The great American manufacturers at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2): Chrysler and General Motors

The great American manufacturers at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2): Chrysler and General Motors

The three big American automobile companies (Ford, Chrysler and General Motors) have known, each in its own way, success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After Ford's four victories (1966-1969), it was in the different GT classes that Chrysler and General Motors have recently figured their models in Le Mans legend.

Entered into production in 1992, the Viper was desired by Bob Lutz, at the time Chrysler CEO, as an agressive and unique model, with its surprising 7L V10 engine. Descendant of the big American sports and muscle cars (Dodge Charger, Mustang Shelby) of the 1960s, it also benefitted from the input of Carrroll Shelby (1923-2012), winner at the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Viper's history in La Sarthe owes a lot to two French individuals. First of all, Michel Arnaud, to whom we owe its first appearance at the 1994 24 Hours with two models entered under the Rent-A-Car company's banner. Then Hugues de Chaunac, Oreca President, who gave it three consecutive class victories in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

For nearly 15 years, the Corvette has been the flagbearer for General Motors at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. With the unmistakable sound of its V8 engine and its yellow paint job, the legendary Amercian GT that is now a sexagenarian (it was first presented on June 30, 1953) has brilliantly taken over for the Viper and has won from 2001 to 2012 no less than nine victories in the different GT categories at the 24 Hours: seven for Doug Fehan and Gary Pratt's factory team, two for the French outfit Larbre Compétition. The Corvette even reached the top 5 overall twice (fifth in 2005 then fourth in 2006) and won in 2012 in the two LM GTE Pro and LM GTE Am classes. This surperb record earned Doug Fehan the Spirit of Le Mans prize this year, given since 2001 by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest to a personality having exemplified the spirit and passion of the 24 Hours.

For the first time since 2003, the Viper and the Corvette were together again in La Sarthe in 2013, for the 90th anniversary edition of the 24 Hours, and the seventh generation Corvette made an impressive debut at Le Mans this year. A half century after Ford's great offensive against Ferrari, the American legend at the 24 Hours of Le Mans continues with two of the biggest icons in its motorsports history…