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Chevy's 2020 Corvette C8.R sounds way more exotic than the Stingray, but why?

Could the new Corvette race car be packing an exotic flat-plane V8?

The Corvette C8.R looks pretty similar to the road-going 'Vette, but it sure doesn't sound like one.
Nick Miotke/Roadshow

When Chevrolet debuted the racing version of its new mid-engine 2020 Corvette Stingray on Wednesday, it didn't offer up much in the way of technical details, but one thing it did do was fire the thing up and throw a few revs at it.

What we heard was unlike any other Corvette motor before it, and thanks to an on-track video from Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire, we also know it's very different from the production C8 Stingray. In fact, it sounds closer to something you'd expect to hear coming out of Maranello or Sant'Agata.

By that, we mean that the way the engine revs, and the character of the noise it produces sounds as if it might have a flat-plane crankshaft. If you're not familiar with the idea of a flat-plane versus cross-plane crank, we'll explain.

A typical American-style V8 uses what's called a cross-plane crankshaft. This means that the throws of the crank are spaced by 90 degrees. This has the effect of smoothing out the power pulses of the engine at the expense of having a more substantial rotating assembly and lower maximum engine speed.

Many racing engines and high-performance V8 engines are more interested in light weight and maximum power, with less concern for smoothness. These use what's called a flat-plane crankshaft. This means that the crank throws are set 180 degrees from each other, resulting in a -- you guessed it -- flat plane. This type of crank is typically lighter, which allows it to rev faster and higher, thus making more power.

So, if the C8.R does indeed use a flat-plane crankshaft, that's a pretty exciting thing, and it means that we could, in theory, expect to see a version of that engine in a high-performance variant of the C8, like a Z06 or a ZR1, because it wouldn't necessarily make sense for GM to develop an engine like that exclusively for racing.

Of course, that's all speculation, so for now, let's just listen to that clip on repeat as we slowly mark off the days until the car's racing debut in Daytona.

Chevrolet didn't immediately respond to Roadshow's request for comment.

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