New C5-R Corvette ready for 24 Hours of Le Mans

DETROIT - Fresh from a dominating victory at The 12 Hours of Sebring in March, the General Motors Chevrolet Corvette Racing team returns to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June with two all-new cars to defend their GTS title. Already the most...

DETROIT - Fresh from a dominating victory at The 12 Hours of Sebring in March, the General Motors Chevrolet Corvette Racing team returns to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June with two all-new cars to defend their GTS title. Already the most successful Corvette in history, the C5-R is the two-time defending GTS class champion at the legendary Sarthe circuit and in the American Le Mans Series.

Sporting a new livery for the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Corvette C5-R completes its final US test with Ron Fellows driving.
Photo by General Motors and Wieck Media Services, Inc..
"We have worked hard to improve our Corvette C5-Rs and this latest version is our best yet," said Doug Fehan, GM's program manager for Corvette Racing. "First and foremost is our new engine intake system, which we found in our race at Sebring to be very good on power with improved drivability and fuel efficiency. We're also running a new sequential gearbox and an updated transaxle, which will give us greater flexibility to tailor our driveline to Le Mans and other circuits throughout the year."

A new red, white and blue livery for both cars will provide a fresh canvas for the team's new car numbers, #50 and #53, which celebrate the marque's reign of 50 years since 1953 as America's sports car icon.

"We're very happy with our new cars," said Oliver Gavin, driver of the #50 Corvette C5-R. "Each time we do an evolution on the Corvette it actually feels more like a single seater or a prototype. Just those little modifications by GM Racing are terribly important on the track. We clearly had the advantage on corner entry and exit at Sebring and I expect it will be a good fight between us and the other cars in GTS, mainly Ferrari."

The Corvette Racing drivers are eager to get back to Le Sarthe, a circuit steeped in history for the C5-R and Chevrolet as well.

"The run down the straightaway into the flat right hander before Indianapolis is one of my favorite sections," said Ron Fellows, driver of the #53 Corvette C5-R. "The first time you do that section is an experience -- you think you arrive at the corner but actually stop short of it, not realizing that you still have to get around to the right. And, of course, there probably isn't a driver in the paddock who doesn't love the Porsche curves."

Sporting a new livery for the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Corvette C5-R completes its final US test with Ron Fellows driving.
Photo by General Motors and Wieck Media Services, Inc..
"When I first raced on the circuit in 2001, it rained all night," recalled Gavin. "I remember driving down the straights at 3:00 a.m., going 160 mph and sliding from one side of the track to the other. Half the time you end up looking out the side windows for visibility, thinking to yourself, 'I must be nuts to do this.' Every lap you pray that the line will get dry. Just when you find it, it starts raining again."

With 24 straight hours of racing against tough competition from three Ferrari 550 Maranellos, two Saleen S7Rs and others in the GTS class, Corvette Racing will rely on its time-tested machinery, efficient pit work and an experienced driver lineup in hopes of capturing three Le Mans victories in a row.

This year's driver lineup for Le Mans is:

#50 Corvette C5-R
Chassis C5-R 008
Kelly Collins
Oliver Gavin
Andy Pilgrim

#53 Corvette C5-R
Chassis C5-R 009
Ron Fellows
Johnny O'Connell
Franck Freon

The new C5-Rs will make their international debut at Le Mans Open Test weekend on May 4, which is a precursor to the 24-hour race in June.

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series ALMS , Le Mans
Drivers Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Franck Freon , Andy Pilgrim , Kelly Collins , Oliver Gavin
Teams Corvette Racing