The Chevrolet Corvette C5-R closed out an historic era on Saturday night with a GTS victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a circuit in which the championship-winning team had never won. Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell took the class victory in their #3 Compuware Corvette C5-R, seconds ahead of teammates Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta in the #4 Corvette. The successful endurance sports car racing program closed out the Corvette C5 era with a notable 35th victory in 55 races. Corvette won every single American Le Mans Series event in 2004 as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
'It's a very special year when you can go undefeated,' said Doug Duchardt, GM Racing director. 'It's great for the team to finally win at Laguna Seca and this was an amazing effort from the beginning until the end. We're going to work very hard in the off season to continue with the Corvette C6-R in 2005.'
The four-hour event started in sunny and warm conditions, but ended under hard rain and darkness. The #4 Corvette started from the pole position and held the lead for roughly three hours; a close race in the pits sent the #3 Corvette out in front with only an hour remaining. Johnny O'Connell was able to hold off Olivier Beretta under the gathering rain, and took the final checkered flag for the Corvette C5-R.
'This is a great way to send out the C5-R,' said O'Connell. 'The sweetest thing in the world was hearing the hiss from the air jacks and coming down on the wheels, in front of the other Corvette. I have been fortunate to be able to have Ron as a teammate and our team won this one for us in the pits.'
Ron Fellows took his 24th win in the Corvette—23rd with O'Connell as a teammate—and was also responsible for the car's first victory, at Texas in 2000.
'We started testing this car in the Fall of 1997 so it's quite special to win today in the last race for the car,' said Fellows. 'In a way this is the end of the C5 chapter but the beginning of another. We've got a full off-season of development and we're excited to launch the C6-R next year.'
Olivier Beretta started from pole position but the #4 Corvette team surrendered the lead to the #3 Corvette after a pit stop late in the race.
'I congratulate Ron and Johnny today on their victory,' said Beretta. 'I am very happy that I was given the opportunity to race with this team and the C5-R is one of the best race cars I've ever driven. The team is a very special group of people and I feel as though I have been at Chevrolet for many years.'Source - GM Press
In a sport where the driver usually gets all the accolades, the postrace victory
lane interview usually begins with: 'It was a team effort that allowed me to win.' The C5-R Corvette Race Team -
the latest factory racing effort from GM Motorsports - wholeheartedly embraces the 'team concept' where
specialists share their knowledge and expertise with other members of the team to produce a winning effort. They
will get a chance to prove this concept at next year's Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, 12 Hours at Sebring and Petit Le
Mans endurance races with a two-car team.
The Corvette C5-R Racing Project is the fulfillment of a Zora Duntov dream,' says C5-R Corvette Race Team
manager Doug Fehan, speaking of the famed GM engineer who in the early ‘50s was the driving force behind the
Corvette's emergence into a world-class sports car. 'Racing the Corvette is the next logical phase in the evolution.
How else do you prove performance?'
The C5-R Corvette Race Team has combined the talents of GM Motorsports, Chevrolet Race Shop, and Corvette
production vehicle engineers to provide racing specs to develop 'the best ‘vette yet.' Fehan brought road-racing
specialists Pratt & Miller, Detroit, and Riley & Scott, Indianapolis, to the team to lend year's of practical road-
racing experience to the project. Due to their close proximity to GM's headquarters, Pratt & Miller was selected to
do most of the design, fabrication and development work on the racing Corvettes. However, they could only field
one car on race day with the personnel and resources they had available, so Fehan approached Riley & Scott to
see if they'd be interested in fielding a second car for the team.
Fehan reflects, 'We had two suppliers -- Pratt & Miller in Michigan and Riley & Scott in Indiana -- who were right
for us and right for each other. They had worked together in another lifetime, and since then had achieved their
personal goals. Their personalities mesh, they run synergistic programs, and they both expressed the desire to
make this program succeed.'
Gary Pratt leads an organization that has done various R & D projects for General Motors, and their engineering
and design work has proven its mettle on the racetrack over the years. In 1994 they fielded a championship
Trans-Am entry for Scott Pruett, and in 1995 built the championship car in GTS competition. Pratt & Miller
designed, built and raced an Aurora GTS car to the championship in 1996, and most recently won this year's Pikes
Peak Hill Climb in an S-10 in the Supertruck Division.
Like Pratt & Miller, Riley & Scott is known for their superior race-car design and engineering. Chief Design Engineer
Bill Riley has helped prove that Riley & Scott can race cars as well as design them. Their first-ever factory World
SportsCar team in 1996 captured the coveted 24 Hours at Daytona and 12 Hours at Sebring endurance races, as
well as qualified for Le Mans. Their dream season ended by capturing the ‘96 World SportsCar Driver's and
Working closely with GM Motorsports engineers, Pratt & Miller's first assignment was to develop a 40% scale model
of the Corvette using 3D CAD data from the production car as a starting point. GM aerodynamicist Brian Miller then
took the model to the wind tunnel and tweaked it until the car was stable at speeds approaching 200 MPH. The
tweaked model then came back to Pratt & Miller and became the body CAD template for the racing Corvette test
Meanwhile, development of the racing Corvette's chassis was ongoing. Ken Brown, who worked on the
development of the actual production Corvette's chassis and suspension prior to his assignment to GM
Motorsports, worked with Gary Pratt to develop the racing Corvette's suspension components and chassis layout.
Engine development was being handled across town under the watchful eyes of Joe Negri, GM Motorsports Engine
Director. Úsing the stock LS1 block as a starting point, Joe and his engine specialists have so far been able to
nearly double the output of the production engine with their racing versions. Once some engines were built, they
were sent to Pratt & Miller to be installed on the rolling chassis for some actual track testing.
To this point, about 4,000 miles of on-track testing has been completed. Several tests are planned for November
and December leading up to the 24 Hours at Daytona in January 1999.
We want to race the car to show America and the world that we can modify a $40,000 production car to compete
internationally with cars 2-4 times the price,' adds Fehan, 'and to garner additional global recognition for the
quality and integrity of American design and construction.'Source - GM Press