Tuesday, July 9, 2019

RETRO: Celebrating America's Sports Car Corvette's racing Exploits in Gay Paree'

The 'lil red L88 Corvette that thought it was a N.A.R.T. GT Class Ferrari during the 1972 24 Heurs du Mans. (Image source: motor1.com)
As the Mighty Bowtie's Thunderin' V-8's on thou Mulsanne Straight and elsewhere made Fans out of "Frenchies' everywhere...

Although Corvette Racing isn't Basking in thou Afterglow of some 'lil 'Ol Red, White, Uhm? Baseball, Apple Pie and Bowties' Fourth of July Holiday, Mon Sheeree? Following it's disappointing outcome at this year's 24 Heurs du Mans, nonetheless like 'Ol Stuart would say 'bout being "a One Armed Paperhanger..."

Whilst unbeknownst to Mwah some five years ago, when I began scribblin' about 'Ol "Jimmy Rockford" taking his last lap aboard his Pontiac Firebird, was the fact that Thee late James Garner had owned a Racing Team briefly, that included running Corvette's at Daytona.

Or Y'all may wish to simply directly pass G-O! Collect your $200.00 and check out this gallery 'O photos instead...

Yet to my chagrin, Garner's American International Racers did Not compete at Circuit de la Sarthe in the Summer of '68, albeit he did make a racing movie titled the Racing Scene revolving around his short lived team ownership...

Although I subsequently discovered it was the Swiss Privateer outfit Scuderia Filipinetti campaigning a pair of those monstrous 7.0-litre Thunderin' Chevy L88 Aluminum Big Block V-8's at Le Mans in The Summer 'O '68 instead.

Whilst I know I snapped a picture of a beautifully turned out Scuderia Filipinetti Ford GT 40 in the Paddock of Portland International Raceway Wayback' in '92 during the SAAC 17 Convention, along with having a 1:43 Diecast model of the same car in thoust collection; But I Digress...

Reportedly the 1968 Le Mans was Scuderia Filipinetti's first of five straight events contested with said C3 Corvette L-88 Stingray,

Yet "Mr. Corvette," aka Dick Guldstrand & Co. Beat the Swiss to Circuit de la Sarthe by one year, when a Dana Chevrolet Inc. Vette' with Messer Guldstrand, who reportedly was the very first Hired Gun by somebody known as El Capitano', nee Roger Penske. Along with Bondo', nee Bob Bondurant raced that year at Le Mans, lasting just over the event's Halfway distance, before retiring at the 13hrs mark when as 'Ol Hobbo', aka David Hobbs would exclaim: Thar engine Done Blown U-P!

Not to mention the likes of John Greenwood and Reeves Callaway, but I'm getting ahead of Thyself. As Slow Down 'Boyo!

Since actually it was Briggs Cunningham, with much assistance from the Godfather 'O Corvettes, nee Zora Arkus-Duntov, whom also championed the creation of the original Z06 option, along with the Uber Nasty Grand Sport Corvettes.

As Briggs ran a trio of race-prepped Vettes' at Le Mans in the Summer of 1960. With the Corvette of John Fitch and the virtually unknown Bob Grossman coming home eighth Overall, and Fifth in the GT Class, behind Quattro Ferrari's upon it's Debutante outing.

Whilst Road & Track has briefly chronicled six decades of Corvette's racing at Le Mans in this pictorial story, which sadly, Thar Blinkin' website's Format is Not Screen Reader friendly; URGH!

Next Keeper of the Corvette Flame at Le Mans became American entrepreneur John Greenwood, along with his brother Bert's assistance. As John first came to prominence by winning Back-to-Back SCCA National Championships in his own Corvette in 1970-71, before landing BF Goodrich's financial backing for racing abroad at Circuit de la Sarthe. As the company wished to promote its Street Radial tyre products vs. Arch-rival Goodyear.

As Greenwood brought his outlandishly patriotic red, white 'N blue thunderin' seven litre Big Block V-8 Monstrosities across thou proverbial Puddle to Le Mans three times, i.e.; 1972-73 under BF Goodrich contract to race two cars, before returning at the ACO's behest in '76.

John's Debutante entry aboard his No. 28 Vette' ended fairly early, retiring with engine failure at the 10 hour mark, with his co-driver being none other than Dick Smothers! Half of the famous Smothers Brothers Comedy Act. With his second C3 Corvette, the #72 suffering similar engine failure.

Thoust whilst perusing the '72 race results, I came across the surprising discovery of longtime American Ferrari Importer Luigi Chinetti's North American Racing Team (N.A.R.T.) bizarrely campaigning a rival Corvette, Huh? Which was Goodyear's way of getting its product onto the grid vs. those Pesky BF Goodrich Street Radial Shod Greenwood Corvettes!

With the team's primary car, naturally a Prancing Horse model, one of the multiple Ferrari 365 GTB/4's entered, being co-driven by Yank' Masten Gregory, winner of the 1965 24 Heurs du Mans, and  Luigi Chinetti, Jr.

As Greenwood didn't fare any better in his sophomore campaign in 1973, once again retiring with engine failure, while his other entry was Disqualified. Along with his Swan Song '76 entry at Le Mans grinding to a halt with fuel cell maladies after only five hours.

Whilst I still vividly recall running thru Thee back portion of the Paddock at Seattle International Raceway, now Pacific Raceway over two decades ago, during the mid-1990's trying to first discern, and then ultimately escape Thee LOUDEST, Narliest and Brutish! Racecar my ears have ever been subjugated too!

As it was one of those Uber Nasty Greenwood Vette's lumberin', stuttering 'N trundlin' its way towards the Pitlane and ultimately into action On-track during one of SOVREN's Fourth 'O July weekend Hystericals'; Err Historics Car races; YIKES!

As Y'all can have your Eardrums Blasted by one of John Greenwood's Nasty Corvette's in the following video below...

Which contrary to popular belief, weren't All full 'O Pomp & Circumstance. Since these Nasty Vettes' could reach a terminal velocity of 215mph on the Mulsanne Straight!

For Part II of this ever Mushrooming No Fenders story, see; RETRO: Corvette Racing Celebrates Two Decades of Competition in Gay Paree'