The Chevrolet Corvette C5-R closed out an historic era on Saturday night with a GTS victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a circuit in which the championship-winning team had never won. Ron Fellows and Johnny O’Connell took the class victory in their #3 Compuware Corvette C5-R, seconds ahead of teammates Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta in the #4 Corvette. The successful endurance sports car racing program closed out the Corvette C5 era with a notable 35th victory in 55 races. Corvette won every single American Le Mans Series event in 2004 as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“It’s a very special year when you can go undefeated,” said Doug Duchardt, GM Racing director. “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.”
The four-hour event started in sunny and warm conditions, but ended under hard rain and darkness. The #4 Corvette started from the pole position and held the lead for roughly three hours; a close race in the pits sent the #3 Corvette out in front with only an hour remaining. Johnny O’Connell was able to hold off Olivier Beretta under the gathering rain, and took the final checkered flag for the Corvette C5-R.
“This is a great way to send out the C5-R,” said O’Connell. “The sweetest thing in the world was hearing the hiss from the air jacks and coming down on the wheels, in front of the other Corvette. I have been fortunate to be able to have Ron as a teammate and our team won this one for us in the pits.”
Ron Fellows took his 24th win in the Corvette—23rd with O’Connell as a teammate—and was also responsible for the car’s first victory, at Texas in 2000.
“We started testing this car in the Fall of 1997 so it’s quite special to win today in the last race for the car,” said Fellows. “In a way this is the end of the C5 chapter but the beginning of another. We’ve got a full off-season of development and we’re excited to launch the C6-R next year.”
Olivier Beretta started from pole position but the #4 Corvette team surrendered the lead to the #3 Corvette after a pit stop late in the race.
“I congratulate Ron and Johnny today on their victory,” said Beretta. “I am very happy that I was given the opportunity to race with this team and the C5-R is one of the best race cars I’ve ever driven. The team is a very special group of people and I feel as though I have been at Chevrolet for many years.”
Price this car:
MSRP: $43,835 – $52,185
Invoice: $38,356 – $45,662
Source: Chevrolet Press Release