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Corvettes In The 24 Hours Of Le Mans - Unfinished Business

Chevy Goes To The 68th 24 Hours Of Le Mans

Photography by Laurence Baker

"I'd better be here next year," Kneifel said. "I'll be really bummed if I'm not. There's unfinished business."How many representatives did GM bring to Le Mans? The number didn't reach a thousand, but it was well into the hundreds! As for the team itself, Chevy brought an onslaught of drivers, engineers, mechanics, and suppliers to support its return to the world's biggest race. Count the executives, chefs, PR people, etc., and the number was rumored to be around 600 people representing GM at the event.

While Goodyear has been pouring on a little more tech as of late, their massive pullout from F1 and CART racing has left them behind in terms of tire technology. This showed at Le Mans, where the Michelin teams-that means Chevy's competition in the Viper camp-could run longer without changing rubber. Many felt that on Michelins, the Corvette team could have been even closer.

It was the little failures that put the Chevy team behind, but after all, the C5-R is a much newer car and the team was on its first trip to Le Mans. Though they're getting away here, the Chevy guys found that heat killed the starter motors. That was no surprise, as record temps in Europe had the cars dealing with their toughest conditions ever.

"Just how hot was it out there, Justin?" With the temperatures in the closed-cockpit GTS racers reaching 170 degrees, drivers like Brit Justin Bell told their teammates like Canadian Ron Fellows to keep drinking those fluids-Bell went unconscious when exiting after a long stint.

Chevy Raceshop guru Gary Claudio confers with European star Franck Freon, and from their smiles, they must be discussing how much fun it is to finally realize a dream. Claudio worked with GM Motorsports boss Herb Fishel and C5-R manager Doug Fehan as coordinating managers for the Le Mans effort.

How's this for a long day. Arrive at the track at 6:00 a.m. Begin the race at 4:00 p.m. Stay up all night performing pit stops and fixing small, nagging issues that keep you out of the serious running. Finish the race at 4:00 p.m. Have a glass of champagne for finishing second in class, then pack up all of your pit equipment during the night. You'd be tired, too. Though both teams didn't make it to the podium in the GTS class, hats off to the #64 car and drivers Andy Pilgrim, Kelly Collins, and Frank Freon for finishing 10th overall and second in class.

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