Corvette Racing Heritage Part 2
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Racing liveries come and go, but there are some so iconic, so recognizable, they'll be remembered forever. For example, Gulf and Martini Racing. There's now a new one to add to that list. Meet "Jake."
In 1984 the Chevrolet introduced their Corvette GTP car. This was a GTP race car designed and built for one purpose and that was to race in the IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) GT Championship from 1984 -1989. This car was developed along with Lola Cars International. About the only connection this car has with Chevrolet is the name. This was not like any other Corvette race car design. It was a true prototype but from this car came some features that would show up on future Corvette's.
When the C4 Corvette hit the track in 1984 it was so dominating in the Showroom Stock GT class of the SCCA, that after a few years they were asked to leave or the other manufacturers were going to leave. So in 1988 a new class was established and it was known as the Corvette Challenge Class. This class was made up of identical Corvettes with the engines built to exactly the same specification at the GM assembly plant and sealed prior to shipment. These cars and the races were very popular and the racing was extremely close as you would imagine with every car being identically prepared.
In 1987 Corvette went Trans Am racing in the SCCA. Tommy Morrison set up a team, and received the first car delivered. Morrison did the final build and set-up on the car. This car ran under the Morrison banner for two years before being sold. In the first year (1987) the MOBIL 1 sponsor colors were dominant. Greg Pickett was the lead driver. By the end of the season, the car was under Mobil 1/Mid America banner. Two cars were entered by the end of the season, with Wally Dallenbach Jr in the second car. In 1988, POLYVOLTAC increased their sponsorship and the car wore the black and white POLYVOLTAC colors
General Motors along with Chevrolet wanted to go racing in the GT class in both the North America as well as Europe. Up until this point GM had been against factory support for a racing program for Corvette. With the new C5 Corvette coming out GM and Chevrolet wanted to take on the likes of the Porsche, Ferrari and Dodge Viper.
Pratt & Miller were given the job of building and developing the new Corvette C5-R and putting together a race team and to have everything in place for the 1999 season. The first C5-R was equipped with a 366 cubic inch engine for a short time before it received a larger 427. They became the standard engine for the C5-R. It was not an in house engine, but rather one built by Katech Engine Development.
In the first year the Corvette Racing Team was learning the ropes and did well but did not set the world on fire. Their best starting position in 1999 was a first and forth at Daytona and first and second at Sebring, which they finished second and twelfth at Daytona and forth and seventh at Sebring.
In 2000 Corvette Racing won their first ever American LeMans Race at Texas Motor Speedway and again at the following race at Road Atlanta.
In 2001 at the Rolex 24 Hour race at the historic Daytona Speedway Corvette Racing added a few drivers for the long race. These drivers were not your typical road course racers, they were Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. After qualifying fourteenth and seventeenth they finished first and second in their class and first and fourth overall. With the win at the Daytona 24 Hours still fresh in everyone's mind the team headed for LeMans and the world famous 24 Hours of LeMans. The 2001 season could not be any better with a win at Daytona and for the first time ever for Corvette a win at LeMans. Corvette Racing went on to win eight of the ten races that year.
In 2002 Corvette Racing had proved to the world they were the team to beat as they again ran first and second at LeMans and won nine of the ten races and of those they finished first and second in eight of the ten races.
2003 found the team struggling a little five wins and only two races with a one, two finish.
2004 found Corvette Racing back on their game with 10 pole positions and ten wins in the ten races and out of the ten races only twice did they not finish one and two.
The new C6 was available in 2005 and with that came the brand new C6-R along with the now famous mascot JAKE. It made its first appearance at the 12 Hours of Sebring. This new C6 was the most technically advanced sports car ever developed by GM. Like the C5-R the new C6-R started with the same hydroformed frame rails that ever other C6 Corvette was built on.
The C6 was shorter in overall length than the C5 but had a longer wheel base. The C6 design was partially developed with the help of Corvette Racing. Based on an interview with Doug Fehan the team manager they were asked what improvements could be made that would help the racing program and a few ideas/suggestions were the fixed headlights to reduce the drag imposed on the lights on the C5 and to lay the windshield back as much as possible.
Both the C5-R and the C6-R proved to be so dominate in the GT1 class at both ALMS and LeMans that the other manufacturers final withdrew and move down to the GT2 class.
The 2009 season started with Corvette Racing fielding their famous world beater GT1 car for Sebring, Long Beach and the 24 Hours of LeMans. These were the last races for the GT1 class cars. The brand new C6-R GT2 car made its debut later in the year at Mid-Ohio where it scored an impressive second place. The GT2 car was a totally new car and it was based on the ZR-1 frame but a much smaller engine. Gone was the 7 liter GT1 engine and although the new GT2 car was based on the ZR-1 frame work, it only had a 5,5 liter engine, here is a short video on the new engine construction. Corvette Racing scored the first victory in the highly competitive GT2 Class two races later at Mosport. The final race of the 2009 season was at Laguna Seca ended with a bang. On the final turn the #3 car was trying to over take the lead Porsche for the win, when in the battle the Porsche got into the right rear quarter panel of the Corvette and turned the #3 car into the outside wall totally destroying the car but it still managed to finish in second place. So with the new car and the new class the 2009 season had its highs and lows.
The 2010 season would be the first full year for the GT2 C6-R and it did not start off well at all. The first race of the season at Sebring. Corvette racing qualified fifth and sixth, but from there it went downhill. A little of 30 minutes into the race the Corvette's were running in second and third. The problem occurred about 3 hours into the 12 hour race when the #3 car made a scheduled pit stop. Just as the crew was completing the stop and sending the #3 car back out, the #4 car appeared out of nowhere and with its pit stall just a head of the 3 car they ran into each other as one was leaving and the other coming in. A team that normally prides itself on a perfect race without mistakes sure looked out of touch this time. This set the tone for the remainder of the season. Not that this would have been considered a bad year for many teams, for a team like Corvette Racing it was just one to forget. This was the first year since the 1999 season in which Corvette Racing did not win a race.
2011 started with the Sebring race and although the Corvette's did not win they ran a great race, and finished third and forth. On to Long Beach and a second place finish for the #4 car and a fifth for the 3 car. Next up was the great 24 hours of LeMans and Corvette is back to its winning ways by beating the Ferrari by almost a full lap and the BMW by more than a lap, and a lap at LeMans is over 8 miles watch the Corvette on a fast lap at LeMans. This win was especially sweet as it marked the 10th anniversary of Corvette's first win at LeMans and it is also the centennial of Chevrolet..The remaining races in 2011 were exciting and everyone on Corvette Racing as well as it fans understood that the GT class is a tough class and all of the cars are equal in performance, so wins would be hard to come by. Even though Corvette won only one race in 2011, they still finished with the #4 car second in the Drivers Championship, second in the Team Championship and third in the Manufacturers Championship. Where some may say that is not good enough after all of the previous championships to do this well in only their second full year in the GT class has to be considered a good season.
The 2012 season opened with great expectations and hoping to build on the finishing position in 2011. This was a special year for Chevrolet and Corvette Racing as it marked the 60th year for Corvette in production. As has been the norm in the past Sebring was the first race of the year, and Corvette Racing wanted to get off to a fast start. They started 3rd and 4th and finished 2nd and 3rd. Not what they wanted, but still good points. After Sebring things picked up and in the remaining 9 ALMS race, the team posted four victories, six runner-up finishes, 12 podium appearances, two poles, and five fastest race laps. This was good enough to give the team a sweep of the GT class championships. Corvette Racing won the team title and Chevrolet captured the manufacturer championship. Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner won the GT drivers championship in the No. 4 Corvette. The #3 car driven by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia finished third in the driver standing.
The 2013 season opened with the team ready to defend their title in all three categories. The #4 Corvette driven by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook won the opening round at Sebring setting the tone for Corvette Racing for the 2013 season. This season would marked the end of two things for Corvette Racing. The first being the final season for the trustworthy C6-R, as the new C7-R would unveiled for the 2014 season. The other landmark was this would be the final year for the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). Starting in 2014 the two major sport cars series in North America the Grand Am and the ALMS would merge into on combined series. So for that reason Corvette Racing want to go out on top. For the second year in a row Corvette Racing takes the triple crown, by winning the Drivers Championship, Team Championship and the Manufacturers Championship. A great finish to the C6_R and that ALMS. Now on to the 2014 season and defend the titles.
With the 2014 season comes an a new Corvette Racing Corvette and the new racing series. Gone is the great C6-R and the ALMS in is the C7-R and the TUDOR racing series. Although Corvette Racing did not start off like they would hvae wanted with some issues at the 24 hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring the team responded at long beach with their first win in the new car and new series. A follow up win at Laguna Seca then a 2nd and 4th at the worlds greats endurance race the 24 hours of Le Mans. Next up the 6Hours at the Glen and another win making it 3 series wins in a row. Looks like the new C7-R is picking up where the C6-R left off. Now for a short video on the construction of the new C7-R.
Although I have discussed many different Corvette's and their legacy in the world of racing. There are many more that I have not mentioned. I will try to cover those special Corvette race machines and those that had ties to the factory when time allows.