Chevrolet Corvette GTP


Chevrolet Corvette GTP
Bobby Rahal's Hendrick Motorsports Corvette GTP at Del Mar in 1988.

The Chevrolet Corvette GTP was a GTP-class racing car which participated in the IMSA GT Championship from 1984 until 1989. Used for General Motors factory effort in IMSA GT, the car was developed in conjunction with Lola Cars International. Although using the Chevrolet Corvette name, the car shared almost nothing mechanically with the Corvette and borrowed only some styling elements.

Contents

Development

Prior to 1984, Chevrolet naturally aspirated V8s and Buick turbocharged V6s were popular engines in the GTP class for privateer teams. However General Motors (GM) saw the opportunity to enter the IMSA GT Championship for themselves in the 1984 season in an attempt to bolster their image by fighting against Jaguar, Porsche, Nissan, and Mazda.

General Motors turned to Lola Cars International of the United Kingdom, who had previous experience building cars for Mazda, to build their own chassis, termed the Corvette GTP in an attempt to improve the Corvette image. Following testing on an older Lola T600 with a Chevrolet V8, an all new car was built, termed the T710. The first chassis were delivered to General Motors in 1984 and outfitted with a 3.4 litre turbocharged V6, a destroked version of the 4.3L Chevrolet V6, built by Ryan Falconer. A second chassis, known as T711 used the alternative 5.7 litre naturally aspirated V8, and arrived at GM before the close of 1984. This would allow GM to be able to keep on pace with at least one car, dependent on which engine better suited a track.

The cars featured bodywork similar to a Chevrolet Corvette C4 at the front, with a long pontoon-style tail featuring Corvette tail lights. Large side intakes would feed the radiators while the turbocharged chassis had a snorkel built into the top of the fender to feed the turbocharger. HU8811 became the basis of the design for the tail section of late (1992–1996) C4 Corvettes.

Later chassis

Following the first full season for the Corvette GTP in 1985, the cars were replaced with new chassis for 1986. Termed T86/10 by Lola, the new cars featured evolved bodywork which included a smaller opening for the side radiator. The rear pontoons were also able to be removed on the new chassis for courses that did not require longer tails. GM mostly abandoned the use of the naturally aspirated V8, opting instead for the turbocharged V6, now at a smaller 3.0 litre displacement.

A third chassis was also built in 1987 which introduced modifications made by GM subsidiary Lotus. Termed T86/12 by Lola, this car featured an active suspension system that would allow the car to alter its suspension stiffness during the race. The car was used in competition only once where its suspension system failed. It was then retained by GM mostly as a developmental prototype.

Two more chassis were added to the Corvette GTP fleet over the next few years, with one built at the end of 1987 for use in 1988, while the other would be completed midway through 1988. Both would regain a naturally aspirated V8, now running at 6.0 litres, but feature only minor mechanical and visual differences from the T86/10s.

Eagle Performance 700

Following the abandonment of the project at the end of 1988 by General Motors and the end of privateer competition by Peerless Racing in 1989, the decision was made to take Peerless' car into international racing, entering the 1990 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car was used as a platform for Eagle Performance to attempt to use a 10.2 litre 4 cam,32 valve V8 engine (based on the BB Chevy engine layout) to take on large manufacturers at Le Mans. The car was (slightly) modified to the point that Eagle chose to rename it the Eagle 700. Beyond the modifications necessary to house the large V8 engine internally, the car remained the same as it was run in IMSA series including the 'unique' short tail design that GM developed in its wind tunnel testing for this car and became the basis of the design for the tail section of late (1992–1996) C4 Corvettes.

This car (T8811-HU01) was and remains the pinnacle of Corvette race development and is currently being put back to IMSA spec's with the SBC engine for Vintage Racing.

Racing history

Debuting in 1984 at the Grand Prix of Miami, the first Corvette GTP was run under the Racing Systems team name in a mostly all white paint scheme. The car managed to finish 13th overall after starting 29th. However the car would only appear two more times in 1984, failing to finish at Riverside and taking another 13th place finish at Sears Point.

For 1985, the second Corvette GTP chassis was initially given to Lee Racing for its debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona but would suffer gearbox problems and not finish. This was followed by a seventh place finish at Miami, then another failure to finish at the 12 Hours of Sebring. This would be followed by a string of failures at Charlotte, Mid-Ohio, and Watkins Glen. However by Road America, NASCAR team Hendrick Motorsports would take over the former Racing Systems car, becoming the factory-backed team with GM Goodwrench sponsorship and leading driver David Hobbs. Unfortunately the team did not manage to finish any races by the end of the season, although Lee Racing did rebound to score an eighth place finish at the second race at Watkins Glen and then tenth at the Daytona season finale.

Into 1986, Hendrick Motorsports and Lee Racing would continue their campaign with mixed results. Although both teams failed to finish the first three races of the season, Hendrick would manage to take the first victory for the Corvette GTP at Road Atlanta for Doc Bundy and Sarel van der Merwe. However by that time Lee Racing abandoned their effort. Hendrick would continue on and manage a fourth place finish at Charlotte, seventh at Lime Rock, and third at Mid-Ohio. The Corvette GTP would follow this with its second victory on the streets of Palm Beach, defeating a Porsche 962 by four tenths of a second. Unfortunately the car would fail to finish at Watkins Glen, but return for an eighth place finish at Portland. By Sears Point, Hendrick would purchase Lee racing's former chassis to start a two-car campaign. Unfortunately Hendrick would not be able to see the same success by the end of the season, leaving Chevrolet to take third in the constructors championship to Porsche and Jaguar.

Hendrick started 1987 the same way they had 1986, failing to finish the first three races of the season, even suffering from a fire during the Miami event. Unfortunately Hendrick continued to have problems until they were finally able to finish a race at Laguna Seca, the sixth round of the season, and managing a second place result, then a third and eleventh for the two car team at Mid-Ohio. Following a short stint of problems, the duo would finish fourth and seventh at Portland, followed quickly by a lone third at Sears Point. One final third came in the streets of San Antonio before Hendrick would close out the season with a series of problems. However, problems at Jaguar helped Chevrolet secure second in the manufacturers championship, once again losing to Porsche.

By 1988, the Corvette GTPs were becoming slightly more consistent as the team managed to overcome their mechanical woes, helped by a switch to the naturally aspirated V8s. The season again began slow, with an eighth place finish at Road Atlanta be the first finish by a Corvette GTP that season. A seventh at Lime Rock and Mid-Ohio would be followed by a third at Watkins Glen, tenth at Road America, and finally ninth at Sears Point before the Hendrick team would be joined by the new Peerless Racing squad, using the newest Corvette GTP chassis. Peerless would take a fourth place at Columbus, followed closely behind by Hendrick in fifth. Hendrick would close the season with a fifth at Del Mar. Chevrolet would however manage to finish fourth in championship.

After the 1988 season, General Motors chose to cancel their funding for the Corvette GTP project, and Hendrick Motorsport did not return to IMSA GT. Peerless Racing would attempt to continue into 1989, but a series of accidents led to them failing to finish any of the races they entered, (although they did run as high as 4th at Watkins Glen with only 4 laps go when a tire failed, forcing them to quit midway through the season. The Peerless car would later be used by Eagle Performance as an experiment with their large 10.2 litre (4 Cam-32 valve) V8 engine, entering it in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car would however suffer electrical problems during the qualifying sessions and would not be able to make the race, marking the end of the Corvette GTP.

Chassis

In total, seven cars would be built under the Corvette GTP name, although nearly all had different designations by Lola. The '10' in the chassis number indicates a 'Turbo V-6' factory designation and the '11' in the chassia number indicates a 'V-8' factory designated design.

T710-HU01

  • Racing Systems (1984)
  • Hendrick Motorsport (1985–1986)
Winner at Road Atlanta (1986)

T711-HU02

  • Lee Racing (1985–1986)
  • Hendrick Motorsport (1986)

T86/10-HU01

  • Hendrick Motorsport (1986–1987)
Winner at Palm Beach (1986)

T86/10-HU02

  • Hendrick Motorsport (1986–1988)

T86/12-HU03

  • Hendrick Motorsport (1987)
Equipped with Lotus active suspension

T87/10-HU01

  • Hendrick Motorsport (1988)

T88/11-HU01

  • Peerless Racing (1988–1989)
  • Eagle Performance (1990)
  • Leicester Racing (1992- )

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