Corvette Takes 1-2 GTS Class Victory at The 24 Hours of Le Mans

Jun 14 2004 admin News Comments Off on Corvette Takes 1-2 GTS Class Victory at The 24 Hours of Le Mans

Corvette Tops Ferrari in legendary endurance race

LE MANS, France – The General Motors Chevrolet Corvette Racing team won a dramatic GTS class battle at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday. The #64 Corvette C5-R of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen took the GTS victory, finishing sixth overall, while the #63 Corvette of Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Max Papis took second place honors.

“This is our greatest Le Mans victory,” said Doug Fehan, program manager for Corvette Racing. “Le Mans provides a global space where we can show what teamwork can accomplish. We never worked harder before or during a race, which makes the victory that much sweeter.”

After 24 action-packed, sleepless hours of racing, the Corvettes return to the top step of the podium at Le Mans, taking a decisive victory from Ferrari. The win represents a remarkable third victory in five years for Chevrolet at Le Mans. Forty five years after Briggs Cunningham first brought Corvette to Le Mans, today’s victory from the factory-backed effort continues a long standing tradition of the company’s passion for endurance racing success.

“I’m thrilled for the team today as this is a major accomplishment,” said Doug Duchardt, director of GM Racing. “This is exactly the result we’ve been working so hard for, and although it was a rollercoaster of a 24-hour race, we were truly prepared.”

Both Corvette teams overcame many obstacles during the 24 hours, from triple driver stints to numerous front and rear fascia changes during the course of the accident-prone race. Max Papis and Johnny O’Connell put in a sleepless performance of more than 10 hours of driving each after their teammate Ron Fellows was sidelined after his accident earlier in the night. The dedication, ingenuity and resourcefulness of the entire team characterized the way in which Corvette captured its Le Mans victory.

“This is a very, very big win for us,” said Gavin. “After what happened here last year, we fully reviewed our program and carefully prepared for this race.”

After putting early incidents of the race behind them, the Corvettes were poised to take advantage of any opportunity that might come their way, although the leading #66 Ferrari held a comfortable lead for the majority of the morning. After a deciding moment near the midday mark, Olivier Beretta brought the #64 Corvette in for a pit stop at exactly the moment that the Ferraris were finishing their repairs. The two cars were on the same lap only yards separated them. Jan Magnussen took the wheel and never looked back, putting distance in between the back of his Corvette and the Ferrari. His lead would open to a number of minutes over his near two hours in the car, and Gavin finished smoothly as the Ferraris encountered more troubles while the Corvettes ticked along. The Chevrolets crossed the finish line 1-2, an amazing ending to a dramatic race.

“We knew today’s race would be difficult, but I don’t think we expected it to be like this,” said Olivier Beretta. “Everyone on the team worked very hard, never giving up, and that is why we won today.”

The Corvette Racing team will return to the track on June 25 for Round 2 of the American Le Mans Series at Mid-Ohio.

Provisional Results – Gran Tourisme (GTS) Class
Pos. Overall No. Car Laps Completed
1 6 64 Corvette C5-R 345
2 8 63 Corvette C5-R 334
3 9 65 Ferrari 550 M 329
4 11 66 Ferrari 550 M 325
5 14 69 Ferrari 550 M 317
6 34 62 Ferrari 575 GTC 200
7 36 61 Ferrari 575 GTC 163