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Close, But No Cigar - 2003 24 Hours of LeMans

James Miles Jan 1, 2004
Vemp_0401_01_z 24_hours_lemans Chevy_corvette_c5r 2/2
Vemp_0401_01_s 24_hours_lemans Chevy_corvette_c5r 3/2

I've sat here working on this story for a lot longer than it normally takes me. As Team VETTE's deadline for the January issue neared, I still hadn't come up with a good way of repeating the news to those who already knew or breaking it to the many non-race fans who just love Corvettes and what they represent: C5-Rs and their accomplishments included. So, I suppose the best way to say it is just to say it. On June 15, 2003 the Corvette's winning streak at the 24 Hours of LeMans came to an end as Ferrari gained a class win over the C5-Rs at the classic international race in France.

Wearing an appropriate set of numbers, 50 and 53, the Corvettes started out looking good with respective qualifying times of 3:55 and 3:58. But even that couldn't save No. 50 (driven by Oliver Gavin, Andy Pilgrim, and Kelly Collins) from problems that caused the normally well-performing Vette to pull into the pits early in the race. Rejoining No. 53 (driven by Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell, and Franck Freon) shortly thereafter, the two teams did very well. But, while the Vettes were more maneuverable and better equipped to handle the turns, Ferrari rolled onto the course packing speed the likes the two Corvettes couldn't keep up with. And although it was a close race to the end, Ferrari finished the competition with a win over the Pratt and Miller-sponsored Vettes. But, as they say, into every life a little rain must fall. There are still many more races for the C5-Rs to win, and they have a year to ready themselves for the yet another go-around with Ferrari. Until then, however, here's a little behind-the-scenes photomontage of this year's 24 Hours of LeMans.

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