History of the GTP
THE LEGEND LIVES ON AT MONGOOSE MOTORSPORTS
In the early 1980′s, Buick turbocharged V-6′s and normally aspirated Chevrolet V-8′s were engines commonly used by private teams competing in the IMSA GT racing series.
In 1984, General Motors saw an opportunity to compete in IMSA GT against the likes of Porsche, Nissan, Jaguar, Toyota and Mazda. Lola Cars in the United Kingdom was contracted to build the chassis and it was decided to put the Corvette name on the cars.
The first chassis, HU-710/01, was delivered on May 4, 1984 and it was powered by a 3.4 liter turbocharged V-6. Hendrick Motorsports campaigned the car. The car competed in eight races and recorded four pole positions including the Daytona 24 Hour in 1986. Three of the poles were then track records. The car recorded one victory at Road Atlanta with Sarel Van Der Merwe and Doc Bundy behind the wheel. It started on the pole with a then record breaking time and also recorded the fastest race lap which was also a track record. Sadly, three weeks after the Road Atlanta victory, the car was involved in a crash at Riverside, California with a Jaguar and Ford Probe and was destroyed.
The second chassis, HU-711/02 was delivered on December 14, 1984 to Lee Racing. It had the normally aspirated V-8. The car had an inauspicious race history with the best qualifying position of ninth and the best finish of seventh overall.
A second V-6 was delivered to Hendrick Motorsports on April 25, 1986. Chassis HU-8610/01. It competed 21 times, recording eight pole positions. It led a race eight times but had only one first place finish at West Palm Beach on June 22, 1986. On June 20, 1986 Hendrick Motorsports took delivery of chassis HU-8610/02. It ran with a V-6 until 1988 when it was fitted with a V-8. It raced 17 times with no poles or overall first place finishes. This car had an impressive list of drivers including Bobby Rahal; Michael and John Andretti; Arie Luyendyk; Didier Theys; David Hobbs; Elliott Forbes-Robinson; Wally Dallenbach, Jr. and Doc Bundy. Chassis HU-8710/01 fitted with a 6.0-liter V-8 was run by Hendrick Motorsports and competed nine times with a best qualifying and finish of third. General Motors ended its active involvement in GTP competition in 1988 and the last chassis, HU-8810/01 was run six times by privateer Peerless Racing. HU-8810/01 ran six times with a best finish of fourth overall. On July 2, 1989 at Watkins Glen, NY, HU-8810/01 ran its final IMSA race laps marking the end of an era.
All the cars featured bodywork that remotely resembled a Corvette C4. Of all the GTP cars, the Corvette GTP was the only one to bear any resemblance to its namesake.
In 1990, Eagle Performance decided to take the Peerless car into international racing, entering the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was fitted with a 10.2 litre V8 engine to take on large manufacturers. The car was extensively modified and renamed Eagle 700, losing all Corvette identity in the process. The Eagle suffered electrical problems and failed to start the race.
In 1986, the Corvette GTP finished third in manufacturer championship points behind Porsche and Jaguar. In 1987 they passed Jaguar for second in the manufacturer points.
One of the benefits of motor racing is that it serves as an R & D center for auto manufacturers. A successful racing program belies engineering excellence and reliability of a car in the public eye. The GTP was a Corvette in name and styling elements only. GM wanted to put the Chevrolet and Corvette name in the public limelight by offering competition to the likes of Porsche, Toyota, Jaguar, Ford and Nissan on road racing circuits.
At times, the Corvette GTPs’ displayed signs of greatness, but unfortunately the car was plagued with mechanical problems and crashes which resulted in either a did not start or did not finish in over 60% of the IMSA GT races in which they competed.
It would have been interesting to see what the results would have been IF the reliability issues would have been solved. BUT for these nagging problems, Corvette GTP missed what could have been a storied history.