LE MANS, France -- After 24 hard-fought hours, the General Motors Chevrolet Corvette C5-R Racing team placed both its cars on the podium at Le Mans in the GTS class for the fourth year in a row. The accomplishment, in what many believe to be the...
LE MANS, France -- After 24 hard-fought hours, the General Motors Chevrolet Corvette C5-R Racing team placed both its cars on the podium at Le Mans in the GTS class for the fourth year in a row. The accomplishment, in what many believe to be the world's toughest endurance race, speaks volumes to automotive DNA of the production based Corvette C5-R race car.
"Our Corvette team overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles today and did a great job," said Doug Fehan, Program Manager for Corvette Racing. "The men and women on this team know how to adapt and overcome, and that's exactly what the fans saw today. We faced all types of challenges, from finding tiny brackets broken in our throttle linkage to changing gearboxes and fighting intense heat. We wish that we would have been able to win the GTS class, but finishing both our cars for the fourth year in a row says a lot about the quality of our team and our Corvettes."
The #50 Corvette C5-R, co-driven by Oliver Gavin, Kelly Collins and Andy Pilgrim completed 326 laps to finish 11th overall and second in the GTS class. Collins and Pilgrim notched their fourth straight podium finish while Gavin took home his second in a Corvette at Le Mans.
"This is truly fantastic," said Collins. "This is four years in a row for me on the podium and it feels great every time. We want to congratulate the Ferraris and the Prodrive organization as they ran a great race. But they should know that we'll be after them the rest of the season in the U.S."
The #53 Corvette C5-R, co-driven by Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell and Franck Freon completed 326 laps of the 8.6 mile circuit to finish 12th overall and third in the production-based GTS class. Fellows and O'Connell also co-drove to class victories in 2001 and 2002, while Freon experienced his tenth straight Le Mans appearance and fourth podium finish at Le Sarthe with Corvette.
"I love Le Mans," said O'Connell. "The best thing about it is the fans, and as I look down from the podium it's clear to our team how many of you love the Corvette. We are gunning for a victory next year and rest assured we'll be back."
Corvette Racing's legendary C5-R race cars have earned podium finishes in the last 29 consecutive races, including 20 victories. It is a record of consistency that spans more than three years, dating back to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2000. Driver Oliver Gavin's podium record is even more impressive: he has never driven a Corvette to anything less than a podium finish.
"The people at Corvette Racing make a tremendous sacrifice and we are all proud of them," said Steve Shannon, GM's executive director for marketing services. "The huge personal sacrifice that this team makes is beyond the call of duty and everyone at GM appreciates it. There is a little bit of disappoint in not winning the GTS class title, but we start work on Tuesday morning for our 2004 Le Mans effort and we'll be ready."
With track temperatures exceeding 95 degrees, the Corvettes had as much competition from Mother Nature during the 24-hour race as they did from the likes of Ferrari, Saleen, Chrysler and Pagani in the GTS class. Although two of three Ferraris failed to finish the race, the #88 Veloqx Prodrive Ferrari 550 car managed to stay out of trouble and hold off both Chevy Corvette C5-R's.
The Corvette Racing team will take to the track again on June 29th, at the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta, the second round of the American Le Mans Series.