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2014 National Corvette Museum Corvette Hall of Fame Inductees

Making the Grade: The National Corvette Museum inducts three Corvette personalities, including GM’s John Heinricy, into their Hall of Fame

Walt Thurn Feb 3, 2015
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On August 29, 2014, the National Corvette Museum inducted GM engineer John Heinricy, author/writer Jerry Burton, and the late racing driver Dave MacDonald into the Hall of Fame. This event is designed to recognize people who have made a significant impact in the Corvette world. The Hall began in 1998 and today it has inducted 57 people, including the 2014 members. It’s an impressive group and it would be impossible to cover all three inductees in this limited space. We decided to give you some background on John Heinricy and how he has impacted Corvette development.

When John retired from GM in 2008 he felt like he was leaving his dream job. As he likes to say: “Where else could you find a career that lets you play with cars all day?” John began working for GM in 1970 at the Milford Proving Grounds as an engineer in training. His first assignment was working in the research and development department on building aluminum Can-Am and Trans-Am engines. After a 2-year training assignment he was promoted to experimental test engineer and did durability testing. Next, he worked on a variety of projects that included front- and rear-wheel drive vehicles. During that assignment he drove the hottest Corvettes, Camaros, and Chevelles. In early 1983, he began testing the new C4 Corvette at the Milford and Phoenix testing facilities. Later in the year he was promoted to Development Manager for Corvette under Dave McLellan. His interest in racing began in 1984 when his group converted a test Corvette into a production spec 85 race car for an upcoming Mid-Ohio 24-hour race (which it won). The Corvette was owned by the Guldstrand/Morrison racing team. Heinricy asked owner Dick Guldstrand how he could learn to race, Guldstrand suggested that he attend an SCCA driving school to get his competition license. That is exactly what he did and began driving Morrison-prepared Showroom Stock Corvettes. John won numerous races and championships when he drove for the Morrison team.

After receiving his Master’s degree in business, he became a GM executive and was promoted to Product Manager, reporting to Dave McLellan. On the weekends he continued to build an impressive racing resume. This included setting a 24-hour speed record in a ZR-1 and winning two drivers championships in the Escort and Firehawk series driving Camaros. In 1992, Dave McLellan retired and John began working for Corvette’s new Chief Engineer Dave Hill. Hill promoted John to Assistant Chief Engineer for Corvette. During this time, Heinricy worked on improving the C4, while Hill concentrated on developing the C5. His duties included getting the 405hp ZR-1, ’95 Indy Pace Car, the ’96 Collector’s Edition, and the Grand Sport ready for production. After these projects were completed Hill asked Heinricy to be the launch manager for the C5 at the Bowling Green Plant. He worked on releasing the fixed roof coupe and the Z06 (which remains his favorite track Corvette) at Bowling Green. In 1997, he was promoted to Chief Engineer for the Camaro/Firebird. This is a position that he held until 2000 when that brand’s production stopped.

During this same time he worked with Chevrolet Racing and Pratt & Miller to develop the C5-R Corvette GT racer. During 1998, he extensively tested the prototype at various racetracks around the U.S. He became one of the factory drivers for Daytona and Sebring in 1999. He remembers: “every time I drove that car it was special to me. This C5-R racing experience is how I got the idea to form the High Performance Vehicle Operations group in 2001. I wanted to utilize race engineering to transfer knowledge to our production cars.” John’s first project in his new job was developing the Cadillac CTS-V street car and the SCCA World Challenge racing car. He also helped develop a certified test driver program that consisted of three levels of expertise. His goal was to ensure that development engineers had the correct skill set to push vehicle dynamics quickly and safely. John’s organization needed qualified drivers, because they were testing cars at the demanding 12.3-mile Nurburgring test track in Germany. Only Level 3 certified drivers are allowed to test at the Ring. When John retired from GM in 2008 his group was absorbed into other car units, but his driver training and certification program for test drivers is still being followed today.

After he retired from GM he formed his own company called Heinrocket Inc. and these days he consults with aftermarket manufacturers like Hennessey Performance. John was hired to be the development driver for the wicked-fast 1,230hp, 2,300-pound Venom GT street car. The Venom recently went from 0 to 270 mph and back to 0 on a 3.5-mile runway (he was not driving). He also races every chance he gets and serves as an instructor at various track day events around the country, including the NCM Motorsports Park. John is a well-deserving member of the National Corvette Museum’s Hall of Fame.

Jerry Burton Dave Macdonald Sherry Macdonald John Heinricy 2/15

This year’s inductees are, from left, author Jerry Burton, late racing driver Dave MacDonald (represented by his widow, Sherry MacDonald) and retired Director of GM High Performance Division John Heinricy.

Dave Mclellan 3/15

Retired Corvette Chief Engineer Dave McLellan (left) presented John Heinricy with his Hall of Fame Award at the NCM banquet.

Don Knowles 4/15

Longtime co-driver and friend of John’s, Don Knowles (right) shared a few racing stories with him during the HOF dinner. The duo won many 24-hour races together over the years driving various GM products, including Corvettes.

C4 Corvette 5/15

John’s many early racing victories were in Morrison-prepared Showroom Stock C4 Corvettes like this one now owned by Lance Miller. His GM engineering experience helped make this Corvette into a successful race car from 1985 to 1987.

1989 Zr1 6/15

Heinricy, along with seven other drivers, drove this prototype ’89 ZR-1 to the FIA 24-Hour speed record of 175.885 mph (283.061 kph). It was set at Fort Stockton, Texas, on March 1-2, 1990. This Corvette is on display in the NCM.

Zr1 Corvette 7/15

In 1995, Heinricy co-drove this Morrison ZR-1 Corvette with Don Knowles, Stu Hayner, and Andy Pilgrim at Daytona. They finished 10th overall and 3rd in class at the 24-hour race. It was painted like the ’96 C4 Grand Sport that John was working on at the time.

John Heinricy Chevrolet Corvette 8/15

John was the Corvette Assistant Chief Engineer when the C4 production ended in 1996. He and his team developed 1,000 VIN numbered Grand Sports. Here he is standing by his pride and joy, his personal Grand Sport VIN# 0001 at the National Corvette Museum.

Cadillac Corvette Test Cars 9/15

When John led the GM High Performance Division he and his team extensively tested their development vehicles at the Nurburgring in Germany. This Cadillac and Corvette test cars were being refueled near the track.

C5 R Corvette 10/15

John was involved with the testing and development of the first C5-R Corvette as a driver and engineer. This car went on to win numerous races and championships.

Super Grand Sport Sebring 11/15

Throughout his GM career, Heinricy pursued his racing passion on the weekends driving GM products. He won numerous SCCA T-1 championships driving Phoenix-prepared C5 Corvettes. Here’s John (fourth from right) debriefing the Phoenix team after a qualifying session in the Motorola Challenge at Sebring in 2000.

Cts V Cadillac 12/15

Occasionally, Heinricy would be asked to drive a third Pratt & Miller World Challenge CTS-V Cadillac.

Gt3 Race 13/15

Heinricy (third from left) and von Gartzen (third from right) celebrate their podium finish at a GT3 race at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

T 1 Grans Sport 14/15

John drove this T-1 Grand Sport to the SCCA national championship runoffs in 2010. The GS suffered a driveline failure after starting from the pole position and did not finish.

Z06 R Gt3 Corvette 15/15

During one of his European trips, Heinricy drove a Callaway Z06.R GT3 Corvette. He is passing an Aston Martin GT3 at Eau Rouge on the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit. He and co-driver Jürgen von Gartzen finished third at this race.

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