For sports car and road racing enthusiasts, this weekend is one of the most anticipated on the summer racing calendar. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of four of the greatest racing events in the world along with the Indianapolis 500, the Monaco Grand Prix, and the Daytona 500. Signature events all, and each special in their own right, these races define greatness and add chapters to their illustrious histories every time they’re run. Of the four, the 24 Hours of Le Mans stands out as the most prestigious endurance road racing event in the world. The round-the-clock race in the beautiful French countryside is one of the “must sees” of any racing enthusiast’s portfolio, and the unique atmosphere is almost indescribable to those who have never been there.
Entries in Corvette (9)
Corvettes have been a part of GT racing since the mid 1950’s, but they have only raced officially since 1999, and in that time have become one of the most popular and dedicated teams on the grid at any event, emphasised by the amount of fans wearing ‘Jake’ caps/t-shirts, and the grin that everyone wears when the thundering V8 shakes the ground as it passes you. In this book, Nigel Dobbie has put together a comprehensive history of both Corvette Racing and the various European privateer teams that campaigned the GT1 car from 1999-2009 with some stunning illustrations to accompany the in-depth text.
It has been a long, tough road for Corvette Racing since they committed to exit the “ghost” GT1 class - where they were running largely unopposed and ended up racing each other - in favor of running in the ultra-intense GT2 class in the American Le Mans Series, where the competition from factory-supported entries from Ferrari, Porsche and BMW is brutal and unforgiving. As a matter of fact the team hadn’t won in the GT2 class since August of 2009, when they won at Mosport International Raceway. So the team’s huge win in the 13th running of the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta last Saturday night was both gratifying - and a relief.
With a pedigree that goes back nearly 60 years, the Chevrolet Corvette is the quintessential American sports car. Even if you’re not necessarily a fan of American cars, it’s hard not to be captivated by the sight and sound of a Corvette when it passes by, or thrilled when the black and yellow cars of Corvette Racing thunder down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans or battle with the Europeans in the ALMS GT class. Corvette buyers have more model choices today than ever before, with coupe and convertible options as well as hopped up performance models for drivers that want more performance than what is found in the base model Corvette.
I spent an enjoyable session out at Pratt&Miller Engineering last week listening to a Corvette Racing presentation about the transfer of technology between the Corvette Racing program and the production Corvette, and vice versa. As most of you are well aware, Pratt&Miller is the engineering firm that designs, builds, prepares and races the Corvette for GM Racing, and they not only have an incredible winning record - six victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, just to name one highlight - they are considered to be one of the premier companies involved in the racing business in the world today. So anytime I’m able to get a tour and get an up close look at the Corvette C6.Rs being prepared for the upcoming racing season, it’s a treat.
Little did our SCi Five Questions’ guest know he’s had a bullseye on his back since I first started thinking about this deal. And why not? He’s charismatic, motivated and knows how to run a race program. Doug Fehan is not only well liked within the racing community, he’s won the American Le Mans Series “From The Fans” award so many times, they might as well call it the Doug Fehan Award.
Winners of the last eight American Le Mans Series GT1 team and manufacturer championships, Corvette Racing has posted 75 class wins worldwide – including a record 69 ALMS victories. Corvette Racing drivers have won a total of 13 ALMS class championships since 2002. Since its debut in 2005, the Corvette C6.R has won 38 races, the most of any GT1 car and second all-time in ALMS history regardless of class.
Last week, while toasting the tremendous success of Corvette Racing (see: Toasting A Decade of Excellence For Corvette Racing ), I also pointed out that it hadn’t come easy, as internal political squabbles within GM marketing had plagued the program from the beginning, threatening to derail it many times during its existence. This was especially true last week when GM marketing and racing operatives traveled to Charlotte to deliver the bad news about the realities of its financial cutbacks to its NASCAR teams. It’s no secret that certain individuals within GM marketing are openly biased toward the company’s NASCAR programs and were willing to throw Corvette Racing under the bus in no uncertain terms if it meant “protecting” its sacred NASCAR involvement.