Corvette confident of best season ever

DETROIT, Jan. 26 -- General Motors (NYSE: GM) announced that the Chevrolet Corvette, America's sports car, will continue in international endurance racing during 2001. A two-car factory team racing under the banner of Team Corvette will ...

DETROIT, Jan. 26 -- General Motors (NYSE: GM) announced that the Chevrolet Corvette, America's sports car, will continue in international endurance racing during 2001. A two-car factory team racing under the banner of Team Corvette will participate in the 24-hour races of Le Mans, France, and Daytona. Team Corvette will also compete in most North American rounds of the American Le Mans series (ALMS). The Chevrolet Corvette C5-R program continues Chevrolet's tradition of racing production vehicles "to improve the breed." The engineers working on the Corvette C5-R race car work closely with the production car engineers to ensure that race car "learnings" impact present and future Corvettes.

The C5-R program is designed to create a GTS-class racer that would capably challenge the best of international competition while maintaining the integrity of the production Corvettes. The C5-R race version is based on the street platform and utilizes a number of common components.

Starting 2000 with a spectacular second-place overall finish at Daytona, when one Corvette was just 30 seconds behind at the checkered flag, the Corvettes continued being extremely competitive through 2000. Following a class podium result in Le Mans in its first attempt, Corvette finished with wins at Petit Le Mans and at Texas.

"We have a robust and competitive Corvette program," said Herb Fishel Executive Director, GM Racing, "that is in good shape for 2001. With the momentum coming off 2000 and some technical improvements made over the winter, we believe the Corvette C5-R will be a force to reckon with."

"Since the last race of 2000," said Corvette Program Manager Doug Fehan, "we have concentrated on a number of chassis tweaks, on improved aerodynamics and on tire development in concert with Goodyear. Engine work has brought improvements, including more horsepower.

"In my view, the C5-R has begun to hit full-stride in what is still a short racing career. We began in 1999 with a limited program, admittedly struggled a bit that year, then found our mark and started winning races against the fastest GTS sports cars in the world in 2000. Quite frankly, the Corvette C5-R program has achieved success faster than most expected."

Joining Team Corvette in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, Feb. 3-4, will be Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr., from NASCAR's Winston Cup Series. For the Earnhardts, father and son, this will be a "rookie" appearance in endurance racing: Both regularly campaign Chevrolet Monte Carlos in oval competition with only two races a year on road courses. Dale Earnhardt is a seven-time Winston Cup champion.

A formidable group of veteran endurance drivers is returning to Team Corvette for 2001. Regulars Ron Fellows, Andy Pilgrim, Chris Kneifel, Frank Freon and Kelly Collins will be joined by Johnny O'Connell, himself greatly experienced but new to Team Corvette.

"I can't stress how important continuity is to a race team," said Fellows. "We are blessed to have an experienced team of drivers familiar with racing at Le Mans, Sebring and Petit Le Mans returning to the Corvette C5-R program this year. Add to that a proven world-class racer in Johnny O'Connell, and you can understand how excited Chevrolet is about the upcoming season."

Following Daytona, Team Corvette will run two ALMS events at Texas International Speedway and Sebring before concentrating full-focus on Le Mans 24 Hour in June.

The balance of the ALMS schedule includes rounds at Sears Point, Laguna Seca, Lowe's Motor Speedway and the Petit Le Mans.

-General Motors Racing

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About this article
Series ALMS , Grand-Am , Le Mans
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Chris Kneifel , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Andy Pilgrim , Kelly Collins