Corvette – American racers
Corvette – American racers
You’ll find Doug Fehan’s picture on the cover of this weekend’s Michelin Alley print edition, but not his name on the trophies – the program manager for Corvette Racing has his thumbprints all over the hardware that comes from the team winning major races and championships for the past 16 years.
With eight top GT class wins at the Le Mans 24 Hour race, nine wins here at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, plus a matched set of ten IMSA Manufacturer and Team championships, Corvette Racing has energized the “Corvette Nation” and earned the respect of race fans and competitors worldwide.
Race teams in the factory dominated IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM class often take on the personalities and culture of their respective manufacturer and team leaders. Corvette Racing, with its thundering V8 power, is an American icon with a distinctly American culture.
“I think the personality of Corvette Racing has been forged on three tenants,” said Fehan.
“One, we never give up no matter the challenge. Two, we respect and appreciate the undeniable dedication of our race fans. Three, we love to lead…in innovation, in on-track performance and in giving back to the community.
“No team works harder on and off the track to bring a world class product to every venue at which we compete,” said Fehan, the 2014 Spirit of Le Mans award recipient from the Automobile Club de l’Ouest.
“You are Free to Race”
A stunning demonstration of what makes Corvette Racing special came in the closing stages of the recent 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Oliver Gavin led the GTLM class aboard the No. 4 Corvette Racing C7.R as teammate Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette, who had pitted later, cleared the second place Porsche of Earl Bamber to put the Corvettes 1-2 with just 20 minutes remaining.
At that point, nearly every factory team on the international racing scene would have called off the fight, declared victory and consolidated a big 1-2 finish in a grueling 24 hour race. Not Corvette Racing.
After enthusiastic nods of approval from GM execs Mark Reuss (Executive Vice President), Jim Campbell (VP Performance Vehicles and Motorsports) and Mark Kent (Director of Motorsports), who watched anxiously from the team pits, Fehan announced the Corvette call, “you are free to race.”
Garcia didn’t need to hear that twice. Taking the full measures of his extra fuel and fresher MICHELIN tires, he reeled off the five fastest GTLM laps of the race to catch Gavin.
With two laps to go he briefly took the lead with a late braking move into turn one, but Gavin cut to the inside and inched back ahead. Garcia quickly recovered, closed in and drafted Gavin down the main straightaway and pulled alongside to within just 0.034 of a second for the closest class finish in the Rolex 24.
The Corvette Racing 1-2 finish left the fans, media and paddock excited, grateful and impressed by Corvette’s willingness to let its drivers race it out for the win.
Secrets of Success
The Corvette Racing formula is easy to state but incredibly difficult in its execution. It starts with fast, safe, bullet proof cars, access to a talented GM pool of technical resources and experts, and a dedicated and tireless race team of mechanics, engineers and support staff from Pratt & Miller to handle the rigors of developing, testing and racing both here in IMSA and at Le Mans.
To meet the competition, Corvette Racing has a stable of premier drivers who are quick, consistent, look after the equipment, support their teammates and represent Corvette Racing well.
The core group of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Oliver Gavin, and Tommy Milner is now in its sixth season together. All have won Le Mans with Corvette Racing.
So, as his two cars ran within inches of one another fighting flat out for the win at Daytona, did Fehan have any concerns?
“Of course, but you have to understand that over time our mutual trust is undeniable,” said Fehan.
“They are very experienced and immensely talented professionals and in those circumstances, it was the right thing to do. And our upper management had the confidence and faith in us to let us race for it.”
He then added with a wry smile, “And, if they took each other out, they knew they would be just like when they first arrived here…looking for work.”
“We are a racing team,” said Fehan. “Correction. We are an American racing team! And we come to race.”