News that the next-generation (C8) Corvette is going to have an engine-mounted behind the driver isn’t anything new. GM hasn’t made any official statements to either confirm or deny the long-standing rumors, but it’s pretty much the industry’s worst kept secret. Despite that, GM is still going to great lengths to keep it a secret — except for the fact that it’s putting in valuable test miles with the engine on national television. And if you caught any of last weekend’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, you saw it absolutely dominate the competition in the back of the DPi Cadillac race cars.
It needs to be said that this is speculation, but it’s well within realm of possibility. Here’s why.
It wouldn’t be entirely unheard of for a car manufacturer to use countless, punishing racing miles to learn, build and reinforce an engine or technology that is intended to eventually see duty in a mass-produced passenger car. The most recent and most high-profile example of this practice is the 2017 Ford GT. Ford used the last generation Daytona prototype cars they were racing at Daytona and in the IMSA championship, up until 2017, to fine tune the Ford GT’s turbo V6 engine. That R&D wasn’t only for racing at Le Mans but was also meant to build up long-term endurance and reliability for the now legendary supercar. GM, it seems, is taking a page out of Ford’s book and doing the same for the Corvette, only using the Cadillac DPi — currently the only mid-engined vehicle GM officially has a name on — as the host.
Here’s where I connect the dots, True Detective-style. The best clues are engineering details. The mill in the back of the Cadillac DPi is based on the engine internally code-named LT4, (the same 6.2-liter V8 you can find in the Cadillac CTS-V sport sedan and Escalade). In this year’s DPi race car, however, the engine is shrunk to 5.5-liter V8 form, which was achieved by de-stroking the engine (done to increase efficiency and manage power output). Otherwise, it’s mechanically identical to last year’s 6.2-liter V8.
Late last year, 3D computer models of an LT1 engine (the current Corvette engine) built for a mid-engine setup leaked and were inadvertently confirmed by GM to be official CAD designs. On the surface, there isn’t much to tell apart the LT1 from the LT4 engine. What you can’t actually see, per se, is larger compression ratio and ‘hotter cams‘ in the LT4, which give it a higher redline. That means what looks like the current Corvette’s LT1 in the leaked images may actually be an LT4 — the engine Cadillac races today.
Speaking after this year’s 24-hour race, Product Marketing Manager of V-Series and Cadillac Racing, Matt Russell, could only confirm “the supposition that we would test on the track and then translate what we learn to the street is alive and well.” But when pressed about any mid-engine road cars coming from GM, Russell gave the industry-standard stonewall comment: he couldn’t speculate on GM’s broader plans and future products.
As for testing the engine in the back of the Cadillac DPi endurance racers, over the course of the 24 Hours of Daytona the four cars running Cadillac engines racked up a total of 8722.42 high-stress test miles. Now GM will take all of that data, figure out what needs reinforcing and how better to cool the engine. That’ll be necessary because if the leaked CAD images are to be believed, at least one trim level of the next Corvette will be turbocharged. And turbos necessitate incredible amounts of cooling.
Better still, the engines in race trim are restricted to 600 horsepower to stay in accordance with IMSA rules. And since the 2019 Corvette ZR1 currently manages 755 horsepower at the rear wheels, there’s no doubt GM will coax out a few more ponies with the added balance of the mid-engine architecture.
The only possible disappointment from this uncertain certainty, if you will, is that Cadillac is putting in all the leg work for the Corvette and getting stiffed on the highbrow supercar it deserves. A 700-plus horsepower mid-engined American supercar with the interior of a CTS-V rather than a low-rent Corvette would be Ferrari-baiting. But until it’s made official either this year or next, there’s no way to be absolutely certain about all the connected dots on my C8 Corvette Crazy Wall, so I’ll just go empty my mason jars, shave my beard and get back to work.