Champion Flying the Famous Colors Again
by James Edmonds. Images by Larry Chen Photography
The wait is over. And it’s been a long time coming. The world premiere of Champion’s 911 GT2 RS Clubsport for this year’s 99th running of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has arrived. This marks the return of the iconic Champion multi-colored livery to front-line racing for the first time in 12 years. It has been modernized, but still incorporates the traditional reflective effect seen in years past and the car will be wearing the familiar Champion Racing #38. The famous livery was originally created in a combined effort between Dave Schnorr, of Schnorr Art, and Champion founder, Dave Maraj back in 1995. The livery made its debut on the Champion Racing Porsche GT2 at the Daytona International Speedway during the 24 Hours of Daytona event that same year. The Champion colors continued to race throughout the years with countless appearances in Victory Lane, with its most notable win coming at the granddaddy of all races, Le Mans, when Champion Racing took the overall honors in 2005 with the Audi R8.
Mike Peters, GM of Champion Porsche and race team manager, told me that this press release was more about showing the final iteration and look of the car than anything else, as I imagine Champion loyalists around the world have been dying to see it!
I tracked down Dave Schnorr on his way home from Amelia Island and chatted with him about the origins of his design. “Mr. Maraj – Mister M – he wanted a car that would be more photographed than any other car. Ever. At that time, I said, ‘Well that’s real easy…all we have to do is make it reflective.’ Basically, what I did was make the outline of the car in reflective. At Daytona back then, it was not lit at all; Sebring was the same way, it was very dark, so when you’d pop the picture, all you would see were colors in the shape of the car.”
Asked whether he’d had this design in his head when approached by Mister M, his answer was surprising. “No. It was just spontaneous,” says Schnorr. “I’d been doing this for eight years at that point. It felt fantastic when I was approached about the new car. It was an honor. The history of Mr. Maraj and racing – he took if from nothing, all the way up to World Champion and won everything in sight!
“I was so happy about it. It was funny because, they came to me and said that they wanted me to do a design, so I went to have a meeting with them. I already had made four designs by the time I got there, so it just came right out!”
Talking about the brief for the new livery, Dave tells how the designs evolved. “Mister M thinned and mellowed out the design over the years, especially when the Audi R8 came along. It started out really strong and then became a little more sparse – we just sharpened it up. On the first design I did, imagine a solid, round brush, and you just do the strokes. On this new design, it was as if the brush had a nice sharp tip, so it’s a lot cleaner. Dave Maraj would tell just me what he wanted and I would do it. Then he would say, ‘You read my mind!’ He was a perfectionist which is good, because so am I! He just wanted a car that would be more photographed than any other car had ever been.” I think he succeeded.
Champion’s Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport has been finely tuned by their engineers to incorporate additional aerodynamic elements specifically designed for the run up America’s Mountain this coming June. During their former competitive era, Champion also developed a great relationship with renowned tire manufacturer, Michelin. Now with specific tires for their climb to the top, the two will again be paired for Champion’s return to racing.
Speaking exclusively to The Motorsport Diaries, team manager Mike Peters said, “We had three days of testing out there, and our primary goal was to run the mountain, which is what we were able to do. It’s open at 5am and we have to be done by 9am. It was a good test and we were able to put in more runs than we expected.”
Asked about target testing times, Mike said, “Typically, it’s never good enough. We’re always going to try to be faster, but we like what we experienced. Romain was comfortable.” The team is hopeful for a good finish but of course is only guardedly optimistic about their chance for an overall win. “It’s one of those events where there’s so many variables, that we really don’t know,” he muses. “We don’t know how the qualifying is going to go; we don’t know how the weather is going to be on the day and we don’t know when we’re going to be running and all those factors can make or break your opportunity. Our chances to finish in the top five are good, but where in the top five we don’t know.”
The car will be piloted by Romain Dumas who is no stranger to Pikes Peak, currently holding the the outright record for the fastest time up the 12.42 mile, 14,115 feet elevated course. The French racer started his career in karting and single-seaters before moving on the endurance, GT and prototype racing. He soon became a works driver for Porsche and has multiple wins in such famous races as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours Nürburgring as well as a win at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
With Champion’s history and experience in motorsport, coupled with Romain’s skill and expertise, the team is setting its sights on victory this year at Pikes Peak and will push to claim that King of the Mountain title the only way they know how…like a Champion!