Soon the doors will open for the Rétromobile fair in Paris. From 31 January and until 4 February, you can once again visit all the most beautiful classic cars at Paris Expo. The previous edition in 2023 was one with a lot of Le Mans history. Not read it? You can find all the info here. Among the participants are these two thoroughbred American GT1 cars from the beginning of this century.
CHRYSLER VIPER PLAYSTATION “Equipe de France”
At the turn of the century, the Chrysler Viper GTS was the benchmark in the FIA GT championship and the 24 hours of Le Mans ( GT class ). At Rétromobile, we saw perhaps the most beautiful of all these American GT bolides: The Playstation version of the team of the French Motorsport Federation ( FFSA ).
This Viper with chassis number C41 was built in 2001 by the France Oreca, which then did the official race programme for the American constructor. Apart from this, Oreca also built and sold ready-made cars to private teams that wanted to use the Viper. In 2001, this C41 was leased to the French Larbre team, which, with Dumez, Gouselard and Bourdais ( the later F1 driver and multiple Indy Car champion ), took second place with it in the 24 hours of Francorchamps.
C41 then returned to Oreca and was prepared for the 24 hours of Le Mans in 2002. Meanwhile, the official Viper programme was discontinued. Oreca itself participated in the LM 900 class with two Dallara’s and also does the technical assistance for the Viper. Both the Dallaras and the Viper shone in their beautiful Playstation 2 versions.
Three promising young French drivers will get the chance to drive the 24 hours of Le Mans in a top team by the French federation. Both Jonathan Crochet, Jean Michel Belloc and Benoît Treluyer had Formula 3 or Formula 3000 experience. Belloc also had Le Mans and GT knowledge, which also made him a bit of the “leader” of the young gang.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Viper was no longer up for a win. Meanwhile, the new Ferrari Maranello and Corvette C5 are the new references in the GT class. The fastest Viper has to concede 3 seconds per lap, the FFSA Playstation Viper more than 5 and starts in seventh place in the GTs. But that was no problem as getting to the finish line was the message.
The three young brats drive a regular race. Only once did the Viper have to unexpectedly go to the box for a starter motor replacement. Tréluyer did miss the Michelin chikane once and the Playstation chikane once. Both times without seriousness. Nine years later, he will take the first of his three overall victories ( all with an Audi ) in the 24 hours of Le Mans.
Victory in the GT class is for the Corvette C5 R of Fellows/O’ Connell and Gavin ahead of their teammates Pilgrims/Collins and Freon. Viper C41 crosses the finish line in third place. A great result for this young team that thus provided a final farewell podium and a worthy farewell for this rather atypical American GT.
Afterwards, C41 was sold to the French Mirabeau team for participation in the French GT championship. Later, it ends up at Sport Garage and will be actively used until 2007. A few years ago, the car ends up at Art and Revs where it undergoes a complete restoration and reappears in its beautiful Playstation version. It takes part in both the Festival of Speed at Goodwood and Le Mans Classic in 2022, making it once again the finest racing Viper.
CHEVROLET CORVETTE C5 R GT1 PRATT AND MILLER
We cited earlier the victory of the Chevrolet Corvette C5 R in the 2002 Le Mans race. We also saw this car at the Art and Revs stand in their Le Mans expo. This Pratt and Miller and-built Corvette is one of 11 race versions and has chassis number 007. Built in 2002, the C5 served as the Corvette team’s backup car, and 007 was never entered in a race by the factory team.
In late 2002, 007 actually ended up in our own Belgium. The Selleslagh team ( SRT ), which had been on the road in the Belcar championship with Ford Sierra’s and Mondeo’s for years, took up the gauntlet with this American against the many teams that dominated this championship with a Chrysler Viper.
After a difficult start and many bodywork damages ( the C5R was a brutal beast ), there is a turnaround with the arrival of Pro pilot Marc Goossens. In 2005, the dominance of the GLPK Viper is finally broken and, in the colours of sponsors Williams and Ambi Pur, they win the 24 hours of Zolder with Marc Goossens/David Hart/Guy Verheyen and Jan Heylen. As icing on the cake, they repeat this in 2006 with Marc Duez/David Hart/Maxime Soulet and Tom Cloet. Besides winning in the 24 hours, there were also several victories in the Belcar races, notwithstanding the many crashes the amateur drivers often made.
The SRT also participated with this C5 R in the French GT championship and there were also outings to the FIA GT championship. This 007 was actively used until 2008. In 2019, it was restored again by Art and Revs and returned to its yellow original Miller and Pratt livery. 007 is currently for sale at Art and Revs and can be yours.