Chevrolet Corvette C5R - Winners

The C5-Rs Get A "Two-Fer" By Beating The Vipers At The Road Atlanta Petit Le Mans

Richard Prince Feb 1, 2001 0 Comment(s)

With the clock beginning to wind down it looked rather bleak for Team Corvette. The #92 Viper led the #4 C5-R by a comfortable margin, and though the Corvette was consistently faster per lap, absent some sort of fortuitous intervention the gap was simply too big to make up in the remaining time. Then, in partial recompense for the earlier race officials' mistake that robbed it of a full lap, #4 caught a lucky break. At 9:15 a GT class BMW M3 tossed its cookies and puked oil all over the track between turns #9 and #10, inducing a full-course yellow. This allowed the field to tighten up, reducing the Viper's lead over the Corvette to 9.748 seconds when the green flag came out at 9:30.

Emotions in the Corvette pits surged when quick calculations revealed that Andy Pilgrim theoretically had enough time to catch Tommy Archer's Viper in the 14 remaining laps. Pilgrim was already well into a double stint at the wheel and was obviously exhausted as the end neared, but he knew what was required and pure adrenaline took over. "I unmercifully thrashed the car during my last stint," he said after it was over, "I was running very hard to catch the #92 car." As the final laps ticked off Pilgrim closed the gap until he was nose-to-tail with Archer. With only minutes remaining Archer took a defensive line through every corner, swinging wide and braking as late as he dared to prevent the Corvette from passing. But with less than two laps to go he could deny Pilgrim no longer.

Sixty thousand fans watched in awe, then roared with delight as Pilgrim made an utterly brilliant move to take the lead. Coming into turn one at the end of Road Atlanta's long front straight, Archer braked perilously late and moved left to keep Pilgrim from passing on the outside of the sharp right hander. Pilgrim moved even further left and then in an instant darted right and got inside the Viper near the apex of the corner. The cars went into the corner off line and with way too much speed, making it appear certain that both would crash in an instant. But in seeming defiance of the laws of physics, the Corvette stuck to the track as though on rails, its carbon rotors glowing bright orange with heat and the Goodyear slicks fighting for every iota of grip.

The Viper was not so fortunate. As the Corvette blew by the Dodge, the Viper lost front downforce. Archer moved his car slightly to the right, gently kissed the Corvette's rear, and then went left, sailing off-course into the gravel trap. He managed to gather himself back up and get back on track, but by then it didn't much matter. Two minutes later Pilgrim roared across the finish line and took the checkered flag for Team Corvette. Just 6.837 seconds later Archer brought his battered red Viper home in second place, and a minute after that Fellows nursed the ailing #3 Corvette to third in class. The mood in the Corvette camp was, to say the least, jubilant. Victory in the grueling Petite Le Mans confirmed what the team and Corvette fans around the world already knew-the win in Texas was not a fluke; it was the only possible outcome of an evolutionary process begun at Daytona in 1999. The Vipers' reign was fun while it lasted, but America's real Sports Car is once again King of the Hill.


Connect With Us

Get Latest News and Articles. Newsletter Sign Up

subscribe to the magazine

get digital get print