Corvette Racing Through the Decades
Daily Slideshow: Corvette has a long and storied history of racing and winning from generation to generation.
This four-speed, 290 horsepower racer was part of team owner Briggs Cunningham trio of cars that he fielded as a privateer. Corvette team drivers John Fitch and Bob Grossman piloted the car in the 1960 Le Mans and after running 19 of the 24 Hours, the car began to overheat. The team simply upped the number of pit stops and had the ingenuity to pack the engine compartment with ice to stay in the competition. The trick worked and the team won its class and finished 8th place overall. This is the best finish ever by a Corvette at Le Man's at this point.
1963 Grand Sport
In 1962 Corvette Arkus-Duntov initiated an idea to build a lightweight version of the Corvette based on the new 1963 model after learning of the Shelby Cobra. After GM executives learned of what he was up to, they shut down the program but not before five of the cars had been built. The cars were driven by some of the best drivers of the time including Dick Guldstrand, Jim Hall, Dick Thompson, and Roger Penske. Thompson won the 1963 Sports Car Club of America race at Watkins Glen in 1963 driving the Corvette. These five wide-shouldered Grand Sports are the most treasured, and valuable of all Corvettes.
In 1962 Corvette chief engineer Arkus-Duntov brought forth the idea for the Z06 following a ban in factory-sponsored racing by the SCCA. The Regular Production Option (RPO) Z06 package was created so specifically designed parts for competition-minded Corvette buyers so they could order race-ready Corvettes straight from the factory. Previously, these parts were hidden in the order form so that only the most perceptive and those in the know could find them. The 1963 Corvette was technically the first Corvette model that could be designated as the "Z06."
1967 Le Mans
This model of Corvette was raced by driving legends Dick Guldstrand and Bob Bondurant at the 24 Hours of Le Mans where it hit 170 mph-plus down the straights. Sadly, despite those numbers, it was forced off the track by a broken wrist pin. Guldstrand was said to have blamed the issue on Chevy using stock parts and the refusal to homologate special engine parts for the race. However, the rules at Le Mans stated that competitors had to use commercial gas, which in France had a way higher octane (around 103) than what the L-88 engine needed and could have caused engine issues.
1968 L88 Owens Corning
The L-88 is the among the most winning-est models in Corvette history, with the 1968 model won more races than any other. The car is powered by a 427-cubic-inch big block V8 putting out more than 600 horsepower and was nearly impossible in FIA GT and SCCA National racing. This car along with the drivers won 22 of 22 SCCA/FIA National Events during the 1969-1971 season. The car was awarded the American Heritage Award in 2007, the highest award for non-street Corvettes by National Corvette Restorers Society. One restored model of this amazing car was auctioned at Barrett-Jackson for $1,100,000,000.
Photo courtesy of Alex Marks
C4 Challenge Car
The late 1980's Corvette was thriving and taking all of the titles during the time in racing. Porsche, Lotus, and other competitors couldn't touch the Vette. After being banned from competing, John Powell came up with the "Corvette Challenge" where only Corvettes could compete against one another. Powell envisioned that the teams would all compete for an unheard of at the time purse amounting to $1,000,000! The spec series was an instant hit with teams and racing fans alike because of the cars evenly matched and the competitive driving to win that money. For two years the Corvette Challenge provided racing excitement across North America with an array of highly talented drivers. It hit a fever pitch and had the entire 1989 Challenge season broadcast on ESPN to an enthusiastic audience. For 1990 SCCA brought Corvette back with its new Challenge series and ended the highly successful and visible Corvette Challenge series. Those Corvettes that were created and raced are still recognized, collected, and even still raced in historic events.
The C5-R was part of a plan by GM to participate in the grand touring races not only in North America but also elsewhere in the world, more specifically the 24 Hours of Le Mans. GM chose the Pratt & Miller group from Michigan to develop and build the new cars as well as organize the team for driving them.
The C5 initially used a six-liter V8 engine but was later replaced with a seven-liter V8 several months later and was the standard engine for the C5-R. In 2000 the Corvette Team earned their first victories at the ALMS under the sole control of Pratt & Miller. In 2001, Corvette ran its first full season of the ALMS and earned six class victories, including their second at the Le Petit Le Mans, first victory at Le Mans, finishing eighth overall and 34 laps ahead of the closest competitor in their class.
In 2004 Corvette Racing swept the entire season at the American Le Mans and earn its fourth straight championship. That season was the final one for the C5-R under the Corvette Racing banner with the development of the C6 for 2005 to lead an all-new race car.
All in all, the C5.R took six wins in 10 races with an overall win at the 24 Hours of Daytona.
The C6.R took the C6 body and applied improvements to increase speed and reliability while performing at high-performance levels on the track. It debuted in 2005 and finished sixth overall in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in Europe. A year later at the American Le Mans Series Corvette Racing won out of Aston Martin and finished fourth overall to take the win for the GT1 Class. Corvette then took its third championship at American Le Mans Series since it had no real competitors that could stand up to the race proven C6.
Here is Corvette that took the top of the podium at the 24 Hours of Le Mans back in June of 2015. This C7 race car was built using developments from the C6.R and some of the properties of the model. In 2014, when it made its winning debuts at Long Beach, Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen, and Canadian Tire Motorsport's Park. For 2015, it won three times including its first Le Mans win and the 8th win for Corvette Racing at that circuit. Thus far in 2016 Corvette scored a class win at the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring in the GTLM Class. Raise a glass to Corvette Racing and may they continue to push forward with the American racing revolution.
We here are very excited at the prospect of what the mid-engine C8 racing Corvette will have on the racing world. Here's to the future.
For help with your maintenance repair projects, please visit our How-to section in the forum.