Over the last few seasons, Corvette Racing fans have taken note of a mysterious skull incorporated into the livery of the screaming-yellow C6.Rs. While there's no shortage of theories regarding the skull and its origins, the real story behind this menacing mascot has remained shrouded in mystery. Until now.
It all started one morning at Le Mans in 2001. Gary Claudio, marketing manager for GM Racing, discovered a skull-and-crossbones insignia on the tongue of the shoes issued to team members. During a prerace pep talk, Gary used the pirate analogy to fire up the team.
"What do pirates do?" barked Gary.
"They take no prisoners!" was the resound-ing reply.
"And that's what we are going to do today. We're not taking prisoners. We're going to kick some ass and win the race!"
Corvette Racing went on to make history, capturing Chevy's first GTS-class win in the 24-hour race. To commemorate the victory, Claudio presented the Pratt & Miller team with a pirate flag (now proudly displayed in the team's cafeteria) that read, "To all the pirates at Pratt & Miller Engineering, congratulations on a job well done!" The skull legend was born.
With the tacit approval of the GM brass, the team adopted the skull as a symbol of its determination to fight and win at all costs. At around the same time, in early 2002, Don Male came to work at P&M as a truck driver for the team's transporters. Almost immediately, he took on the role of the skull's most ardent advocate.
We caught up with Male at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah before the start of a recent ALMS race. As he slid out of the cabin of an 18-wheeler, its door emblazoned with the moniker "Male Man" in silver leaf, we cornered him for the real story on how the skull grew to such prominence within the team.
According to Male, the visage's first appearance came when the team placed a small silver-plastic skull in front of the No. 4 C5-R's gearshift mechanism prior to the '02 Sebring enduro. Soon after, a white flaming-skull decal appeared on the rollcage just above the driver's head.
Later that year, Male found a silver flaming-skull decal while wandering downtown Le Mans during the prerace tech-inspection process. Not surprisingly, it immediately found its way onto the car's B-pillar. This appearance marked the first time the skull was incorporated into the car's external presentation. The C5-Rs went on to score a resounding victory in the GTS class (now GT1), taking First and Second Places. Almost overnight, the skull legend was born.
The No. 4 crew soon decided to relocate the molded skull from the cockpit to the outside of the car. The initial plan-to affix it to the C5-R's nose-was nixed when the team realized that any front-end damage incurred on the track would likely destroy its newly adopted mascot. The skull was instead mounted on the center of the rear fascia, where it has remained ever since.