Callaway Competition’s amazing 2016 ADAC GT Masters season came to a sudden and dramatic end. It happened 22 minutes and 11 seconds from the end of the final race at the Hockenheim circuit in Germany. It was at this moment when a damaged Lamborghini refused to let the championship contending Corvette pass. A slight nudge was all it took and the Corvette crashed out of the race. This ended the team’s quest for the championship.
In the two previous races at the Nürburgring and Zandvoort circuits, the championship leading Corvette was slower than the Audi. This was due to a mid-season BOP (Balance of Performance) adjustment that reduced the Corvette’s performance. The change included 45 kilos (99 pounds) of extra weight and a power reduction. To make matters worse the Audi received a weight reduction of 20 kilos (44 pounds). This weight and power reduction was because of Corvette’s previous three race victories. Callaway Competition was hoping for a weight reduction before Hockenheim. Unfortunately, this did not occur and the team struggled to find a way to improve the car’s performance. Porsche had just won four races in a row and only carried 15 kilos (33 pounds) of ballast and was the Corvette’s and Audi’s biggest championship threat. Unfortunately, no competitors received any BOP changes. Callaway Competition was hoping for a home field advantage, because they do extensive testing at Hockenheim.
Callaway Competition assembled a large hospitality suite above their pits prior to the race weekend to host and thank their many sponsors and supporters. The second floor transformation was the work of Commpanions (www.commpanions.de) owned by William J. Hood. Over 500 guests enjoyed excellent food, drink and watching the race. Many guests spent time inspecting an export 2017 Corvette Grand Sport and Camaro. Both were supplied by Cadillac, Chevrolet Europe, headquartered in Switzerland.
The ADAC qualifying format was changed this year. In previous years this took place on Friday before the two races. Now teams qualify on the day of each race. On Saturday the grid times were set during a heavy rainstorm. The championship leading Audi was on the pole with a 1:52.369. The No. 77 Corvette managed a 1:54.427 that was good for a 13th starting position. Jules Gounon had limited time driving the Corvette in the rain, but the team was confident about the young driver’s skills. They were correct, Jules quickly threaded his way through the field at the start of Race 1. By lap five he was in 5th place, right behind the championship leading Audi. After the mandatory pit stops for a driver change, the track was still wet, but drying. The Corvette’s rain tires overheated and Keilwitz was slowed and finished 6th. This dropped the No. 77, 12 championship points behind the leading Audi. The No. 69 Corvette of Assemheimer/Schwager was 11th, the Lipps/Barth Corvette was 13th and the Whelen Corvette finished 19th.
Race 2 was dry and sunny and Keilwitz set the 6th fastest time with a 1:40.092. It was no surprise that the lightweight Porsche captured the pole with a time of 1:39.613. Next was 13th position was set by the Lipps/Barth Z06.R GT3 with a time of 1:40.507. In 21st position was the No. 69 Assenheimer/Schwager Corvette with a 1:41.075 and the No. 31 Whelen Corvette was 23rd with a time of 1:41.250. When the green flag fell Keilwitz quickly moved up into 4th position and tucked behind the green No. 63 Lamborghini. Early in the race the Lambo received damage to its front splitter that upset its handling. It became unstable but the green monster would not allow Keilwitz to pass. On lap 15 Keilwitz dove into the pits early for a driver change hoping Jules would get ahead of the errant Lamborghini. It did not work and the green monster exited the pits 0.5 seconds ahead of Jules. During an attempted pass, a slight bump was all it took to send the Corvette sailing sideways at 140 mph into a concrete barrier on the driver’s side. The impact was so hard the 4,000-pound barrier broke in half. The race was red flagged and it took the rescue crews 20 minutes to extract Jules from the car and send him to the hospital. After a complete check of his vital signs, Jules was not seriously hurt. He had a deep cut on his lower left leg and a lot of bruising from the impact. It was an unfortunate way to test the crash worthiness of the new C7 GT3, but it saved Jules’ life.
The race resumed and the Audi (which had spun earlier) finished 8th and won the driver’s championship. A 3rd place finish for the Corvette would have given the new C7 its first championship. However, the new car’s potential is very obvious and perhaps next year we will see Corvette win its third championship. When the dust settled Callaway Competition finished 3rd in the driver’s championship, second in the Team Championship, second in the Junior Championship (Jules Gounon) and first in the Trophy (amateur) championship. The C7 GT3-R is a brilliant new GT3 entry. It’s clear that drivers Daniel Keilwitz and Jules Gounon driving the C7 GT3-R would have won the championship without the Lamborghini blocking their path. In our opinion the best team did not win, but that is Team Vette’s view! (Editor’s Note: That’s why they call it racing or as the great Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”)