Reposted from LeMans.org
Theyâ€™ve won the LM GT1 (and GTS) class in five of the last seven 24 Hours of Le Mans and yet, ironically, every year it seems Corvette is considered the underdog against faster and more sophisticated competitors. Indeed, the Viper V10 in 2000, the 12-cylinder double overhead cam-powered Ferraris and Aston Martins, and the more exotic mid-engined Saleens have often dominated pre-race practice and qualifying sessions. Not once, in fact, in the previous seven 24 Hours of Le Mans has a Corvette been fastest qualifier in its class.
With no less than six of the blindingly fast Aston Martin DBR9s (three of them factory entries run by ProDrive), independent Ferrari 550 Maranello and Lamborghini Murcielago entries, and new for this year two Saleen S7R entries by the veteran Oreca team, the Corvettes may once again be hard pressed to match their competitorsâ€™ outright lap speeds.
Interestingly, the two occasions on which Corvette was beaten at Le Mans, it was by an Oreca Viper in 2000, and a ProDrive Ferrari in 2003. But in spite of any speed disadvantage and what often seems an insurmountable lead by their competitors every year, Corvettes prevailed in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006. The reasons â€“ ironclad reliability, and the skill and never-say-die determination of the Corvette Racing team that campaigns Americaâ€™s sports car.
The race in 2006 between ProDriveâ€™s obviously faster Aston Martin DBR9s and the Corvettes was an epic struggle, flag to flag, won ultimately by the gritty Corvette Racing squad. With the Oreca Saleens joining these two great teams, this yearâ€™s GT1 contest in the 24 Hours of Le Mans should be a classic.
It wonâ€™t be surprising if the Aston Martins and Saleens dominate the run-up this week, once again putting Corvette in the underdog role. But of course, the question is who will prevail after 24 grueling hours?
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