Test Drive: 2016 Corvette Convertible

As a man in his late 40’s that was born and raised in the U.S.A. and whose favorite music includes Bruce Springsteen and The Eagles, I’m pretty sure I fall into the primary market segment for a Corvette Convertible. Paying attention to the type of men actually driving Corvette’s bears this out, as I can’t remember the last time I saw someone driving a Corvette who wasn’t a middle-aged white guy. Be that as it may, the 2016 Corvette is such a good car that it will make you forget (mostly) about all the clichés that go with driving one.

I may fall into the target market for Corvette buyers, but I’ve always been much more attracted to European sports cars like Ferrari’s and Porsche’s. As a teenager, my bedroom wall was covered with posters of cars like the Ferrari 308 GTB and Porsche 930 Turbo, not Corvettes, Camaro’s or Mustangs. It wasn’t until I started attending American Le Mans Series races in 1999 and watching the Corvettes race that I started taking a closer look at the road cars and gaining an appreciation for them. Driving them over the last several years as an automotive writer has affirmed that, though they were not without their faults. After spending a week driving the new Corvette Convertible, it’s clear that Chevrolet has done their homework on the new C7 to make it the best Corvette yet.

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Monday Moanin' Outta My Mind

While there were plenty of story lines coming out of the 2015 18th Annual Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda, the departure of Team Falken Tire can’t be overlooked. Winners of the final American Le Mans race, the 2013 Petit Le Mans, and winners of the Inaugural TUDOR version of Petit Le Mans in 2014, it’s hard not to imagine what does the “con” side of the decision making process look like as the team and manufacturer depart from the Series.

While I have no inside information, it’s hard not to assume Falken’s decision was financial and market driven. After all, what sense does it make to throw tons of resources (both money and research and development) at a program that is immersed in a venture dominated by a competing manufacturer. Especially, when the domination is bought and paid for.

Michelin dominates the GTLM class by determination and providing a quality performance tire and a well run marketing effort. And I think the Falken people were ok with that. That’s competition. But to attempt to have a voice and capture the ear of the market place, in a Series who’s primary tire sponsor is mandated on three of the four classes… well, what’s the point?

Tires are an integral part of the competition… especially so in an endurance format of racing. Sure, it’s possible that one tire manufacture may dominate. But if it’s earned… so what?

Michelin earned the respect of fans and competitors alike during the hay-day of the ALMS. And, in the absurd weather conditions of this year’s Petit Le Mans, they earned it again putting a GT car in the overall winners circle.

For six seasons, Team Falken earned the respect of fans and competitors through their continued efforts to fight competitively and to win. Bryan Sellers, Wolf Henzler and Team Falken consistently proved they were capable with back-to-back victories at the 10-hour Petit Le Mans, as well as races as diverse as Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and the city streets of the Baltimore Grand Prix. Oh, by the way, they won Baltimore twice. They brought the resources they had and they made it work. It’s fair to say, they were sometimes David to Michelin’s Goliath. Good on them…. and I can assure you, Michelin would say the same.

So… if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably figured out, I don’t like spec tires. I don’t like sponsors buying out the spirit of competition.

To the folks at Falken…. Wolf Henzler, Bryan Sellers, Derek Walker and the whole Walker Racing crew… Thanks! Thanks for your perseverance, your tenacity and your allegiance to sports car racing fans. You’ll be missed!


Porsche Takes Overall Win at Rain Shortened Petit Le Mans

CLICK on image to view the entire Petit Le Mans GalleryWhen the checkered flag was dropped for rain after seven hours and fifty minutes of the scheduled 10-hour 2015 Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda, Nick Tandy, driving the No. 911 Michelin shod GTLM Porsche, had rewritten history.

Tandy’s win at Road Atlanta, is the first overall victory for a GT car in the history of the 18 year-old race. Furthermore, it is the first in a major endurance race since 2003, when Kevin Buckler, with Michael Schrom, Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister, won the Rolex 24 at Daytona, defeating the then new, Daytona Prototypes… much to the chagrin of the car’s developers and the series organizers.

Tandy, with Patrick Pilet and Richard Lietz as his co-drivers at Petit, also was the overall winner in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.That victory, however, came aboard a Porsche Prototype.

The No. 5 Action Express Corvette was the Prototype winner of Petit Le Mans. Regular drivers Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi repeated as season champions.  Sebastien Bourdais was on hand for the endurance races, all three of the drivers won the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.

In the Prototype Challenge division, the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen entry of Mike Guasch, Tom Kimber-Smith and Andrew Palmer, took the race win and the Patron North American Endurance Cup title.

The GT Daytona win went to the No. 73 Park Place Porsche 911 GT America of Patrick Lindsey, Madison Snow and Spencer Pumpelly, their second of the season.

In 2016 the series becomes the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Tudor will assume a long-term role as a presenting sponsor. The Rolex 24 at Daytona will kick off the 2016 season January 30-31, at Daytona International Speedway. Sports car fans will be the first to experience the speedway’s $400 million Daytona Rising renovation.