Corvette Racing pre-race notes

Impressive Track Record Corvette Racing's legendary C5-R race cars have been on the podium for the past 28 races; of that number, 20 have been victories. One has to go back to March 19, 2000 at the 12 Hours of Sebring to find the last time ...

Impressive Track Record

Corvette Racing's legendary C5-R race cars have been on the podium for the past 28 races; of that number, 20 have been victories. One has to go back to March 19, 2000 at the 12 Hours of Sebring to find the last time Corvette raced without a podium finish. Driver Oliver Gavin's podium record is even more impressive: he has never driven a Corvette to anything less than a podium finish.

Earnhardt Blessing

Always remembered as a lifelong teammate, the legacy of the late Dale Earnhardt lives on through the Corvette Racing program. Corvette's legendary overall victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2001 was also Earnhardt's first appearance with the team, and we grieved weeks later when his life was tragically taken on the final laps of the Daytona 500. Teresa Earnhardt, widow of the late Dale Earnhardt, has presented this year's Le Mans team with a special letter, which was read to the crew as they prepared for the race on Saturday morning. Mrs. Earnhardt's emotional letters have become a pre-race tradition since 2001, when the Corvette C5-R claimed its first victory at Le Mans.

Below is an excerpt of this year's note:

"I was with Dale when he won his Winston Cup Championships and IROC Championships and everything else he had won and I can honestly say that few things ever excited him as much as becoming a part of the Corvette Racing program... To me, a car has always been a machine. It's steel, plastic, aluminum, glass and rubber. It's the people that made the car that gives it a soul. Apparently, the C5-R has more soul than anything he had ever been in before, because I had never seen something change Dale so dramatically. For that, every one of you and the entire Corvette Racing program will always have a special meaning to all of us here."

Overcoming Obstacles

Winning two straight GTS titles at the world's most difficult endurance race has not been without challenge. During the arduous 2002 race, the #64 Corvette C5-R was in for a routine pit stop and a stray wheel nut, turned upside down below the front of the car, pierced the oil pan when the car was taken off its jacks. Wasting no time, the #64 Corvette team (#50 for this year's race) repaired the pan and resumed the race, securing Corvette's 1-2 position on the podium. The team was given this famous oil pan as a tribute to their dedication and hard work; it hangs above the team's cafeteria in the paddock area during this year's race, inscribed with the words: "One's desire to win is proportional to one's ability to overcome obstacles."

Message From Washington

The relationship between the Corvette Racing program and the U.S. Armed Forces is stronger than ever, as the team has recently returned from a tour of U.S. Naval bases in the Mediterranean. On the news that the Corvette team would be returning to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, The White House sent a letter to team. Below is an excerpt of the note:

The President and all of his staff are aware of your accomplishments and of the new challenge that awaits you. Please accept our very best wishes as you strive for your third consecutive GTS class victory in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans event. We are extremely proud to have you representing the USA. May God bless you and keep you safe.
    The White House
    Washington, D.C.

The Corvette Racing team will compete in today's race with a special luck charm on board, courtesy of the U.S. Armed Forces. The American flag and Navy flag, given to the team on their recent tour, will ride in the trunks of the #50 and #53 Corvette C5-Rs.

We've been here before

It is an axiom of sports car racing that experience is rewarded with victories. There is a total of 28 years of Le Mans experience between Corvette's six drivers, which says nothing for the rest of the program's team managers, mechanics and engineers. Corvettes first raced at Le Mans in 1960, when Briggs Cunningham entered three and airline pilot Lucky Casner entered a fourth under the Camoradi USA name. While two of Cunningham's cars experienced problems through the course of the race, and Casner's car never threatened for a victory, the Corvette team of John Fitch and Bob Grossman continued to circle the immense course, running as high as seventh during a cold and rainy night. In the waning hours of the race, the engine overheated and lost coolant but regulations prohibited the team from refilling the radiator. Yankee ingenuity triumphed when team manager Alfred Momo ordered the crew to pack the engine with ice from the team's catering tent. Driving at reduced speed, the ice-cooled Chevy small-block powered the Cunningham team to an eighth-place finish overall and first in the big-bore GT class -- the best finish by a Corvette until the arrival of Corvette Racing's C5-Rs.

Fishel Awarded "Spirit of Le Mans"

GM Racing's former Executive Director, Herb Fishel, received the prestigious "Spirit Of Le Mans" award from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, organizers of the Le Mans 24 Hours, at a special ceremony on Friday. The "Spirit Of Le Mans" is awarded to those individuals who have helped to make Le Mans a household name across the world. Former Le Mans winner and F1 World Champion, Phil Hill, was also given the award, as was Norbert Singer, Porsche's Technical Director for the past 30 years.

Claudio Awarded Ray Wiltshire Trophy

GM Racing's Marketing Manager for Corvette Racing, Gary Claudio, received the first annual Ray Wiltshire trophy from the organizers of the Grand Drivers' Parade, a special event that takes place on the Friday before each running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The late Wiltshire was the first non-Frenchman to be named a director of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, drove in the 1926 race, was the President of the Bentley Drivers Club and had a special connection to the legendary 24-hour race. The award is given out this year for the first time to Gary Claudio, who along with GM Racing has helped to sponsor the parade and ensure its success. Caroline Bagshawe, daughter of the late Ray Wiltshire, said she was honored to present the award to Claudio. "It was an honor for me to present this on behalf of my father," said Bagshawe. "My father would be proud of Mr. Claudio, especially since is a non-Frenchman with such a love for this great race and the driver's parade."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Phil Hill , Oliver Gavin
Teams Corvette Racing