Celebrating 50th Anniversary of First Le Mans with Historic Corvettes, Legendary Drivers
This year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will mark the 50th anniversary of Corvette’s first participation in the world’s most prestigious sports car race. Chevrolet will celebrate this motorsports milestone with a salute to the Corvette Legends of Le Mans at the American Le Mans Series Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on May 21-22.
The spotlight will shine on Corvette’s racing heritage with a special display of historic Corvettes that raced at Le Mans and appearances by legendary Corvette drivers. Corvette Racing fans will be able to give the American Le Mans Series’ most successful team a grand send-off before the twin Compuware Corvette C6.R race cars begin their transatlantic journey to France, where they’ll compete in the world’s biggest sports car race on June 12-13.
“It is an honor for Chevrolet to salute the men and machines that have contributed to Corvette’s racing heritage at Le Mans since 1960,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President, Chevrolet Marketing. “They are part of Chevy’s longstanding tradition of developing technology on the track to improve the design, performance and efficiency of Corvettes on the street. The hardware has changed dramatically over five decades, but the challenge and excitement of the 24 Hours of Le Mans has endured through the years.”
Four Corvettes competed in the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans – three entered by sportsman Briggs Cunningham and one by Camoradi USA. Cunningham’s No. 2 Corvette driven by Dr. Dick Thompson and Fred Windridge will be on display at the Laguna Seca event, and Thompson will be on hand to describe his Le Mans experiences. The No. 2 Corvette retired at 20 hours, but the sister No. 3 Cunningham Corvette driven by John Fitch and Bob Grossman won its class and finished eighth overall.
Chevy’s second-generation Corvette made its Le Mans debut in 1967 with Corvette legends Dick Guldstrand and Bob Bondurant sharing the driving duties. Entered by Dana Chevrolet, the red, white and blue coupe blitzed the Mulsanne Straight with big-block horsepower. Guldstrand will be reunited with the restored Corvette and share his memories of Le Mans at the historic Corvette display in the ALMS paddock.
The 1969 Greenwood Corvette competed in the Triple Crown of sports car racing – the 12 Hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Constructed and campaigned by John Greenwood, this star-spangled Corvette was driven by top road course drivers of the period including comedian Dick Smothers and Chevrolet performance specialist Don Yenko. Greenwood, Bob Johnson and Jim Greendyke raced this remarkable machine at Le Mans in 1973.
Chevrolet will close the circle of Le Mans Corvettes with a 2011 Corvette Z06 painted in the traditional white and blue American racing colors carried by the Cunningham Corvettes 50 years ago. This one-of-a-kind Corvette Z06 (VIN 0001) will be sold at auction later this year to benefit the National Corvette Museum.
No team has enjoyed more success with Corvettes at Le Mans than Corvette Racing, winner of six GTS/GT1 class titles since 2001. The twin Compuware Corvette C6.R race cars will compete in the six-hour Laguna Seca endurance race against GT class rivals Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, and Jaguar. Corvette Racing’s quartet of drivers – Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette C6.R, and Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta in the No. 4 Corvette C6.R – have a total of 17 Le Mans class victories. They’ll be joined in Laguna Seca by Corvette Racing ambassador Ron Fellows, a two-time winner at Le Mans.
Fans will be able to participate in a variety of activities, including driver autograph sessions, tech talks, and a Q&A with the Corvette Legends of Le Mans. Chevrolet will stage a 7.8-mile ride-and-drive that puts customers behind the wheel of new Chevrolet vehicles, including Equinox, Silverado, Traverse, Malibu, Tahoe, Camaro and Corvette.
The collection of vintage and contemporary Corvette race cars that will assemble at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca spans half a century of motorsports history. The iconic drivers who raced these machines are a bridge to racing’s past. For two glorious days in May, the past and present will exist side by side at the American Le Mans Series Monterey.