Through The Esses - Corvette Coming To GT2 In 2008  Part 1  Bill Riley
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© Andrew S. Hartwell

Recently Bill Riley and Lou Gigliotti announced they would be working together to bring a brand new Chevrolet Corvette into the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) GT2 class in 2008. The new car is currently under construction at the Riley Technologies shop in Mooresville, North Carolina with the design team being led by Bill's father, Bob Riley. Gigliotti's LG Motorsports team will be the first to campaign the car, beginning with the season opening Sebring 12 Hours in March.

Sportscar fans - and Corvette fans in particular - are understandably excited about the prospect of seeing their favorite marque take on the Porsche, Ferrari and Panoz cars that have been running in that class for several years. Series C.E.O. Scott Atherton summed up those feelings of anticipation when he said, "Our fans are going to relish seeing the Corvette name join the GT2 category and going up against the best in the world. GT2 has shown itself to be a fiercely competitive class, and with Riley bringing this Corvette into the field, it will only become more so."

Riley Technologies has a well established track record' in building race winning sportscars. Besides their legendary Trans-Am cars, the two most recent success stories to come out of their fertile designer minds are the World Sports Car R&S MKIII and the MKXI Daytona Prototype. The former having taken on the Ferrari 333SP time and again in the hands of such capable teams as Dyson Racing, Intersport, and as a factory entry. And the DP chassis - Riley sold 34 of them - has been the consistently fastest chassis in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, with Riley taking the manufacturers championship four straight years in a row. Those cars achieved success with the Sun Trust, Chip Ganassi, Gainsco and other teams, over the last four years.

We spoke with Bill Riley about those past successes, and we learned more about the new GT2 car and what his company is hoping to gain from building what they want to become a world car', suitable for entry into the FIA GT series in Europe.

GT2 requires the use of a production chassis and the Corvette has a real nice chassis that lends itself real well to becoming a race car. This car is a bit different for me as we usually build cars from scratch, rather than start with a production chassis. It is a bit of a new experience for us. It does create some new challenges. There is just a different set of items to go through.

We asked why he didn't choose to build a GT1 class Corvette to compete with the GM Goodwrench team in the ALMS. His answer was right out of an Economics 101 text book.

To go up against Pratt & Miler (builders of the GM cars) would not be an easy task. It's tough for a privateer without a pretty serious budget to go up against them. We have been trying to find another market to get into, be it open wheel or another sportscar and the GT2 just fits our company right now. And the thing about our GT2 car is that GM has given it their blessing which makes it a lot easier to get the car homologated.

I have been involved with GM off and on for a number of years now. (Riley helped Pratt & Miller develop and sort the then-new Corvette GT1 cars back in 2000.) It is amazing to me how far Corvette has come in the last 10 years. It is a really nicely done car. The Corvette engineers, while I don't really know them personally at all, you can tell they are racers. They are really going after it. It is really a nice piece.

Riley expects the new car will be well received both in North America and overseas. He is pleased that a veteran professional and established Corvette racer like Lou Gigliotti is going to be the first one to race his newest product. And he intends to provide all the support he can to get that team up to speed in the ultra-competitive ALMS GT2 class.

Lou's team will be the first to run our car. We haven't secured a second team but we do have a lot of people talking to