Corvette Racing Seeks Fifth Class Title in 24 Hours of Le Mans
Classic 24-Hour Endurance Race to Feature Intense Competition in GT1 Class
LE MANS, France - Corvette Racing races to win in every event, but if there is one victory that
every team member prizes, it's the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This classic 24-hour endurance contest is sports
car racing's Olympics, World Cup and Super Bowl, all compressed into one frenetic day and night of
round-the-clock competition. Four times in the last five years, the yellow Corvettes have finished first
and second in the GT1 class. On June 17-18, the Chevrolet factory team's iconic Corvettes will be gunning
for their fifth Le Mans title.
Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen stood on the top step of the podium at Le Mans in
2004-05 after back-to-back victories in their No. 64 Corvette. In 2001, Johnny O'Connell and Ron Fellows
teamed with Scott Pruett in the No. 63 Corvette to take the class honors, and in 2002 O'Connell and
Fellows repeated the feat with Gavin as the third driver. This year's Le Mans lineup reflects the
consistency that is the hallmark of Corvette Racing, reprising the same driver and car combinations as in
2005: Gavin, Beretta and Magnussen in the No. 64 Compuware Corvette C6.R, and Fellows, O'Connell and Max
Papis in the No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R.
"Le Mans is the Holy Grail of sports car racing," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug
Fehan as the team began final preparations for the race. "There is nothing like it in the world. Many
in America don't comprehend the importance of Le Mans in the global automotive community, with more than
2,000 journalists covering the event, nearly 300,000 spectators at the track, and millions watching the
worldwide television coverage.
"We're going into Le Mans with a winning attitude after a victory in the grueling 12-hour Sebring
race, 1-2 finishes in Houston and Mid-Ohio, and a very productive test in Le Mans on June 4," Fehan
continued. "We're now totally focused on the most important sports car race on the planet."
Corvette Racing's assault on the La Sarthe circuit is planned with the precision of a missile launch
and the determination of the D-Day invasion. Every nut, bolt, sensor and spare part must be cataloged and
shipped to Le Mans from the team's headquarters in Michigan. The first installment was dispatched weeks
ago by sea - a 64,000-pound 18-wheel tractor/trailer filled with essential equipment and supplies, ranging
from pit carts to peanut butter. A second shipment was airlifted to France just days after the Mid-Ohio
race, a precious cargo that included the two race cars and 13,000 pounds of parts.
"The challenges at Le Mans are huge," Fehan noted. "Corvette Racing has competed in the
24 Hours of Le Mans since 2000, and with six years of experience we now understand the essentials of the
race - building cars that can run for 24 hours and selecting drivers with the discipline required for
endurance racing. Everything that leads up to the race is the true challenge. We ship tons of equipment
overseas, and all of that must be coordinated. We have great partners in Europe who help us to assemble
the infrastructure that supports the team. It takes months and months of planning to prepare for this
single 24-hour race."
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is contested on the high-speed 8.5-mile Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans, which
comprises both the purpose-built Bugatti race circuit and two-lane country roads. This year's race is the
74th running of the event, which has been contested annually since 1923, except during and immediately
following World War II.
"The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the second oldest auto race in the world, and you can feel its history
and tradition," said Johnny O'Connell, a three-time class winner at Le Mans. "I've raced in the
Indy 500, and I can tell you that this race is every bit as big, every bit as spectacular, and about 21
hours more difficult.
"Maybe it's the sign of a person who's not playing with a full deck, but it was always one of my
goals to race at night at Le Mans, in the rain, driving nearly 200 mph," O'Connell revealed.
"I've done that, and it's a pretty neat life experience. Corvette Racing goes to Le Mans to compete
with the best of the best, and our record there says a lot about the professionalism of this
Last year's GT1 contest became a battle royal between Corvette Racing and Aston Martin Racing that was
fought in temperatures approaching 100 degrees F. The race wasn't decided until the final two hours; up to
that point, the Corvettes and Aston Martins were on the same lap. The class-winning Corvette C6.R
completed 349 laps (2,960 miles) and made 27 pit stops.
"I expect another great race," O'Connell predicted. "The Aston Martin team has strong
credentials and an experienced driver lineup. The Saleen is going to be tough, and there is a Corvette
C5-R that we'll have to worry about because it is allowed to run a larger intake air restrictor than our
Corvette C6.Rs. I also see competition from the independent Aston Martins and Ferraris. If we are
fortunate enough to win, we'll be able to say that we beat one of the strongest GT1 fields in
Three-time Le Mans winner Oliver Gavin agreed: "Winning Le Mans is like solving a jigsaw
puzzle," he said. "You must have all of the pieces in place - a great car like the Corvette
C6.R, teammates who are fast and fully focused, and a crew that performs perfectly. It's a real test of
endurance for the car, the drivers and the team. By the time it's finished, you've been up for nearly 40
hours, and those last few hours can be the hardest."
Corvette's racing heritage at Le Mans began 46 years ago when four Corvettes started the 24-hour
marathon. Corvette Racing's recent success at Le Mans has enhanced Corvette's standing as one of the
world's premier performance marques.
"We have a saying that we race around the clock and win around the world," explained Corvette
marketing manager Gary Claudio. "The coverage that the 24 Hours of Le Mans receives has propelled
Corvette and Chevrolet onto the world stage. The people who own Corvettes are very aware of the product,
and they understand how racing enhances the cars that they drive."
"The chemistry within Corvette Racing is amazing," Claudio declared. "They want to win,
and they are proud to represent Corvette and Chevrolet around the world. They're racers."
On June 17-18, the men and women of Corvette Racing will be working flat-out to win the Big One.
Just the Facts
- 2006 marks Corvette's 50th anniversary in international road racing and 46th anniversary at Le Mans.
John Fitch and Walt Hansgen drove a Corvette to a Class B victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1956,
the first step onto the world stage that established Chevy's sports car as a contender in top-level
competition. In 1960, Briggs Cunningham entered three Corvettes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Lucky
Casner entered one Corvette under the Camoradi USA banner. Cunningham drivers Fitch and Bob Grossman
won the large displacement GT class and finished eighth overall.
- Including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is not part of the American Le Mans Series, Corvette Racing
has won 23 of its last 24 races. Corvette Racing has scored a record-tying 12 straight victories in
ALMS competition, a winning streak that began at Road Atlanta in April 2005.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans will start at 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. EDT) on Saturday, June 17, and will
conclude at 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. EDT) on Sunday, June 18. The SPEED Channel will televise 20 hours
of live coverage in the U.S., from 10:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. EDT on Saturday and from 8 p.m. EDT on Saturday to
11:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday. MotorsTV will provide complete Le Mans race coverage in Europe, including
practice and qualifying sessions. Audio coverage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans can be heard over the Internet
Release Date: June 13, 2006