General Motors Media Press Release
FOR RELEASE: November 2, 1999
C5-R Corvette's '99 Race Season Continues Proud Heritage of Past Generations
DETROIT - The latest addition to Corvette Racing's stable, the C5-R Corvette GTS racer, added a new chapter to Corvette's storied history this year. Building on the dream the legendary Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov worked so hard to realize throughout his career with General Motors, and drawing on the Corvette's long and distinguished competition record in all forms of motorsports, Chevrolet showcased America's only true production sports car with Corvette's historic return to road racing.
Starting with the new C5 Corvette, which is equal or superior to any production car built in the world today, GM created the C5-R that made its debut with a two-car effort at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January. The #2 GM Goodwrench Service Plus C5-R Corvette with drivers Ron Fellows, Chris Kneifel and John Paul Jr. led over half of the 24-hour marathon before an oil consuming problem dropped it to third place, but a podium finish was quite impressive in the C5-R's maiden contest. The #4 GM Goodwrench Service Plus C5-R Corvette with drivers John Heinricy, Andy Pilgrim and Scott Sharp started third and also led part of the race, but minor teething problems required unplanned pit stops during the night and relegated the #4 C5-R to 12th place.
"The return of Chevrolet Corvette to the racetrack reinforces everything Corvette stands for -- we owe this to Corvette and to Corvette owners around the world," said Kurt Ritter, marketing general manager, Chevrolet Motor Division.
"The racing program we've created reinforces and underscores our commitment to the Corvette and its magnificent heritage," Corvette brand manager Jim Campbell adds. "Corvette is America's performance icon, and all of us feel a responsibility to preserve and enhance the car's image. The racing program is designed to help us fulfill that responsibility.
But the story goes beyond the Detroit automaker's desire to win races. "Our primary focus is to improve the breed," says Campbell, whose brand team is directly responsible for the sales and marketing of the new fifth-generation Corvette, as well as funding for the racing project.
The C5-R Corvette continues a decades-long tradition of exciting Corvette road racers. Under the guiding hand of engineering genius Zora Duntov, Chevrolet first thrust its then fledgling sports car into competition in 1956.
At the NASCAR Speedweeks run on the sands of Daytona Beach in February of 1956, a trio of Corvettes set numerous acceleration and speed records. Corvette's successes on Daytona Beach led to a factory-supported assault on the Sebring 12-hour race the following month. In this first foray into the international racing arena, Corvette put the world on notice that it was a genuine contender as the John Fitch/Walt Hansgen entry finished first in class.
In 1960 three Corvettes were brought to Le Mans by team owner Briggs Cunningham. With a remarkable demonstration of endurance and speed, the #3 car, driven by John Fitch and Bob Grossman, finished eighth overall, well ahead of many of the finest and all-out racing cars of the era.
The third-generation Corvette, introduced in 1968, continued the winning ways of its predecessors. In fact, Corvettes were totally dominant in the late '60s and '70s, winning sixteen SCCA national A- and B-Production titles and finishing as high as third overall at both Daytona and Sebring. In the late '70s and early '80s Corvettes went Trans-Am racing and though the competition was formidable, Corvettes continued to finish in front. By the end of 1978 they earned the SCCA Trans-Am Category II title, and at the conclusion of the 1979 season they did the same in Category I.
In addition to racing in production classes as it had done for decades, a more exotic Corvette-based car took to the track in the late '80s. The incredible Corvettes reached speeds well in excess of 200 mph by virtue of their 1200-horsepower, turbocharged Chevrolet engines and thrilled fans from coast to coast. In 1988 and 1989 Corvettes were pitted against each other in a tremendously exciting new contest called the Corvette Challenge Series, where some of the world's best drivers competed against one another in identically-prepared fourth-generation Corvettes.
But wheel-to-wheel racing was not the only place the cars continued to shine in this decade. As they had done on the sands of Daytona and the Salt Flats of Bonneville generations earlier, Corvettes once again set new marks for speed and durability. Of particular note were the many records established by two Corvettes -- a ZR-1 and an L98 -- at the Firestone tire test track at Ft. Stockton, Texas, on March 1-2, 1990.
In addition to its podium finish in its debut at Daytona, through five races this season the C5-R also has a season-best second-place finish in the Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sears Point Raceway and a matching second place at the VISA Sports Car Championships at Laguna Seca Raceway. The GM Goodwrench Service Plus C5-R Corvette concludes its race season at the Grand Prix of Las Vegas at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Nov. 7.
The C5-R hasn't been the only Corvette posting podium finishes this year. John Heinricy, GM vehicle chief engineer for Firebird and Camaro, drove the #39 Rowleys Pennzoil C5 Corvette to a win in the season-ending Speedvision World Challenge GT Championship race at Laguna Seca. It was the second series win for the C5 Corvette as Scotty B. White scored the C5's first win earlier this year at Vancouver. Chevrolet was also awarded the 1999 Speedvision World Challenge Special Achievement Award for its efforts in returning the Corvette to competition through its support of the GT competitors racing C5 Corvettes.
Those C5 racers are a fully race-prepared car built from the C5 Corvette Racer parts kit sold to professional teams through Chevrolet dealerships. Heinricy's winning C5 also used C5 Racing anti-roll bars, shock absorbers and other parts available through the GM Performance Parts catalog.
Jeff Altenberg also captured the C5's first national title in amateur road racing with by winning the SCCA Touring 1 Championship at the Valvoline Runoffs at Mid-Ohio Sports Course. He qualified his #72 Phoenix American Motorsports C5 Corvette on the pole and led all 19 laps en route to the win. The SCCA Valvoline Runoffs has evolved into what is commonly agreed to be the Super Bowl of amateur road racing. All six C5 Corvettes in the Valvoline Runoffs ran the T1 suspension kit that is available for amateur race teams and sold through the GM Performance Parts catalog. "We hope to use the Corvette race program to illustrate the great characteristics of the Corvette as both a sports car and a race car," says Dave Hill, vehicle line executive and chief engineer, Corvette. "This should cause new people to take a look at the Corvette as an alternative to other sports cars. And we've found that once we get people to take a look at the new Corvette, the car sells itself."
From a marketing standpoint, GM wants to show America and the world that they can modify a $40,000 production car to successfully compete with the best in the world at 1/3 the price.
As in the past, the production-based race car will accelerate the development of existing components, as well as the creation of new technologies, which will help keep the production Corvettes driven on the streets today at the forefront of the world's great performance cars.