Ask every member of Corvette Racing-drivers, pit crew, engineers, technicians, or support staff-and they'll all agree on one thing: Every waking minute of every day of the entire year is spent in preparation for a single event, the 24 Heures du Mans (or, as it is called in English, the 24 Hours of Le Mans), held each June in Le Mans, France.
Perhaps it is tradition that makes Le Mans so symbolically significant to Corvette Racing. There are many difficult races and tracks throughout the season-Sebring, Laguna Seca, and Road Atlanta, among others-but Le Mans holds a certain very special place in Corvette Racing history. In 1960, Briggs Cunningham, John Fitch, and Dr. Dick Thompson brought Chevy's flagship sports car to Le Mans for the first time, and since that pivotal moment in history, 59 more Corvettes have qualified for the field at the French race.
Many stories have been written about Corvettes at Le Mans, but few, if any, have offered the reader an insider's vantage point. Of course there's no bigger insider to Corvette Racing and its current role at Le Mans than four-time Le Mans Champion Johnny O'Connell. O'Connell's career includes three American Le Mans Series (ALMS) GT1 championships; 38 career ALMS wins; the ALMS records for most starts (105), most podium finishes (80), most top-five finishes (93), and most top-10 finishes (100); and a record-setting (and still unbeaten) eight Sebring 12-hour class victories.
O'Connell allowed us backstage with Corvette Racing for the duration of the 2010 Le Mans race, so we could record his "tweets"-that is, his live comments during the race-much like a Hollywood celebrity would do for his fans via the Twitter Internet website. Of course, O'Connell couldn't chat with us when he had his right foot glued to the accelerator pedal, propelling the Corvette Racing No. 63 car around the 8.468-mile Le Mans circuit at speeds greater than 180 mph. At all other times, however, he graciously gave us his unique view of the live action. [Editor's note: We'll have a full recap of the racing action in next month's issue.]
We asked O'Connell to start "tweeting" early Saturday morning before the start of the event and continue through its 3 p.m. conclusion on Sunday. He enjoyed the assignment so much, he even kept up his commentary long after the race was over. In addition to those exclusive insights, we've included some track, paddock, and "backstage" photos to give you an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at Corvette Racing's appearance at the 2010 24 Heures du Mans.
The Long Ride Home
Monday, June 14
We're on an airplane, heading back and disappointed. We had two great race cars, and sadly we lost engines on both-that's not the type of result we were expecting. Right now it's tough because you really think about training all year for one race. Still, there are a lot of good things we learned during the race. It was an awesome battle-both cars ran really fast, and if there's one thing you know, it's that lessons get learned.
We didn't win in 2000, the first year the team went to Le Mans with the GT1 car. But we did win in 2001. Again, this is our first year in GT2. When we go back next year, it will be the second year with the GT2, and we'll get a win. As for this year, if nothing else, we showed the world that the Chevrolet Corvette right now is as fast as everyone. We didn't have the endurance that we needed, but we'll make sure we have that next year.