Corvette Racing, America’s premier sports car racing team, returns to Le Mans in France on the weekend of 14/15th June with the aim of adding to their unique winning tally in the world’s toughest motor race. Since 2001, Corvettes have won the GT1 sports car class five times and have a heritage at the track dating back almost half a century.
The 2008 Le Mans 24-Hours continues to see the GT1 category as one of the most competitive arenas, with the Corvette C6.R (Corvette 6th generation, Racing) cars set to do battle with marques such as Aston Martin and Lamborghini. The Corvette Racing team comes to the La Sarthe circuit with an illustrious winning pedigree.
Corvette Racing made its competition debut in 1999 and by the end of the 2007 season had won 63 of the 90 races it had contested. The team’s accomplishments now include seven consecutive American Le Mans Series GT1 manufacturers and team championships and six successive drivers’ championships.
The 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans starts at 15.00 hrs local time on Saturday 14th June.
The team’s winning tally goes on: 45 1-2 finishes, five class victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006), five class wins in the Sebring 12-Hours, six class titles in 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans events - and an overall victory in the Daytona 24-Hour race.
Equally important is the fact that the Corvette C6.R race program continues a GM tradition of racing production-based vehicles to improve the breed. A continuous exchange of information and constant transfer of technology between the racing and production programs ensure that lessons learned on the track benefit every Corvette on the highway.
This strategy was first mapped out by legendary racer/engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov, himself a former racer at Le Mans, who launched the Corvette into racing in America with a class victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1956. Then in 1960 Briggs Cunningham, a wealthy sportsman racer, fielded a trio of Corvettes at the French classic.
Wearing the blue and white colors that traditionally identified American entries in international racing, the three Team Cunningham Corvettes were joined by another entered by airline pilot Lucky Casner under the Camoradi USA banner. The team’s sponsors were chiefly race fans who had yearned to see an American entry in the French classic. One of the Cunningham cars, driven by John Fitch and Bob Grossman, finished in eighth place overall and first in its class.
The Corvette C5-R, which won in 2001, 2002 and 2004 was based on the fifth generation of the American sports car legend and was replaced by the C6.R, the class winner in 2005 and 2006. The Corvette C6.R is the most technically advanced sports car ever developed by GM, combining sophisticated chassis, powertrain and aerodynamic technology developed by GM Racing with the advanced engineering of the sixth-generation Corvette and Corvette Z06 production models.
The rulebook requires close adherence to production specifications, and the Corvette C6.R’s roots reach to the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The same hydroformed aluminium frame rails used in production Corvette coupes and convertibles provide the foundation for the racing version, while the race-prepared 7.0-liter LS7.R small-block V-8 engines inspire the production 7.0-liter/505-hp LS7 small-block V-8 that powers the production Corvette Z06.
“Fifty two years ago, Zora Arkus-Duntov, the godfather of Corvette Racing, conceived the Corvette SS race car to put Corvette squarely in the arena of international endurance racing," says Chevrolet general manager Ed Peper. "As we reflect on Corvette Racing’s record of success over the years, it’s clear that Corvette Racing has set the standard for engineering excellence, preparation and commitment and the Corvette C6.R has realized Zora’s dream.”
At Le Mans the no. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R will be driven by Johnny O’Connell (USA), Jan Magnussen (Denmark) and Ron Fellows (Canada). Oliver Gavin (GB), Olivier Beretta (Monaco) and Max Papis (USA) will share the no. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R.
Two other Corvette C6.R cars are entered by the Luc Alphand Adventures team. Car no. 72 will be driven by Luc Alphand, Guillaume Moureau and Jérôme Policand. The no. 73 Corvette is driven by Patrice Goueslard, Jean Luc Blanchemain and Laurent Pasquali. The four Corvettes will compete against six other cars in the LM GT1 category this year, four Aston Martin DBR-9s, a Saleen S7R and a Lamborghini Murcielago.