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Car and Driver: The General’s Motorsports Skunkworks: Inside the GM Performance Racing Center


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-Basking in the warm glow of its remarkable success at the recent Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race (see the bottom of this post), GM flung open the doors of its new Performance Racing Center in Pontiac, Michigan, to provide a look at how the pros prepare for road-, drag-, oval-, and Indy-car racing. While this $200-million enterprise is still a work in progress, with the completion of construction still half a year off, 82 engineers and technicians are already building, developing, and tuning engines for upcoming races.


In essence, GM is consolidating its core engine expertise by relocating, expanding, and updating previous Wixom, Michigan, facilities to be an attached part of the global Powertrain engineering mother ship located 20 miles to the east in Pontiac.




The new digs have 50,000 square feet of performance and development labs and an additional 60,000 square feet of test and support space. The machine shop boasts nine new CNC centers and 21 additional tools to cut metal with utmost precision. Experts craft cylinder heads, test air flow, clean parts beyond medical standards, assemble engines, and prep them for testing on four dynamometers, some with 1000-horsepower, 12,000-rpm capacities. Other shops develop instruments and software for race-engine electronic controls and telematics.


Some peripheral work—electric motor design and development and gear machining studies—has also moved from Wixom to the Pontiac race center complex. That said, the real mission here is competing in Indy, NASCAR, NHRA, IMSA, and United Sports Car series, not to mention the 24-hour race at Le Mans. Corvette, Cadillac, and Camaro engines are developed, built, and tested in house for use by various teams. Ilmor Engineering collaborates with GM fielding IndyCar engines, while Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports collaborate on NASCAR and IMSA series projects.




GM bosses explain that these investments aren’t only aimed at having fun on weekends. There’s a proven transfer of technology from the track into better-performing production models. Engineers trained under motorsports pressure learn a decision-making process that serves them well throughout their careers in other parts of the company. Of course, racing success is the ultimate form of public relations and an excellent means of drawing fresh customers to the fold.


Last year, GM won six major racing championships and five drivers’ titles, more than any other manufacturer. Of course, success only inspires those who dream the future, allocate resources, and propose long-term goals to reach higher. Thanks to its new Performance Racing Center facilities, GM is armed and dangerous when it comes to competing in some of the toughest U.S. and European motorsports series.


Chevrolet’s Delightful Day at the 2016 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona


• Second overall (of 54 starters) by Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype, 26 seconds behind the winning Honda-powered Tequila Patron Ligier prototype.


• Corvette class victories in the DP and GTLM classes.


• Corvettes earned six of the first eight finish spots. The first Corvette C7.R finished seventh, 1 minute, 33 seconds behind overall winner.




Key race-car specs:


Daytona Prototype: mid-mounted 5.5-liter V-8 restricted to an estimated 565 horsepower with a minimum curb weight of 2290 pounds.


GTLM C7.R: front-mounted 5.5-liter V-8 restricted to an estimated 485 horsepower with a minimum curb weight of 2745 pounds.




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