The Chevrolet Corvette GTP was to be the answer to Porsche in GTP racing, and this project had been fueled by the Lola T600 successes, who were very much influential. The project started as a show car, and racing was not the main purpose. It aroused interest from people and it would become a racing car. Testing began in England, with Jonathan Palmer driving. The car was still in crude form and it was only a shakedown test. No team was even set up and one wondered if it would ever race. Then GM saw an opportunity in marketing and then, Rick Hendrick, a former racer who had turned into a successful businessman, took it as a challenge. He had been successful in boat racing and wanted to succeed in auto racing. So the deal was struck and a team was set up. His team was new to road racing but he was a very apt man when it came to tackling new challenges. On the other side, Chevrolet wanted to boost the Chevrolet Corvette image, and saw in the GTP category a way to win new challenges and climb to the top of international fame. Fighting against Porsche, Jaguar, Nissan was very exciting indeed. The overall shape was to resemble a C4 Corvette, in order to make people identify to the very product, but the resemblance was very approximate. The Chevrolet Corvette GTP was a true prototype, which carried GM hopes for glory. However, those hopes would become lost, because of too many gremlins. The first car was to be campaigned in 1985, and was powered by a V6 3,4L turbocharged engine, built by Ryan Falconer. From this very first inception, the car was driven by David Hobbs, who was the development driver, and Bill Adam and showed great promises. It ran fast, but was unreliable, the team being on the learning curve. Things were to improve very fast, with Sarel van der Merwe and Doc Bundy being hired as the team drivers. Through many chassis and engine improvements, the car became extremely fast, with Sarel van der Merwe setting the pole eight times in the season and winning two races at Road Atlanta and West Palm Beach. At this stage, the engine would produce some 1000hp or so, and would become one of the most powerful cars ever built. Reliability was an issue, however, with so much power to be transmitted to the wheels, but the car really showed some great promises. By 1987, however, things would change in a way which was not to help things get better. Restrictors were applied to turbocharged cars and a weight to displacement scale was introduced. Power was drastically reduced, and normally aspirated engines were kind of favored. No victory was to be recorded by the team in 1987. At that point, the chassis was still the one used from the beginning. No new one was planned, and an electronic injection system, built by GM was to be devised and used by the team, instead of the Bosch system which was formerly used. That process would cost the team weeks of development, as it had to be improved. The engine, which was now a 3,0L turbocharged one, suffered from turbo lag and then it was thought that using a normally aspirated one would be the way to go. For 1988, the team switched to a 6,0L V8 engine. It was probably a mistake, as the car was probably more reliable, but short on power. The arrival of Jaguar and Nissan would suddenly make things even tougher for the Hendricks team.
Sarel van der Merwe driving his Chevrolet Corvette GTP at Columbus 1986.