Sunday, 19 May 2013

How Corvette Won 24 Hours Of Le Mans

corvette 030It’s hard to imagine a more incredible victory in perhaps the hardest endurance race in the world than Corvette’s 2011 victory. Finishing 2 minutes, 29 seconds ahead of the No. 51 Ferrari, the No. 73 Corvette C6.R completed 314 laps, coming first. What’s remarkable however is how the team managed to achieve a first despite their distance during the final laps of the race.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is that: an entire day of non-stop driving, in cars designed to endure unending travel. Held annually near the town of Le Mans, France, the great test of endurance focuses on both driver and vehicle. Each vehicle is mandated to have a minimum of three drivers who alternate shifts – this allows the others to eat and rest, while continuing the race. Drivers travel more than 5,000 km, reaching as far as 5,410 km.

Like many competitions, companies become more innovative in order to beat their competitions. This is beneficial to the average user, since we get the technology they developed implemented into to the average vehicle. This “trickle down” effect is only felt some years later, but it nonetheless is helpful – leading to technology that increases fuel efficiency, for example.

Chevrolet is known for their innovation, especially as seen in their Corvettes.

Though it was the first win in the GTE Pro class, it was the Corvette’s seventh class win. Though No.73 was the eventual winner, it was no. 74 that had been leading for some time. However, an unfortunate accident took 74 off the race.

Leading for about 16 hours, the 17th saw the car damaged in an unfortunate crash.

The driver was unharmed, though the car itself was not so lucky. Retired on the spot, this left an opportunity for the No. 73 to gain a head.

Despite being a lap behind No. 51 Ferrari when the accident occurred, by the time the 20th hour started, No. 73 Corvette was gaining 1.5 seconds per lap. When the next driver took over, that changed to 6 seconds per lap. On Lap 283, the new driver, Milner, made the lead and eventually won.

This remarkable achievement came as a result of endurance, expert driving and luck.

However, we shouldn’t forget the brilliance of the design, either.

Corvette’s quality and Chevrolets

It’s no coincidence that celebrities, like Jay Leno, have trusted their lives to the hands of Chevrolet designers. Thrust into the highly competitive US vehicle market, Chevrolet has become a household name – synonymous with quality, stability and assurance. Making high-powered sports cars like the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R (which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans), the electric Chevy Volt, and the beloved Chevrolet Spark, this is a company renowned for their diversity and brilliance.

Chevrolet continues to focus on producing more fuel-efficient cars , while maintaining effectiveness and brilliance in design.

The combination of quality drivers and quality vehicle meant it was unsurprising that a car in the bottom of the top 5 of the 24 Hours of Le Mans could suddenly leap to first place.

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Queenie Bates is an avid reader, writer and researcher, currently based in Cape Town, South Africa.