanding tires and how that works, modeling all of that, that’s critical for electric as you look at battery usage. Any way you can be mass efficient, aero efficient, all of that feeds right into electric. So even though the propulsion units are a little bit different, we still have that opportunity.
Racing is helping us grow our production side and making us smarter so that those cars that come out are even better. So it’s that nice package that we have of letting the world know how cool we are from the racing and then also taking all of that learning from racing and making our production cars even better.
Q: What can you tell us about the development of the Cadillac LMDh car that will run in IMSA’s GTP class in 2023?
LK: We’re full throttle, getting the design and development done and we are excited to start testing here in likely in Q2. We’re going to get a car on the ground and start collecting miles. We’re doing a lot of testing on dynos and things along that line to make sure that when we get the car on the ground, it’s ready to roll. So it’s a lot of running around with hair on fire, but we are all running in the same direction. And I’m very pleased with how well the team has quickly ramped up and we’re getting this car put together and ready.
The great thing about the LMDh program so far is, since we have that common spec hybrid system across all the cars, the OEMs are working together. We meet regularly, we’re discussing with the sanctioning body, because at the end of the day, all of us want that system to be successful, and then the rest of the car we’ll take care of on our side. So it’s been a lot of collaboration and I think that that’s going to translate into some really great racing that’s going to happen in ’23.
Q: Corvette Racing is currently competing with a car modified from its GTE/GTLM platform while it develops a true Corvette GT3 car for 2024. Knowing that the GTLM category was going away for this season, what’s the reasoning behind the timeline for GT3 development? Was it simply that resources were being directed toward the LMDh program?
LK: A lot of those things weighed in, but the key reason, that didn’t matter whether we had an LMDh program, was this is our strongest go at a proper customer GT racing program and we wanted to make sure that we took the time to do it right. We did not want to rush the car design and have something that was challenging for people to work with. We also wanted to make sure the car’s affordable — all of those things that are critical for the GT3 platform, we wanted to get right. And then part of that was testing. We’re going to be doing all the design — I think we just finished up our last scale wind tunnel tests, so we’re moving along. But when the car hits the ground here in September, we have a very rigorous test schedule.
The idea is to figure out, where are the weak spots? How can we improve it before we homologate it? So when it’s done and homologated, it’s done — it’s ready to go into a customer’s hands, to allow them to take it and race it and be comfortable with it. We wanted to make sure that they could have a vehicle that they were confident behind. That was critical to us, because we know we can’t fail. We have a lot of eyes on us. We’re doing something different with Corvette than we’ve done from the beginning and it’s important to get this one right.
Q: So with a true customer racing program, does Corvette Racing as a factory team continue to exist?
LK: We’re still working through that, so I don’t have a final answer for you. But I can kind of walk through where we’re at in terms of the thinking and understanding. First start off with understanding the class structure, and the ability to have a… we’ll call it a factory-backed program in GT. So, understanding what the options are out there, and where would be a good fit. But there’s a lot of really good reasons to have that team, especially at the beginning of the program. A lot of it is being able to have the car in our hands, racing it, you’re getting the best learnings there and passing those learnings on to our customers.
So the intent for having a factory-backed team would be to be at the tracks that our customers are going to, to, work with the car to say, ‘OK, if you do this setup, you will get a huge advantage in the Corkscrew at Laguna,’ vs. ‘Here’s a general idea on how to use the different aero settings for the car’ and this and that. Our thought was that it would be an advantage for a customer coming behind where they can get the playbook that the Corvette Racing factory team is using. So there’s a lot of benefit there and that’s one of the reasons that we like the idea of having it, but we need to work through understanding where the right fit is and how we can make sure that it is a great asset to the program and to our customers.
Q: What’s the status of the Camaro GT4 program?
LK: The homologation is good through the end of ’23, and then our plan at this point is to not renew it. The reason being is we want to put our full attention on our ’24 GT3 program with Corvette. We want to give that all the love that it needs to be successful. So we have a team racing the Camaro in [Michelin Pilot Challenge] right now — Rebel Rock — and we are doing what we can in the background to help them continue on if they want to race it through the end of next year. But one of the things that Camaro program has done for us is it has been a great opportunity for lessons learned for customer racing.
I would not say that GM got an A for how we did the Camaro program from a support perspective. We don’t have a parts truck and we’re lacking in some of that kind of stuff. But understanding how a team would take a car and work with it and some of their pain points, you know, all of that is helping us make sure that GT3 program is successful so that we don’t inflict those same pain points on the customers. And we plan to have a parts truck at the races to support these teams with all these things that we’ve realized are super critical. So from that, it was a success that we can learn from. The teams that run the car right now, we really appreciate the relationship we have with them and the great job they’re doing. It’s always exciting to watch the Camaro run and that class is fun to watch.