But 19 years ago today, when the new Corvette Racing Team, with their two new Pratt & Miller-built C5-R Corvettes made their debut, no one knew the new enterprise would be so successful. Corvette racing fans were thrilled and let out a collective, “IT’S ABOUT TIME!”
Mr. Duntov took care of “his customers” that wanted to go racing!
Dateline: 5-27-17 (Download link is at the bottom of this story) – Before the ax fell in 1957 thanks to the AMA Factory Racing Ban,Zora Arkus-Duntov was planning to take a team of his 1957 Corvette SS Racers to Le Mans. The completed SS Racer was an embarrassment at it’s 1957 Sebring debut and in fact, the Corvette SS mule car showed more promise. The car was rushed in its construction and was actually being finished inside the transported on route from Detroit to Sebring, Florida. Management seemed to be more interested in having the car look good than a developed racecar. In retrospect, the car was terribly underdeveloped. Then, right after the race, GM signed on with the AMA Racing Ban and as Duntov liked to say, the program came to, “… a screeching halt!”
But two major elements from the Corvette SS project survived and eventually made a significant impact on Corvette racing. The finished Corvette SS Racer with its magnesium body was converted into a show car and went on tour with a jet age bubble top. The rough mule car was stripped of it’s cobbled together fiberglass body and the chassis went into storage, only later in 1958/59, to be bought for a nominal fee by then-new GM VP of Styling, Bill Mitchell so that Wild Bill could go racing. His racing effort could in no way look like it was a GM-sponsored enterprise. Mitchell’s racing indulgence became the Stingray Racer, which was the public face of what would eventually become the 1963 Sting Ray.Continue reading “
Vintage 1959 Corvette Sports Car Equipment Guide – PDF Download!” →
The very cool “Chevy Runs Deep” video featuring the C6.R Corvette racers is at the bottom of this post. Wouldn’t it have been awesome if General Motors had told the AMA to “stuff it” back in 1957? Why should Ford and Chrysler get all the racing glory? Just before the GM enforced the 1957 AMA ban on racing, paperwork had been submitted to take Duntov’s Corvette SS race car to Le Mans. And what might have happened if Zora had been allowed to fully develop the ‘63 Grand Sport. Ah, the stuff of bench racing.
In the early years of the Corvette, Chevrolet and General Motors seemed to almost be shy about their involvement in Corvette racing. While the infamous 1957 AMA ban on corporate involvement in racing was for a very long time, their excuse for not being upfront about racing, there was PLENTY of back door parts and engineering “field testing” going on. Select individuals received special assistance that always kept things a little murky. Names such as Smokey Yunick, Roger Penske, Bill Jenkins, Jim Hall, John Greenwood, and others were often gifted with development parts (at no, or little charge) in exchange for feedback from the race track.
And for the regular customers, there were plenty of go-fast parts that were unofficially referred to as Duntov’s “racer kits.” Not that the parts came in a special box, like an AMT model kit, but they did give a wanna-be Corvette racer the benefit of solid Chevrolet engineered parts for their racing efforts.
Fortunately for every Corvette owner for the last several decades, many race developed parts slowly and subtly made their way into production Corvettes. The tide didn’t really turn in the corporate attitude towards racing until the mid-’80s when Chevrolet began to build specially prepared cars for the Corvette Challenge Series. Plus, there was a lot of help given to the C4 Corvette racers in the Showroom Stock Series. Then there was the GTP Lola/Corvettes and the Morrison Motorsports speed demon C4 ZR1 Corvette that shattered speed records. Continue reading “Vette Videos: Chevrolet Embraces Corvette Racing”→
Dateline: 8.11.11 Take a trip in the CorvetteReport.com Video Time Machine to 1957!
Many times, a bold project must have a bold leader. Zora Arkus-Duntov was one of the all-time great corporate outsider misfits. Not only was he the only executive at GM that had actually raced cars, he had raced at Le Mans! Plus, he was constantly wandering off the reservation!
After Sebring in ‘57, it was obvious that modified stock Corvettes would never be competitive against the Jaguars and Ferraris. GM’s chief designer, Harley Earl proposed building a “Corvette” based on a D-Type Jaguar with a Corvette engine and a modified body. When Zora heard about the proposal and looked into what would be needed to create such a car, red flags popped up all over the place for the wild Russian. But Earl was no fool, he was a master tactician, and may well have made such an outrageous proposal as a way of pushing Chevrolet towards building their own purpose-built Corvette racer.
Dateline: 8.9.11 Here’s the latest episode of “Track to Street: Corvette Racing Series.” PLUS!!! All 11 previous episodes. Time to catch up!
According to Chronology of Chevrolet Corvette website, it was sometime in 1997 that the Corvette Racing Team began developing the C5-R race car, based on a production C5 Corvette. C5-R chassis testing began in November ‘97 with the first completed C5-R race car ready in early ‘98. After nearly a year of testing and development, the C5-R’s first competition was at Daytona International Speedway on January 10, 1999. After 24 hours of competition, the C5-Rs came in 2nd and 12th in the GT2 class. Not too shabby for an all-new race car and team.
1999 was a tough year with the C5-R always contenders but not taking a first place win. The best finishes were 2nd place at the Daytona 24 hours race in January and the Laguna Seca 2 hour and 45-minute race in October. The team scooped up their first 1st place win on September 2, 2000 at Texas Motor Speedway in the ALMS series GTS class. Later that month, the team scored their second 1st place win at the 10 hours at Road Atlanta.
In the world of sports car racing, if you win at Daytona, a lot of people will notice.But if you win at Le Mans, EVERYONE sees and remembers! 2001 was the C5-R team’s break out year. Not only did they take 1st place in 8 out of 10 races, but they won 1st AND second place at Le Mans. Since 2001 the C5-R and C6.R Corvette teams have won 1st place in their class at Le Mans seven times and 2nd place at Le Mans seven times.
While that’s not “domination” (something you really DON’T want, because the sanctioning body will put heavy restrictions on your car) it does mean that Corvettes are ALWAYS a force to be reckoned with. The old days of Corvettes being considered as just unsophisticated “fast trucks” are OVER! But how did we get here? It’s the result of a factory-backed, long range R&D group team effort. This is what Chevrolet and GM should have done from the beginning, instead of cow tailing to the 1957 AMA ban on American auto manufacturer’s participation in auto racing.