After an extensive search for the Cunningham #3, the first Corvette ever to win a Le Mans Class (GT 5000) race, Chip Miller began a meticulous restoration effort in hopes of seeing his lifetime dream come to be. This dream focused on returning the #3 to perhaps the most widely-recognized racetrack in the world and the site where this special C1-era Corvette claimed its famous victory five decades prior. However, a little-known disease called amyloidosis would cut Chip's amazing life short and briefly stall his dream. Amyloidosis occurs when excessive amounts of abnormal protein, called amyloid, build up in one or more organs to cause a malfunction. Since Chip's passing in March 2004, Lance and his mother, Judy, proudly resumed the pursuit of the dream that meant so much to Chip.
In mid-June, Lance traveled to France along with the remaining, critical component of his father's dream - the only surviving driver of the 1960 Cunningham #3, the legendary John Fitch. At age 92, Fitch, who is to this day held in high-esteem in France and Europe, greeted fans, signed autographs, and proudly talked about the white and blue Corvette that he co-piloted to the checkered flag in 1960. During the race week, Lance proudly drove the #3, with Fitch at his side, through the 2.5 mile long parade route stopping half a dozen times for announcers to give background on the driver and car and ask questions of Fitch. From the street-lined crowd of 100,000 spectators, cheers and applause roared in appreciation of the Americans and their history-making Corvette.
Richard Prince, commissioned automotive photographer and longtime friend of the Miller Family and John Fitch, captured photos of the parade event and the next day's celebratory lap around the legendary Le Mans course. On the racetrack, with Fitch back behind the wheel of the Cunningham #3 and Lance in the passenger seat to honor his father, Richard Prince snapped photos from the back of a lead vehicle. Throughout his years in the automotive journalism and photography business, watching Fitch and Miller realize Chip's dream together was, in Prince's words, a "deeply moving and memorable experience."
Prince worked with a friend and colleague to design a dynamic commemorative poster that the Chip Miller Charitable Foundation will be proud to offer for purchase. The proceeds will go to the foundation in its work to increase understanding and awareness of amyloidosis. To learn more, visit: http://www.chipmiller.org/50th_corvette_racing.php. The poster will also be available during Corvettes at Carlisle which will be held August 27-29, 2010.
Joining the team in France was Angela Morsa, President of the Chip Miller Charitable Foundation. Morsa confirmed the Le Mans trip as "just what Chip would have wanted." While in Le Mans, Morsa worked to build awareness about amyloidosis and to garner support for the foundation's mission "...to empower people with the knowledge and understanding of amyloidosis for early detection, ensuring a better quality of life for those afflicted with the disease and to help science find the cures."
To learn more about how you or your organization can make a difference, visit www.ChipMiller.org.
Thinking of his father, Miller comments, "My dad was my best friend and an irreplaceable mentor. There was never a point at which my mom and I wondered ‘if' we were going to make his dream a reality - it was a matter of ‘how we would make it happen.' And, we were blessed to do it - mission success!" When reflecting on running the Cunningham #3 around the Le Mans track with Fitch, Miller smiles as he comments, "Dad was there with us. I just know it." Miller continues, "The Cunningham is, of course, a race car with two seats. But my father found room somehow to squeeze in. He rode along in spirit. No doubt about that."
The Cunningham #3 Corvette will be on display in Carlisle, PA during the Corvettes at Carlisle event held August 27-29.