Corvette Racing: An American Revolution 50 Years In The Making

24 Hours of Le Mans has been a trademark race throughout the world for over eighty years now with the first race being held in 1923. The goal of the 24-hour endurance is to not only be the fastest, but to have the most dependable car. Chevrolet joined the worldwide competition in the race’s 37th year of existence in 1960. Chevrolet Racing entered a 1960 Corvette with a 7.0 Liter small block with drivers, John Fitch and Bob Grossman behind the wheel. In the team’s first appearance at the France circuit, they took home the gold for the GTS 4,000-5,000cc class and an eighth place overall.

Since Corvette’s circuit debut, Chevrolet has made major changes each year toward the suspension system for better handling, the braking system for better stopping power, and of coarse, engine upgrades for more power. Most recently, General Motors’ Research & Design team has been producing bigger and better versions of their LS series engine packages which have clearly contributed to Corvette Racing’s success.

An illustration of Chevrolet's first participant in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

This year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans is set to capture the golden anniversary of the ‘Vette at Le Mans. Helping to celebrate the momentous occasion will be the two drivers who started it all, Fitch and Grossman with their restored track winning number ‘3.’ The drivers will be fully dressed in their traditional 60’s American white and blue racing colors. The piece of history will march throughout the streets of France, leading a pack of Corvettes in a ceremonial parade lap to commemorate the occasion.

Above is the original 1960 'Vette that began the Corvette Racing revolution.

“When you look at the Corvettes that raced at Le Mans 50 years ago, it’s impossible not to be impressed by the passion, the immense courage, and the physical stamina that was required to race for 24 hours in those vehicles,” commented Doug Fehan with Corvette Racing. “It was an astounding feat, and the men who drove them have my respect. Regardless of what Corvette Racing may have accomplished in the past or what we may accomplish in the future, we will always work in the shadow of these racers.”

Two different generations of Sting Rays are represented from the middle of Corvette's 50-year Le Mans legacy.

Although the pre-race ceremonies will focus upon Corvette’s heritage, Corvette Racing’s main focus is to repeat history by taking the victory home to the United States. Currently, the Corvette Racing team is three-times larger than it’s maiden year with a total of six drivers competing with two different cars. The team has a total of 20 class victories in 66 starts at Le Mans. Johnny O’Connell has made history himself last year by being the first American driver to earn four division wins at Le Mans with the help of his teammates, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia.

Above are the beginning, middle, and present Le Mans Racing models.

This image captures the Corvette Racing legacy in one photograph.

“Le Mans will be the hardest competition we have ever faced with the GT2 Corvette,” commented Manussen. “We are well prepared and everything we’ve done with the new car has been targeted at Le Mans. We’ll do what we’ve done every year: push hard all the time with only one goal – to win!”

The 24 Hours at Le Mans is scheduled to begin at 3:00 p.m. CET on Saturday, June 12th and continue through Sunday when the winners will be crowned. SPEED TV will catch the start of the race live at 8:30 a.m. Eastern until 12:30 p.m. SPEED will tune back in at 6:00 p.m. Saturday night and follow the race through ‘till the end at 9:30 a.m. Eastern on Sunday. Saturday’s untelivsied coverage can be streamed online from 12:30-6:00 p.m.

About the author

Kevin Shaw

Kevin Shaw is a self-proclaimed "muscle car purist," preferring solid-lifter camshafts and mechanical double-pumpers over computer-controlled fuel injection and force-feeding power-adders. If you like dirt-under-your-fingernails tech and real street driven content, this is your guy.
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