Corvette Racing’s “Jake” Is As Much a Part of Corvette Culture as the Cars Are
While there are many factory teams that participate in one (or more) of the various competitive racing venues around the globe, there are few teams as accessible and as intimately connected to their fans as the Corvette Racing program. For many teams, factory backed racing programs are used as a way to test and develop automotive technologies that are later utilized on production vehicles. While all of these programs – including Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini – live behind the mantra “win on Sunday, sell on Monday,”there are few companies that are as intentional about immersing their fans into the experience as Chevrolet and the Corvette Racing program.
As with any sports franchise, one of the most immediate and gratifying ways for fans to outwardly express their loyalties to a particular team is by displaying the team’s mascot/logo. Since 2004, Corvette Racing fans have been doing just that – by adorning themselves, and their Corvettes, with “Jake” – the skull with the Corvette emblem as his eyes.
“Jake is the unofficial official mascot of Corvette Racing,” said Jake’s creator, Eddie Jabbour of Kick Design. “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.”
The following year, Corvette Racing added its first Jake graphics to the C6.R Corvette’s B-pillars for the 2005 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It didn’t take long for fans to identify with “Jake.” Within the same year, the mascot quickly began appearing on Corvette Racing merchandise and apparel.
“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.”
Corvette Racing took the Jake concept to the next level for the final race of the 2007 American Le Mans series when they wrapped both of the C6.R race cars with dueling inverse liveries. The No. 3 car, driven by Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen was wrapped with Corvette Racing’s traditional yellow as its base color while the No. 4, driven by Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta, was finished in black. In both instances, the car featured a prominent image of “Jake” on both the hood and the rear quarter panels of each car.
“He’s a little edgy, urban, and underground. Young fans get it,”Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan said (before the start of that race some 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.”
Despite Fehan’s earlier claims, the Jake logo continues to be part of the Corvette Racing program, due in large part to its popularity with the fans. While Jake is featured less prominently on most of the cars throughout the racing-season, there are special liveries that appear – often at pivotal races – that showcase Jake in some form or fashion.
Jake has evolved in conjunction with the Corvette. When Chevrolet introduced the C7 Corvette Stingray, and its racing variant C7.R in 2014, Jake’s look evolved to match the next-generation Corvette emblem. Similarly, when Chevrolet announced that the C8.R Mid-Engine Corvette would participate in the 2020 IMSA SportsCar Championship Season, Jake was right there at the unveiling, once more evolved to reflect the emblem of the next-generation Corvette.
But while Jake is now an integral part of Corvette Racing fandom, it is also important to note what the symbol means to the fans.
Twenty years ago, when Corvette decided to compete on the world racing stage, its introduction was considered “laughable” by much of the rest of the world. Manufacturers like Porsche and Ferrari, who had dominated at world racing events like Le Mans, saw the Corvette as barely a sports car. They did not consider the Corvette as a worthy contender against such behemoths as the automobiles being built by some of Europe’s finest.
Early on, Corvette Racing struggled, but they also persevered. The mantra “Take No Prisoners” and the graphical representation of that statement in the form of Jake was a call to action by both the Chevrolet racing program and to its fans, not just in the United States, but around the globe. As Corvette Racing began demonstrating dominance on the race track, and as its fandom grew, the teams recognized that their successes on the track were celebrated by those same fans who had encouraged and supported them from the very start. As a result, the relationship between the Corvette Racing program and its fans everywhere has become a unique and incredibly special part of each race event throughout any season.
Today, Corvette Racing connects with its fans at every event. The team hosts – and judges – Corvette corrals where owners can showcase their own Corvettes and receive “best in show” (and other) awards as decided by the team drivers. When the paddocks are opened before each race, fans can interact with the drivers, the crew and even Doug Fehan, team manager for Corvette Racing. They are encouraged to come down to the paddock to interact with the team and get up-close-and-personal with the cars….and when they do, you’ll see an ocean of yellow and black as fans from all walks of life proudly wear their Corvette Racing shirts, hats, jackets, flags, etc. On them you’ll find, likely as not, the image of Jake and the team logo “Take No Prisoners” emblazoned on each. It is a battle cry for a team that is made up of so much more than just the people that work for Corvette Racing. It is a brotherhood of fans – now from around the globe – that cheer for one of the greatest teams in all of racing, and one of the best sports cars in all the world – the Chevy Corvette!