The Chevrolet Cruze Rally Car seems an unlikely candidate for the harsh demands of professional rally racing. But with extensive modifications and race engineering, Chevy proved the Cruze makes a formidable rally car capable of podiums in regional and national rally events.
Let’s explore how Chevrolet exploited the Cruze’s basic strengths to create an against-the-odds rally Cinderella story, proving economic models can become motorsport threats when fully optimized. With the right upgrades, any car holds untapped rally potential.
Chevrolet Cruze Rally Car Seeking New Motorsports Avenues
In the early 2010s, Chevrolet wanted to reinvigorate its spirit of racing beyond just NASCAR circle tracks and Corvette endurance racing. Rally represented an appealing avenue to demonstrate vehicle performance and car control.
Rather than a bespoke racer, engineers suggested modifying an everyday model to compete regionally and nationally. With rally’s production-based roots, the Cruze presented an ideal testbed showcasing capability advancements that translated back to road cars – much as early Camaros had done in the 1960s Trans Am series.
Extensive Rally Build and Development
Transforming the Cruze from a mild-mannered commuter to a podium contender for rally stages and loose surfaces involved months of planning and testing by engineers and ace drivers.
Key upgrades included a reinforced steel unibody, heavy-duty suspension components from the Cobalt World Touring Car racer, traction-enhancing differentials, and performance brakes and tires. Weight-saving interior stripping and a roll cage improved safety. Chevy Performance parts including a tuned turbo engine lifted output to around 190 horsepower – strong for an economy model.
Chevrolet Cruze Rally Car Surprising Pace Against the Competition
In the hands of skilled drivers, the extensively re-engineered Cruze rally racer proved surprisingly quick against more traditional rally machinery. Competing in both 2WD and all-wheel drive Rally America events from 2013-2015, the Cruze scored multiple podium finishes and won its production-based class at the 2014 Empire State Performance Rally.
Drivers praised the transformed Cruze’s nimble handling that maintained momentum on loose surfaces. The tunable turbo engine provided usable power even at high elevations. While lacking top speed, in the tight twisties the Cruze exhibited agile giant-killing form.
Chevrolet Cruze Rally Car Laying the Foundation for Future Rally Efforts
When Chevy ended the formal Cruze rally program in 2015, the car had proved itself as a worthy new entry advancing the brand’s racing heritage and showcasing formerly untapped capability.
Engineers apply lessons from the Cruze’s rally development to enhance dynamics for roadgoing performance variants like the Cruze Turbo and Jolt. The expertise also serves Chevrolet’s motorsports arm well if rally racing ever returns to the brand’s future plans. Even modest platforms like the Cruze harbor hidden talent.
Against the Odds Success Story
The Cruze rally racer demonstrated how Chevrolet’s racing ingenuity could transform an everyman econobox into a podium threat given the right modifications and talent behind the wheel. What the Cruze lacked in pedigree, it made up through giant killing car control and team skill.
By maximizing its basic attributes for competition, the humble Cruze proved racing talent need not rely exclusively on budget. Ingenuity and perseverance could also overcome expectations. The Cruze showed Chevrolet’s racing spirit remains strong even in its most affordable models.