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GM, Corvette Racing unveils C6-R in Detroit

Date 2005-01-10

By Nancy Knapp Schilke

The Pratt & Miller Corvette Racing team closed out the 2004 American Le Mans Series season on a high note with their fourth consecutive GTS championship in the Corvette C5-R.

On Monday, General Motors and Corvette Racing unveiled the new C6-R challenger at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan - just down the street from the home of GM.

In 1999, Gray Pratt and Jim Miller formed their team to compete in Don Panoz's new ALMS endurance racing series. Since then, Corvette Racing amassed a total of 35 wins in 55 races together with their four team championships.

In 2004, their C5-R earned GTS class victories in all nine races -- the first time they dominated the field.

The team also clinched their third class win at the 2004 24 Hours of Le Mans. The two car team finished one-two at the world's most prestigious endurance race, crossing the finish line at Le Mans in a perfect photo finish.

Ron Fellows, one of the two original drivers for the team scored 24 wins in the C5-R. His co-driver Johnny O'Connell notched 23 C5-R victories. The duo secured the co-drivers title in 2003 and 2004 giving Fellows three consecutive titles, a record in ALMS.

"It's a very special year when you can go undefeated," said Doug Duchardt, GM Racing director after the final race in 2004. "It's great for the team to finally win at Laguna Seca and this was an amazing effort from the beginning until the end. We're going to work very hard in the off season to continue with the Corvette C6-R in 2005."

Now a new era begins when the "For the Fans" series starts its seventh season with the first 2005 race -- the 12 Hours of Sebring -- a demanding race on the former airfield circuit.

Will the C6-R come out of the box flying around the 3.7-mile road course?

The new Corvette will be a contender in the ALMS GT1 class that replaces GTS. The C6-R has been tested as GM fine-tuned it with their development program. The new racing Corvette is based on current Corvette C6 and future Z06 production models.

"The Corvette C6-R is the best sports car we've ever built and it has been our privilege to develop it alongside the new Corvette Z06," said Harry Turner, GM's group manager for road racing.

"History will remember the C5-R as one of the best sports racing cars of all time and we've set the bar high for the C6-R. We are looking forward to racing it in front of the world in 2005."

Corvette Racing's C6-R will still be colored yellow, but will have slight aero differences. Most notable is the rear wing and a front splitter, developed to achieve a better lift-to-drag ratio.

The C6-R's new aerodynamic package will help at diverse tracks like Le Mans and Mosport. Le Mans is more of a low drag circuit where Mosport has high downforce demands.

Bringing good news to ALMS fans, Pratt & Miller Corvette Racing said all four of its top drivers return in 2005, adding excitement to each of this year's 10 races, which includes a second Road Atlanta date. In addition, Corvette Racing will return to defend their title at Le Mans in June.

Fellows and O'Connell will again pilot the No. 3 Corvette, defending their championship title, while Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta will attempt to be the top two GT1 class drivers at the end of the season in the No. 4 team car.

Max Papis will be the third driver with Fellows and O'Connell at the long endurance races, including Sebring. Jan Magnussen returns to the No. 4 cockpit as the third team driver in the longer events.

On hand for the unveiling in Detroit, Fellows gave brief comments about the research and development that went into the C6-R. "Basically, this is the evolution of the C5-R powertrain. The C6 is the pinnacle of the research and development of the C5 that will make the new car better."

With the utter domination that the C5-R had over the past few years, exactly how much better did GM think they had to make this new C6-R?
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