Corvette Racing Victories at Le Mans: A Retrospective
With the recent Le Mans loss, let’s take a look back.
Corvette Racing embarked upon its 18th battle at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this past weekend. The pair of Velocity Yellow C7.Rs sought the team’s ninth victory, but sadly, the #63 car failed in the last lap at the French classic. In a deep GTE-Pro field, the #63 (Drivers: Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor) and #64 (Drivers: Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Faessler) Corvettes were in the thick of a class scrum they simply couldn’t surmount this year. Let’s get past the recent Le Mans loss, then. Let’s distract ourselves with a look back at Corvette’s eight previous winners.
2001 – Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell, Scott Pruett
Corvette started 2001 with an overall win at the 24 Hours of Daytona and followed that up with a win at Le Mans in one of the most brutally hot races in recent history. That intense heat wilted the challenging Saleens and Vipers in the GTS class. However, the Corvette C5-R (top photo) stormed home to take a 1-2 victory with the third-place Saleen more than 25 laps behind at the checkered flag.
2002 – Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell, Oliver Gavin
Corvette’s C5-R qualified behind a robust Ferrari 550 Maranello from Prodrive, but the Ferrari went down in flames, literally, a few hours before sunrise. Corvette ran again to a 1-2 finish in GTS with Oliver Gavin — still driving for Corvette in 2017 — getting his first of six wins with Corvette.
2004 – Oliver Gavin, Jan Magnussen, Olivier Beretta
After the resurgent Ferrari spoiled Corvette’s chance at a three-peat, Gavin and his now-stalwart teammate Jan Magnussen took their first win together. The Ferrari again started from pole, but a perfect race gave this trio the team’s third win.
2005 – Oliver Gavin, Jan Magnussen, Olivier Beretta
Corvette’s Dream Team returned in ’05 with a new-generation car, the C6-R, to race under the revamped GT1 regulations. Once again, they were foiled for pole with Darren Turner getting his second consecutive, albeit in an Aston Martin DBR-9 this time around. The C6-R couldn’t match the Aston on pace, but a clean race allowed another Corvette 1-2 finish in the class with an astonishing 5th- and 6th-place overall result.
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2006 – Oliver Gavin, Jan Magnussen, Olivier Beretta
Again, Aston Martin took pole, but this time, they didn’t fall to the wayside. Instead, Aston challenged the lead Corvette until the end. In the end, Corvette ran well enough to finish fourth place overall, though only three laps ahead of the pursuing Aston Martin. Not only did it get Corvette Racing its three-peat at last, but it also made three in a row for the trio.
2009 – Johnny O’Connell, Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia
Magnussen and Garcia remain paired in a Corvette to this day, but the duo helped Johnny O’Connell muster one final Corvette victory in the GT1 class. Much of the field had shifted to the more affordable GT2 cars at this point, but Corvette Racing faced a challenge from Luc Alphonse Adventures, a privateer team with its own Corvette. While Peugeot drove to its only win in the 908’s existence, Corvette won out.
2011 – Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Olivier Beretta
In one of the most dramatic 24 Hours of Le Mans ever, Audi suffered two massive crashes at the front of the field. Their lone remaining car won and stole most of the headlines. However, Corvette Racing was running a ZR1-based car in the new GTE-Pro class, while French team Larbre Competition was running its own Corvette in the GTE-Am class. Both cars won to take the first and only double-Corvette victory.
2015 – Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Jordan Taylor
After a qualifying crash totaled the second car, Corvette Racing found itself in a unique position with its brand-new C7.R: only one car. Against a field of consummately successful factory-backed GT teams, the Corvette dueled with AF Corse’s Ferrari 458 until the Prancing Horse failed around sunrise.
While we can’t report a win for this year, there’s always the hope of next year, and at the very least, there remains the consolation in reflecting on Corvette Racing’s dominant history.