Corvette Chat-C6 chief Dave Hill shares what he can with us at Le Mans. Corvette chief engineer Dave Hill says GM's recent Le Mans campaigns in the C5-R Corvette have aided in the development of the upcoming C6. By MATT DAVIS (16:10:36 July 15, 2003) Corvette chief engineer Dave Hill says GM's recent Le Mans campaigns in the C5-R Corvette have aided in the development of the upcoming C6. Look for the next-generation Corvette, the C6 due in fall 2004, to benefit mightily from General Motors’ campaigns with the C5-R at Le Mans in the past few years. Dave Hill, Corvette chief engineer and the man behind the C5, C6 and coming C6-R, says aerodynamics, technology and the use of lightweight materials have carried over from the C5-R racing program to the 2005 model C6. “Engine power,” says Hill, during an interview in the pits at Le Mans. “Just getting more and more out of the small-block V8. A broader power range, more of it, and more power per liter. We’re doing it through breathing and camshaft changes, drive dynamics and lighter-weight valvetrains.” For the first time, C5-Rs at Le Mans this year ran clutchless five-speed sequential Hewland transmissions with steering wheel controls, but Hill isn’t sure if the same setup will find its way into the C6. “We don’t really have the Hewland sequential shifter strategy worked out so far as an application for the C6,” says Hill. “Everyone’s got one form or another of gimmicky transmission controls. We’d rather be technically correct than just doing things because of popularity. Our customers are kind of divided into the camps of, ‘I wanna shift every shift’ and, ‘Just a straight automatic.’ Our cars, given the amount of torque, do just great with a standard auto. But we’ll see. If we can do a really good sequential in the future, we will, but it’s still a work in progress. The dual-clutch is a real breakthrough, though I have not driven the Audis [with Direct Shift Gearbox]. I personally don’t find the Cambiocorsa [of Ferrari] to be ideal. The shift operation is kind of slow for me.” Hill says all these engineering finer points will be decided one way or the other by Thanksgiving, to allow for the public christening of the new Vette at the 2004 Detroit auto show in January and the subsequent start of production. At least one thing has been resolved for the Z06 C6: It will wear run-flat tires. “The technology has come a ways and the tires now weigh a lot less,”says Hill. “This will let us eliminate the spare tire and add cargo space. You can run 200 miles on a punctured run-flat now and we have commitments from manufacturers that getting a replacement will be as easy as finding a normal tire nationwide.” Corvette fans waiting for the C6 can use the time productively by picking up one of only 2000 Le Mans Commemorative Editions of the outgoing C5 Corvette available in North America (Europe gets 150). The car is fundamentally an LS1 with all the Z06 performance bits and a lightweight carbon composite hood created by MacLean Quality Composites in Utah. The dominant blue on the fiberglass body is called—by permission of the Automobile Club d’Ouest (the governing body of the 24 Hours of Le Mans)—Le Mans Blue. “It’s the first time that such a Class-A carbon fiber hood panel has been used on a production series car,” Hill says. “The stripe of raw carbon fiber mesh in the center of the panel is actually a decal, not the weave of fibers in the hood—the technique used is stacked sheets of carbon mono-filament. You can get the car without any of the stripes if you like.” So what’s Hill planning for next year’s C6-R? GM has budgeted two more years for the Corvette Racing program—and given that Ferrari won the GTS class at Le Mans this year and spoiled the Corvette three-peat, you can bet Chevy’s 2004 effort will be a major one. Lips are sealed on all sides, but we do hear that the high-strength steel chassis of the C5-R will change to tubular aluminum in the C6-R. Should make for a fairly different personality accelerating out of Tertre Rouge and the two chicanes on the Mulsanne Straight.