Chevrolet Corvette GTP

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

The Chevrolet Corvette GTP was a Grand Touring Prototype-class sports prototype racing car which participated in the IMSA Camel GT from 1984 until 1989. Used for General Motors' factory effort in IMSA GTP, 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.

Development[edit]

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, but more importantly to expand and explore the limits of the V6 engine program.

General Motors turned to Lola Cars International of the United Kingdom, who had previous experience building cars for Mazda, to build their own chassis dubbed the Corvette GTP. Following testing on an older Lola T600 with a Chevrolet V8, an all new car was built, identified as the T710. The first chassis was delivered to General Motors in 1984 and outfitted with a 3.4 litre turbocharged V6 built by Ryan Falconer, a destroked version of the 4.3 liter Chevrolet V6. A second chassis, known as T711 used a 5.7 liter naturally aspirated V8, and was campaigned by Lee Racing, and in fact was the first Corvette GTP to race.

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 V6 turbocharged chassis had a snorkel built into the top of the fender to feed the turbocharger. Body evolution over the next few years included a change to the side intake and exploring a short tail layout and dual element rear wing.

Evolution[edit]

Following the first full season for the Corvette GTP in 1985, GM added two new chassis for 1986. Termed T86/10 by Lola, the new cars featured evolved bodywork but remained essentially unchanged for the start of the season. The biggest difference was chassis HU01 sported a naturally aspirated V8, while chassis HU02 maintained the V6 power, but received a new shorter tail section.

In 1987 two more chassis were added to the GM fleet. The first, designated T86/12, used a Lotus F1-designed and supplied 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 piece. The second chassis was a 1987-specification T87/10 which retained the turbocharged V6 power plant, but also ran both a Chevrolet V8 and a Cosworth engine in later life.

Peerless Eagle 700[edit]

Following the abandonment of the project at the end of 1988 by General Motors, Peerless Racing purchased a new Corvette GTP from the factory, and it was campaigned in a partial season effort in 1989. After that season 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 in an attempt to use a 10.2 liter 4 cam, 32 valve V8 engine based on the Big Block 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 a short tail design that GM had been developing for 1989.

Racing history[edit]

GTP Corvette at the Columbus 500

For 1985, the first 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. By mid season Hendrick Motorsports debuted their 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 a seventh, eighth and tenth place finishes for the season.

Into 1986, Hendrick Motorsports and Lee Racing would continued 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. A third Corvette GTP Lola chassis entered the season in May and campaigned by Hendricks would take the Corvette GTP's second victory on the streets of Palm Beach, defeating a Porsche 962 by four tenths of a second. The 1986 season would see the only two first places finishes by a Corvette GTP during their racing career.

Hendrick started 1987 the same way they had 1986, failing to finish the first race of the season, mixed with relatively strong finshes, even suffering from a fire during the Miami event. 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 the occasional use of 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. It was late in the season before the two Hendrick cars 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 finishing only one race, a 4th at Watkins Glen. The Peerless car would later be used by Eagle Performance as an experiment with their large 10.2 liter (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[edit]

Pinewood derby car modeled after the IMSA GTP Corvette.

In total, seven cars would be built under the Corvette GTP name by Lola, although nearly all had different Lola designations. The '10' in the chassis number indicates a car designed for GM's turbocharged V6, while '11' indicates a V8 chassis.

T710-HU01

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

T711-HU02

  • Lee Racing (1985–1986)

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)

External links[edit]