Wednesday, June 23, 2010

ONCE UPON A TIME AT LE MANS: 50th CELEBRATION

Corvette aficionado Jan Hyde shares his notes from the 50th anniversary tribute at Le Mans.
 In 1960 Briggs Cunningham entered a team of 3 Corvettes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. John Fitch and the late Bob Grossman won the GT class and finished 8th overall in the #3 car. Lance Miller owns the Cunningham Corvette and, with help from friends, arranged and paid for the 50th Anniversary tribute to honor the occasion and fulfill the dream of his late father, Chip Miller. Amlydosis, a rare disease without a cure at present, cut Chip’s life short.

The #3 Corvette was entrusted to Fabrice Bernollin of Still Racing, an historic racecar specialist in France that transported the car from the port of LeHavre to the Le Mans Museum where it awaited us on June 9. Earlier in the week professional photographer Richard Prince posed the #3 with the Pratt & Miller crew and drivers of their 2010 C6R GT2 Corvettes # 63 and #64 for the above photo.
The #3 Corvette remained in the museum the while Chevrolet hosted an introduction and press conference the next day in a suite above the Corvette pits on the main straight. Driver John Fitch recounted his 1960 experience and was honored by Doug Fehan, GM Corvette Program
Racing Manager. Fitch, left, driving #3 at 1960 Le Mans.

Early Friday morning Lance spirited the #3 from the museum and drove it unescorted over public roads to the Classic British Welcome in Saint Saturnin where it was the star of the show. On Friday afternoon Lance drove the #3 Corvette now escorted by police to the Place des Jacobins towered over by the ancient Cathedral St-Julien in the center of Le Mans.

Early that evening Lance and John Fitch were at the head of the Parade des Pilotes, a ritual celebration complete with marching bands over a 2.5 mile course lined with throngs of people.
Then it was Lance and the #3 again on public roads. This time the destination was the Corvette Corral, remotely located within the Le Mans circuit not far from the Arnage turn. On Saturday morning professional videographer and Corvette enthusiast Michael Brown and his crew rigged the #3 with cameras for a pace lap of the 8.5 mile circuit – the ultimate tribute marking the 50th anniversary of the Corvette’s first win at Le Mans. John Fitch piloted the #3 in front of 200,000 appreciative fans prior to the start of the 78th 24 Hours of Le Mans, the greatest road race in the world.

The Pratt & Miller team was strong in the race but took some hits over the long grind. They showed great courage and are a shining example of an exceptional racing team we can point to with admiration and pride.
My old friend Jan Hyde, co-founder and manager of the Registry of Corvette Race Cars, passed along his notes after returning from Le Mans. Jan owns a ’60 Fuelie Corvette (since 1964) and for many years owned the hard charging SCCA (A & B/Production) ’62 FI Corvette racecar that had been built and campaigned by a mutual friend, Frank Dominiani at Hi-Speed & Power in Valley Stream, NY. Running against newer Sting Rays and Cobras in 1964, he was the SCCA B/P National Champ. Yet another friend, Mike Yager at Mid America Motorworks, owns it now.

For more photos of the #3 Corvette at Le Mans, please visit http://corvetteregistry.smugmug.com/Cars/1960-Corvette-3-Adventure-at/12639679_AQTqf#908415787_RoCxD

To learn more about C1 to C6 Corvette racecars, please visit  http://registryofcorvetteracecars.com/commitment.html

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