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The King's Last Stand

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Hib Halverson

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A week ago, Wednesday, I had lunch in Palm Desert, California, with Jim Van Dorn, owner of Automasters, a Corvette tuning shop to which many ZR-1 owners, including myself, have taken cars for service and performance enhancements.

Of late, Jim has been tending to Automasters and managing Pirate Racing, the top, SCCA/Speedvision World Challenge team running Corvettes. He currently fields the #01 Pirate Racing Corvette Z06 for "Wild" Bill Cooper in this season's World Challenge series.

Van Dorn is, also, a hardcore Zroner, owning three examples of the Beast: a very-low mileage, 40th ZR-1; the infamous ÒWeekendrÓ (once the most powerful, streetable ZR-1 in existence and still one of the top 5-or-so cars in the hobby) and ÒPhoenixÓ, the #75, ZR-1 road race car that saw action in the 1998 and 1999 Speedvision World Challenge seasons.

The Phoenix is notable: 1) for its being the first car the Pirates built for the Õ98 WC, 2) as the best finishing Corvette in the 1999 WC and 3) for being funded, in-part, by a grass roots group of Corvette enthusiasts (myself included) who each put up cash for a ÒshareÓ in Pirate Racing. These shares were the Òseed moneyÓ that built the #75.

Ok, back to lunch with JVD. Once Van Dorn started his second, large-bore margarita and I started my third bottle of Dos Equis, we brain stormed JimÕs latest idea: a way to write the final chapter in the motorsports history of the Corvette ZR-1.

In spite of the mystique that surrounds these cars and their LT5 engines, ZR-1s scored few successes in professional motorsports. In fact, only two cars did well in racing on an international basis.

The first, of course, was Tommy MorrisonÕs Mobil 1/EDS/Goodyear ÒRecord Run CarÓ. This famous C4 was driven to the 24-Hour World Speed Record by a team of eight drivers in March of 1990. Most of those records, set more than a decade ago, still stand. MorrisonÕs car is on permanent display in the National Corvette Museum.

The second of these ZR-1s was raced in the 1992 World Challenge by Corvette showroom stock road racing champion, Kim Baker, who took the car to a win at Mosport that year along with seconds at Elkhart Lake and Sears Point. That same Corvette was raced again in the Õ98 and Õ99 WC seasons as Pirate RacingÕs #75. It got the name ÒPhoenixÓ from its spectacular engine failure and subsequent burn-to-the-ground fire at Lime Rock WC race in 1998. Though the efforts of its grass-roots crew and other Corvette fans, the #75 rose like Òa phoenixÓ to compete again, later that year. The Phoenix also ran in the 1999 season and Pirate Racing ended that year with the most points of any team racing Corvettes.

Van Dorn told me the 2001 race season is the ZR-1Õs final year of eligibility for the SCCA/Speedvision World Challenge, the only international race series left where ZR-1s can compete with other production-based, sports cars. Once the Õ01 season ends, the ZR-1 will *never* have a another shot at an international road racing win.

What Jim Van Dorn and I propose is ÒThe KingÕs Last StandÓ.

The ÒKLSÓ will be Pirate RacingÕs entry of the #75 car in the final race of the 2001 World Challenge season, on October 21, 2001 at Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina. The driver is tba at this point, but will be a top road racing professional associated with Corvettes and Chevrolet. After the race, the #75 will be donated to the National Corvette Museum. Our intent is to have some kind of ceremony at the Museum the week after Charlotte in which the car will be officially turned over to the NCM.

Racing costs money. The #75 has been in storage for more than a year at Auto Masters in California. It needs a fresh, racing-spec. LT5 along with a spare engine, some body repairs, a paint job and some minor maintenance.

Over more margaritas and beer, Van Dorn and I reminisced about the fund raising concept that got Pirate Racing started back in 1997 and decided a similar program might not only pay for the preparation costs for the Phoenix and fund the racing effort at Charlotte, but might benefit the NCM with some cash as well.

HereÕs our idea: Pirate Racing will offer individual and corporate sponsorship Òshares.Ó Individual shares will be available on a very limited basis and will cost $500 each. Anyone buying an individual share will get their name on the car and a special gift commemorating his or her support of The KingÕs Last Stand. Corporate shares will be sold for an amount that depends on placement and size of the sponsorÕs logo on the car. Any left over proceeds from the KingÕs Last Stand will be donated to the NCM.

IÕm, like--really pumped about this idea!

The Corvette ZR-1 gets one last stand in international road racing and the effort is partially-funded by all of us. Afterwards, the #75 goes on display and becomes "property of" the NCM for all who supported it to enjoy. The car remains at the National Corvette Museum to inspire Corvette enthusiasts in future years and to stimulate interest in the part the ZR-1 played in the history of AmericaÕs Sports Car.

Those wanting more information about Pirate Racing, should visit the team's web page at http://www.pirateracing.com. For more information on the King's Last Stand, email the pirates at PirateRacing@aol.com or you can call them at 760-360-8388.

IÕm pledging my 500 bucks for individual share #1 in the KingÕs Last Stand!
 

Rob

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Please post your feedback about this in the same thread in the ZR-1 Forum. Thanks!
 
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