Auburn Hills, Mich- -- Chrysler has officially entered two Mopar V-8-powered Prototypes for the 2000 Le Mans 24-Hour race, scheduled for June 10 and 11,
Chrysler's factory-backed effort, entered under the organization of Mopar Team ORECA, combines the agility of the new Reynard 2KQ chassis with the proven durability of Mopar's V-8 and the experience of one of endurance racing's most respected teams.
The aluminum Mopar 6.0-liter V-8 racing engine powered sprint car driver Mark Kinser to the 1999 World of Outlaws championship. A versatile engine, the same engine also powers the supercharged IHRA dragster of Lori Cannister. Le Mans will mark the Mopar V-8's endurance racing debut. "Tests already conducted indicate that the Chrysler Prototype will be competitive," said Hugues de Chaunac, founder, Team ORECA. "But more importantly, we are going to Le Mans to gain experience as we prepare for 2001."
"Throughout the motorsports community, the Viper has become an icon of performance and durability," said Jim Holden, President, DaimlerChrysler Corporation. "The Viper is one of the many racing success stories that have given us the confidence to compete at the highest level of the sport. And Le Mans - one of the most famous and demanding endurance races in the world - allows us to promote the quality and integrity of our brands to a global audience."
Team ORECA will also field three factory-backed Viper GTS R/Ts at Le Mans, with the objective of winning the GTS category there for the third consecutive year. Last year, Team ORECA Vipers finished first and second in the Grand Touring class, while last month, Team ORECA's Dodge Viper GTS R/T was the outright winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona Beach, Fla, -- the first-ever 24-hour overall win for Dodge. Five Dodge Viper GTS R/Ts finished in the top seven positions overall, a culmination of the program that was initiated in 1996.
The development of an endurance racing version of the aluminum small block engine is a strategic business decision by Mopar. The Le Mans engine is a version of one of the eight different engines featured in the Mopar Performance Parts catalog. Last year alone, Mopar Performance Parts added more than 300 parts to the catalog. The motorsports parts business is worth $3.17 billion (U.S.) annually in North America, and is now expanding vigorously on a worldwide basis. "Customers of Mopar Performance Parts benefit directly from our approach to motorsports," said Lou Patane, Vice President, Motorsports Operations and Mopar Performance Parts, DaimlerChrysler- "The result is more of the parts they want, faster and with higher quality, allowing us to increase our market share" Strategically, our decision to enter Le Mans delivers the same potential benefits as our decision to enter the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Not only does racing expose customers to our products and further develop our products, it also refines processes by which they're developed and improves our people."
Drivers for the Team ORECA entries will be announced at a later date.