American Manufacturers in Sportscar Racing
As with the Japanese, probably moreso, it's unfair to lump all the Americans manufacturers together, but I'll cover them briefly here, especially as they are more relevant in the mid-2000s than for sometime.
Marques such as Cadillac, Chevrolet, Dodge and a number of lesser known ones have represented the Americans at Le Mans over the years.
Ford, of course, were the most successful, winning on a number of occasions, but in more recent years it has been Dodge (with the Viper) and Chevrolet (with Corvettes) who have been the big players in Sportscar racing, being pace setters in the GT classes worldwide
Dodge - Exponents of True GT racing
The Dodge Viper caused a stir when it was launched, being widely compared to the AC Cobra. With such bold and astute marketing people, it was only a matter of time before the Viper showed its mettle on the international racing scene.
One of the original Viper RT/10s, Le Mans 1994
Dodge originally entered the front engined, V10 machines in GT1 and showed well against the McLarens, but in 1997 they dropped into GT2, stating their unwillingness to build a 'prototype' like the 911 GT1 or Mercedes. The V10 only lost around 40BHP and it immediately became the pace setter in the class.
A Viper at dusk, Le Mans 1996
The original style Viper GTR-S has taken part in hundreds of sportscar races and continued to be competitive well into the 2000s.
Chereau Dodge Viper at Le Mans, 2001
That model was replaced in 2003, but the follow up took a while to be developed into a GT racer.
GT3 class Dodge Viper at Silverstone, 2008
Chevrolet - The General's big gun.
Chevrolet are, of course, part of the world's larget car manufacturer (sometimes), General Motors, and their iconic Corvette has raced in sportscar racing for many years, in many forms, but always as a front engined, V8, fibreglass-bodied two seater.
Back in the 60s, the Corvette Grand Ams took on Ford's Cobra Daytonas and many ran in Trans-Am and sometimes even at Le Mans, but it with the arrival of the modern GT rules (and notably the American Le Mans series) Chevrolet really embraced GT racing with works run C5 Corvettes.
Trans Am Camaro at Le Mans
These cars proved very competitive, winning their class in the ALMS, FIA GT series and at Le Mans regularly and some are still running in private hands in national championships and even in the International Series.
Corvette C5 at Silverstone, 2007
Meanwhile the works team have moved on, along with the road cars, to the C6 model, which has dominated the GT1 class of the American Le Mans series and won the class at Le Mans in 2006, although they faced strong competition at home and in France from the works Aston DBR9s (with Aston scooping the GT1 Le Mans in 2007).
Works Corvette C6 at Le Mans, 2007
Corvettes continued to race in the Le Mans series (in GT2 form) and also in the FIA GT1 and GT4 series.
Corvette GT4 at Silverstone, 2011
GT1 Corvette at Silverstone, 2011
Chevrolet even got their big Camaro back in the GT racing, with the SS version appearing in the FIA GT4 series.
GT4 class Chevrolet Camaro SS, Silverstone 2011
Ford - Here before, gone today, maybe coming back?
Ford's big success in Sportscar racing came in the 1960s. Initially, they supported the Shelby built AC Cobras and later the Daytona coupes, which took on the Ferraris.
Ford backed AC Cobra Daytona at Le Mans
When the Cobras became uncompetitive (and Enzo Ferrari spurned Ford's advances) they fitted their big V8 engines into ever developed Lola chassis which were branded GT40s (in honour of the 40 inch overall height).
Classic Gulf liveried Ford GT40 in for a stop at Le Mans
In the Group C era much was expected of their return to sportscar racing with the C100.
Ford's Ill fated C100 leads Kremer's Porsche 917 recreation at Brands Hatch
However, it was cursed by a 3.9 litre development of the DFV engine, which just plain wasn't reliable and the ridiculous scenes of the two C100s being raced side by side around Brands in the streaming wet was both exciting and bound to end in disaster. It did, both cars being heavily damaged and the programme was canned shortly afterwards, despite showing signs of progress.
Zakspeed resurected one of the cars, but it was rarely seen on the international scene, mainly being used in Germany's domestic series.
Ford later gave their limited blessing to a racing version of the retro Ford GT, which ran in the American Le Mans Series,FIA GT3 championship, with race winning success and the FIA GT1 series.
GT3 winning Ford GT - Silverstone 2008
GT3 Ford GT - Silverstone 2011
GT1 Ford GT - Silverstone 2011
Saleen - America's True Supercar
Saleen started off building modified Mustangs, which raced in the FIA GT series and at Le Mans, but the S7R (designed by Lola) is a true, mid-engined GT supercar.
Surprisingly, the Saleen S7 hasn't really been seen much in racing in the US, but it has won races in the Le Mans Series (in Europe), the British, French, FIA and other GT series and run at Le Mans, finishing in the top dozen.
Saleen S7R at Silverstone, 2007
In recent years, S7s have been champions in the UK, Spain and France, but there remains a sense that the true potential has never been tapped.
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