2000 Chevrolet Corvette C5-R GTS #63 Pilots: R. Fellows, J. O'Connell, O. Gavin Team: Corvette Racing Race: 11th overall (1st in GTS class) at Le Mans in 2002 Minichamps - 400021463 (diecast)
Introduced in 1999, the Corvette C5-R was a grand touring racecar, built by Pratt & Whitney and Chevrolet. Based on the C5 generation of the Corvette, the C5-R was General Motors’ official ticket to endurance racing. Despite the Corvette participating in countless races since 1953, it was never a corporate affair. Though GM did supply backup for some teams, it was always extra-official. Even in the 1980s, when the Corvette GTP competed in the IMSA championship, GM’s support was “under the table”. In the early 90s a few in the engineering department wanted an official racing program for the C4. Unfortunately though, upper management did not buy into the idea. However, in 1997, with the new C5, the board finally decided that a Corvette could race with official factory support. At last, a Corvette would race in Europe and North America in a factory team.
With the project approved, they rolled a stock C5 back into the factory and started working on it. However, GM had no race experience whatsoever. With that, they contracted Pratt & Miller and Riley & Scott to build the cars. Fortunately, the road-going C5 had hydro-formed frame rails that made for a terrific base for a racing chassis. Therefore, the engineering team didn’t need to start from scratch, and it was easy to make a regular chassis race-ready. In the same manner, for the engine, GM contacted Katech Engine Development. Katech used GM’s LS1 engine as the basis for the project. Though based on the production unit, the C5-R’s engine was “race-built”. It counted on a Kinsler fuel injection system with downdraft individual throttle bodies for each cylinder. It also had a higher compression ratio and a dry sump replaced the stock oiling system.
After two years of arduous development and testing, the C5-R was ready in 1999. The car debuted at the 1999 24 Hours of Daytona, and almost won (it was in the lead for 20 hours!). In June the C5-R would have its biggest challenge – the 24 Heures du Mans. Yet, ACO created (a LOT of) difficulties, so the car was not race-legal for the 1999 race. The following year, however, the Corvette Racing team was at La Sarthe, finishing in 10th and 11th. And then, in 2001, a Corvette finally brought home a class victory, coming in first in GTS. For 2002 they repeated the feat, and C5-R #63 (chassis #003) came in eleventh overall and first in GTS. That was Oliver Gavin’s first of his five victories at Le Mans piloting a Corvette.
The 2002 C5-R #63 was a model I wasn’t very hopeful to own. These older releases, like the 2002 and also the 2001 winners, are becoming VERY scarce. I found one by luck, and I bet I only got it because the seller didn’t list it as a “Le Mans winner”. Besides, Minichamps’ older releases have a serious issue with decaying decals. Recently I had to give up buying the 1999 winning Viper because the decals were awful. Fortunately this model, however, looks pretty good. In terms of details it is on par with my 2004 winner from Ixo. Nonetheless, compared to my C6.R (Ixo) and C7.R (Spark), it is much more crude. Not a fair comparison though, since this C5-R #63 is a much older release. Even so, nice enough and a great model to have in the W-143 Garage.