After winning the GTS class in the 24 Hours of LeMans race in 2001 and 2002, the factory-backed C5-Rs placed Second and Third this past June to one of the wickedly fast prodrive Ferrari 550 Maranellos. Just two weeks later, while one LeMans C5-R was on display at the Nashville Coliseum during Chevy's official 50th Anniversary celebrations, another pair of C5-Rs was at the Road Atlanta road course outside of Braselton, Georgia, vying to regain their honor in the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta ALMS (American LeMans Series) race.
Right off the bat, the C5-Rs ran quicker laps than the potent, red Ferraris, with the No. 3 Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell car clocking a best of 1:20.940 on the 2.45-mile, 12-turn circuit. The 88 and 80 Ferraris followed at 1:21.079 and 1:21.622, trailed by the Oliver Gavin/Kelly Collins No. 4 Corvette at 1:21.662. The No. 0, Olive Garden restaurants-sponsored green 550M was close behind at 1:21.688. The only other GTS class entrant was the massively outclassed Weickart/Belloc No. 71 Viper GTS-R, which struggled to a first-day best of 1:25.843.
The final starting grid, determined after two additional practices the following day, Saturday June 28th, showed the No. 3 of Fellows and O'Connell on the GTS pole at 1:20.917, C5-R No. 4 (co-driven by Gavin and Collins) at 1:21.320, the Olive Garden Ferrari at 1:21.328, the two prodrive Ferrari 550Ms (No. 88 at 1:21.428 and No. 80 at 1:21.863), and a vastly improved (but still non-competitive) Viper at 1:22.044.
The results of Sunday's hard-fought, 2-hour, 45-minute race were both expected and somewhat unexpected. As expected, Audi R8s dominated, placing First and Second overall and in the LMP900 prototype class (with both completing 128 laps), followed by a duo of LMP675 prototype class Lola MGs and another pair of LMP900 cars. Unexpectedly, First in GTS and Seventh overall with 118 laps was the No. 4 C5-R, piloted by Kelly Collins and Oliver Gavin, with the 88 Ferrari 550M of Tomas Enge and Peter Kox close behind on the same lap. Two laps off the pace and Third in GTS was the usually dominating and usually favored Fellows/O'Connell No. 3 Corvette. Another lap back, finishing Fourth in class, was the second prodrive Ferrari, and the problem-plagued Olive Garden 550M came home a distant Fifth after completing just 92 laps. The lone Viper didn't even start the race.
Our man in Atlanta, Todd Leopard (in truth he hails from Charlotte, NC) was allowed behind the scenes and got some fascinating photos of the latest iteration C5-Rs-under the skin and under the hood. Here's a brief look at what makes the C5-R tick.