AutoWeek Takes a Look Back at the Corvette C5-R
Development goals for the Corvette C5-R were simple: “We gotta get the Viper.”
Yellow Corvettes have been streaking around Le Mans for what seems like an eternity, but truth be told, the action really only got started at the ending years of the C5’s life cycle. Sure privateers were entering races, but a factory backed Corvette team was nowhere to be found. AutoWeek recently rewound to their October 1999 issue where the C5’s efforts were just getting started for the 2000 season.
Push for a factory backed team came directly from competition in the homeland. Dodge’s Viper was winning things left and right in the American Le Mans series, and Corvette couldn’t just rest on its laurels. Chief Engineer Dave Hill worked to enhance the road-worthy cars, with the familiar Z51 suspension package, and the intended-for-track-use T1 package, which further enhanced the handling characteristics of the C5. However, it was the all-out assault on Le Mans, and Corvette racing engineer Ken Brown said rather bluntly, “We gotta get the Viper.”
Not every Corvette racer was yellow. The early cars were black and silver, but the experience behind the wheel was noticeably vibrant. Of the driving experience, it was noted that the C5-R “…generates a black hole of concentration from which little fun can escape.” But soon that brutish character would turn to an entertaining challenge behind the wheel.
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One thing is for sure, if the folks at GM were excited about the program, it wasn’t under false pretenses. In regard to the C5-R, team manager Doug Fehan said, “We were new to this. We had a lot to learn.” Now 18 years later, Fehan is still the backbone of the factory Corvette Racing team, and time would prove the return to Corvette racing would be a successful one.