Chevrolet Corvette C5-Rs ready for 24 Hours of Le Mans American performance icon makes 17th appearance at famous endurance race Le Mans, France -- Fresh from a dominating victory at The 12 Hours of Sebring in March, the General Motors Chevrolet...
Chevrolet Corvette C5-Rs ready for 24 Hours of Le Mans
American performance icon makes 17th appearance at famous endurance race
Le Mans, France -- 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 on June 14 -- 15 with two all-new cars to defend its 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.
"The legendary Le Mans race is extremely important to General Motors and Corvette," said Harry Turner, GM's Road Racing Manager. "Our experience here has taught us that during a 24-hour race, anything can happen and probably will. Winning is by no means a simple task, and to be successful we count on painstaking preparation and flawless execution on race day. While our C5-Rs will race this year with a newly developed sequential gearbox and intake system, we anticipate a hard-fought battle with our competitors in the GTS class."
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. The new exterior will also be available for purchase as the Commemorative Edition Corvette, a group of limited-edition street models that will be available for the 2004 model year.
"We're very happy with our new race 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, and from our test at Le Mans in May I believe it will be a great battle in the GTS class. I can tell our Corvette is more stable and able to carry more speed, certainly through the final sections of the Porsche Curves. Braking is significantly better for us into the first and second chicane and into the Mulsanne corner -- basically all the high-speed corners. Now that we have more downforce through the front we are able to brake very hard in a straight line, which sometimes was a challenge for us last year."
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. Corvette has a history of racing at Le Mans which dates back to 1960, when American entrepreneur Briggs Cunningham entered a Corvette and netted an impressive eighth place overall finish. The marque came regularly to Le Mans until 1982 and later returned in the mid-90s when regulations allowed GT cars back into the race. For three decades, Corvette's famous engine also powered cars from other brands such as Bizzarini, Callaway, Chaparral, Courage, Iso-Rivolta, Lola, Lotus, Marcos and March.
"The run down the straightaway into the 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 you think you arrive at the corner but actually find yourself braking short of it. And, of course, there probably isn't a driver in the paddock who doesn't love the Porsche curves."
Gavin's first memories of the race also reveal the circuit's ghostly mystique.
"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.
General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, employs 342,000 people globally in its core automotive business and subsidiaries. Founded in 1908, GM has been the global automotive sales leader since 1931. GM today has manufacturing operations in 32 countries and its vehicles are sold in more than 190 countries. In 2002, GM sold more than 8.6 million cars and trucks, nearly 15 percent of the global vehicle market. GM's global headquarters is at the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit. More information on GM and its products can be found on the company's consumer website at www.gm.com.