Le Mans update: A nice piece on the Corvettes

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Now, this disclaimer up front: I’m not a big Corvette guy. The old Stingrays, well, yeah, sure, but today’s ‘Vettes don’t do a ton for me.

That said, I can appreciate a race-trimmed Le Mans version, whether it is 50 years or 50 days old.

And if I were lucky enough to be heading to Le Mans this year, I’d get a chance to see a bunch of those Corvettes.

There’s a nice piece on the ongoing Corvette reunion, which started at the ALMS race at Laguna Seca, over at the New York Times, which I know isn’t everyone’s favorite paper, but it still stands as the U.S. paper of record so to see some Le Mans coverage there is great.

Here’s a few excerpts to wet your appetite:

“I didn’t think I’d ever see this car again,” said Dick Thompson, the roadracing dentist who in 1960 had co-driven the white No. 2 Corvette in the 24 hours of Le Mans with Fred Windridge.

With Thompson at the wheel, the 290-horsepower fuel-injected car was first off the line when the race started, and it managed a speed of more than 161 m.p.h. on the Mulsanne straight. But Thompson, running among the leaders, spun off the track and into a sand pit. By the time he dug himself out, the leaders were many laps ahead.

[snip]

At the wheel will be John Fitch, now 92, who co-drove it a half-century ago with Bob Grossman. Alongside, in the passenger seat, will be the car’s present owner, Lance Miller.

[snip]

The class win did not come easily to the Fitch-Grossman Corvette. It suffered engine overheating in the final hour, but under the Le Mans rules it could not make stops to replenish fluids. The car was able to make it to the end of the race only by packing ice from the team’s soft drink coolers into the car’s engine compartment during pit stops.

Things went worse for the No. 2 car. Thompson remembers it as a death-defying experience.

“We knew before the race the brakes would fail before halfway, and they did,” he said. “I asked Ed Cole, the head of Chevrolet then, why they didn’t put disc brakes on such a sporty car. He said, ‘No, not on a production car.’”

“He also said that he had heard that, in the Northern states, ice was a problem on discs,” said Thompson, now 89, relating a myth of the era. “Can you beat that? That Corvette had everything you could want except brakes! The car had great potential. But G.M. didn’t want to spend the time and the money on it.”

Now that is motor sports history, pure and simple.

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