The typical tale of factory racing teams involves deep separation from its fans. Where privately owned teams, usually of the smaller variety, often become fan favorites due to the open access they can provide, the bigger teams, funded by giant automotive corporations, tend to keep their distance.
The obvious exception to that rule has been Michigan’s Corvette Racing outfit, and one of the finer examples was shown in 2007 with a fan-based livery takeover at Laguna Seca.
The American Le Mans Series’ season finale, held in late October, gave the factory GT1 team an opportunity to pay tribute to ‘Jake,’ the skull mascot sporting a Corvette badge as his eyes.
“Jake is the unofficial official mascot of Corvette Racing,” Jake’s creator, Eddie Jabbour of Kick Design, told the team ahead of the ALMS race in Monterey. “He really came from the team. I was at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2004 and noticed that the team had adopted skull icons as a symbol of the ‘take-no-prisoners’ mentality of those intense 24 hours. In fact, someone had scrawled ‘TAKE NO PRISONERS’ on the wall of the Corvette garage.
“I thought it would be awesome if there was an icon that truly belonged to Corvette Racing. I scribbled the Corvette flag on a cocktail napkin, then drew a skull around it. I thought the design worked, and the team embraced it immediately.”
Corvette Racing added its first Jake graphics to its cars at Le Mans in 2005, placing small logos on the C5.Rs’ B pillars. The decision entering the last race of 2007 took the concept to its extreme by wrapping both C6.Rs with dueling inverse liveries as the No. 3 driven by Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen went with Corvette’s traditional yellow as its base color and the No. 4 driven by Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta was dressed primarily in black.
“Soon he was on the team uniforms, their travel shirts, and on the drivers’ helmets,” Jabbour said of Jake’s adoption in 2005. “It was in sync with what they were about, and the fans recognized that. Now people are flipping out that there are going to be two Jake cars at the last race.”
With Aston Martin’s exit from the GT1 class following the 2006 season, the 2007 title was contested between the two factory Corvettes as Gavin and Beretta won the internecine drivers’ championship. It meant the race at Laguna Seca was strictly for pride and honor within Corvette Racing to see which Jake-inspired car could get to the finish line first.
The black No. 4 was triumphant again, as Gavin and Beretta captured their ninth win from 12 races. Although Jake continues to play a role with Corvette Racing, Laguna Seca 2007 serves as the only time he was given top billing by the team.
“He’s a little edgy, urban, and underground. Young fans get it,” Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan said 13 years ago. “The special Jake cars are a one-time only deal, just for fun, to make the last race of season memorable for the fans.”