During the past 25 years, Callaway Competition has achieved notable success in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, at Daytona, Barcelona and on the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife as well as in the ADAC GT Masters, but the outfit has also been very successful in many other race series/events in a list too long to mention here.
The success story behind the motor racing workshop based in Leingarten, south-west Germany, began in 1985 when master mechanic, Ernst Wöhr, joined forces with car body builder, Giovanni Ciccone to set up 'Wöhr & Ciccone'. Three years later, Ernst Wöhr met American car maker, Reeves Callaway, at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA). As a result, Wöhr and Ciccone subsequently became the official European representatives of the US automobile manufacturer.
In 1990, Wöhr & Ciccone decided to go racing in the classic car segment. Giovanni Ciccone's 1965 Corvette, which had already been restored for the most part at the time, became the outfit's first racing car with help from experienced graduate engineer and racing driver, Herbert Schürg. "Herbert showed us how to build a proper racing car," said Ernst Wöhr. Aided by Schürg, the team won the main class of the FIA Historic GT Championship with this car in 1991 and 1992.
A newly built Corvette LT-1 contested the inaugural season of the ADAC GT Cup in 1993. Herbert Schürg and the American, Boris Said III, in particular, soon became firm fan favourites in the amazing American racing car, and Said secured a number of finishes up front.
In 1994, Reeves Callaway, who likes to maintain a close, friendly relationship with his German partners, rang up and said: "Let's build a car for Le Mans." Your wish is our command! A Corvette C4 with a 6.2-litre V8 engine was modified for use in the Le Mans 24 Hours. After taking pole position and ranking in top positions in the GT class for nine hours, the car had to be retired prematurely when its French driver ran out of fuel after ignoring all signals from the pits. That same year, the outfit contested endurance races within the context of the BPR Global GT series and achieved victories in class at Vallelunga and Spa, plus a second place in the 1,000 km race at Suzuka.
The team's most notable success during this period was their 2nd place in the GT2 class/9th overall and 3rd place in GT2/11th overall for their customer, Riccardo Agusta, in the 1995 Le Mans race. Reeves Callaway, Giovanni Ciccone and Ernst Wöhr decided to set up 'Callaway Competition' in July 1995 after their promising Le Mans debut. Other founding members were Karl-Heinz Knapp and Günther Schlag. The plan was to realise Reeves Callaway's dream of building his own GT1 car, but the project was in vain following changes to the regulations when the FIA took charge of the BPR series. Karl-Heinz Knapp and Günther Schlag left the company. As a result, the newly built GT1 car saw action only once in the 24-hour race at Daytona in 1997.
In the years that followed, Callaway focused on building and servicing vehicles belonging to customers. In 2005, in conjunction with Toine Hezemans and his engineer, Mike Gramke, the decision was made to modify the new Corvette C6 Z06 to produce vehicles according to the newly introduced FIA GT3 regulations and contest the 2006 FIA GT3 European championship and participate in the new ADAC GT Masters from 2007 onwards.
Having continuously undergone further development by Callaway Competition, the Corvette Z06 R GT3 achieved a great deal of success in both racing series (FIA GT3 until 2012, ADAC GT Masters until 2014) with many wins and podium finishes. Supported by Callaway Competition, customer teams such as Toni Seiler Racing and RWT Racing were also successful with the car, winning races in the Super Sports Car League. In 2009, Callaway Competition won the team trophy for the first time. The outfit has so far managed to attract the services of many well-known drivers to compete in the ADAC GT Masters, among them, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Sven Hannawald and Daniel Keilwitz, who has notched up the most wins for the team. Following the introduction of the new C7 GT-3 R in 2015, Callaway Competition went on to repeat the success achieved by the Z06 R GT-3. Jules Gounon was the outright winner of the ADAC GT Masters championship in 2017 while the team and Junior titles also went to the outfit from Leingarten.
"As regards motor racing, we didn't want to have just one string to our bow," said Ernst Wöhr. For that reason, Callaway have a carbon-fibre factory run by Giovanni Ciccone to deal with the design/development and subsequent production of carbon-fibre components for the automotive industry. The company also hopes to concentrate more on the tuning and servicing of road-going vehicles in future once again.
Callaway has undergone a certain amount of restructuring in recent years in order to ensure its continued success. While Ernst Wöhr and Giovanni Ciccone now work behind the scenes, busying themselves with representing and administering the company, the younger generation led by Team Principal, Mike Gramke, who was previously Technical Director, team manager André Zanke and race engineer Florian Möhring have taken their places at the racetrack. Callaway will field Markus Pommer and Jeffrey Schmidt in this year's ADAC GT Masters.
Limited special edition to celebrate Silver Jubilee
A limited special edition Callaway Corvette SC 757 is to be produced with the help of Callaway Cars USA and development partner, Tikt, to mark Callaway Competition's 25th anniversary. Cars will be marketed by Callaway, by Autohaus Kramm in Berlin and BingoSports in Japan.