The streets of Long Beach are a stage where motorsports history has been made since the inaugural race was held on the city's bayside course in 1975, but will mark the end of an era this weekend with the final US appearance from the Corvette C6.R.
The 100-minute Tequila Patron-sponsored American Le Mans Series event in Long Beach will bring the curtain down on Corvette Racing's record-setting run in the GT1 division, and ALMS officials are planning to give the team and its iconic cars a fitting send-off during a special post-qualifying ceremony in the Long Beach winner's circle. Later this season, the most successful sportscar team in ALMS history will begin its transition to an eagerly anticipated global GT class based on current GT2 regulations as the GT1 category passes into racing's history books.
"The best sportscar teams in the world have competed in the American Le Mans Series over the last eleven years, but it is impossible to think of one that has generated more success than Corvette Racing – both on and off the track," ALMS president and CEO Scott Atherton admitted, "The countless people at Corvette Racing, GM and Pratt & Miller who have made this programme the most popular among our fans and dominant among its competitors have every reason to be proud as they have made history and rewritten the record book in GT1.
"Corvette Racing has been a benchmark example of developing technology on the race track that gets transferred to the road car. It has succeeded with every challenge, the latest being the pioneering use of cellulosic E85 in the American Le Mans Series. While this marks the end of one era, it signals the start of another with Corvette's imminent GT2 programme. The fight and might it will bring to what already is the most competitive class in the American Le Mans Series will make it even more of a spectacle for fans – especially the legions of Corvette fans – around the world.”
Although Corvette Racing has competed 18 times on tracks in the important road car market of California, the third Long Beach race is as good a place as any to bid farewell, according to Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan.
"Long Beach is a great place to say goodbye to GT1 in the United States," he said, "The race is a hugely successful event attended by thousands of fans, so it's a very fitting place to finish the GT1 programme by taking the Corvettes to the people.
"When the chequered flag falls at Long Beach, I think it will be a moving experience for everyone on the team. It will mark the closing of one chapter, the likes of which will never be written again in Corvette history.
"At the same time, however, it will mark the opening of another chapter that will eventually see Corvette competing in a global GT class under the international regulations that will come into effect next year. That is one of the most exciting challenges that this team has undertaken, and it will be the culmination of a decade of development and continuous improvement that has made Corvette the standard by which GT cars are now measured."
Winner of the last eight ALMS GT1 team and manufacturer championships, Corvette Racing has posted 75 class wins worldwide – including a record 69 ALMS victories.
"I've been there for all but two years of competition in GT1, so there will certainly be some sadness when we finally say goodbye to such an amazing car," Corvette favourite Johnny O'Connell noted, "The GT1 Corvettes are among the coolest cars in racing history, and they've left their mark in the record books for Corvette, for Chevrolet and for sportscar racing.
"Over the years, we've had great battles and rivalries with Viper, Ferrari, Saleen, Maserati, and Aston Martin, but we're moving to an even more competitive arena, and that's another example of Chevrolet taking on challenges. The commitment to compete on the world stage is something that everyone at Chevrolet can be proud of."