Because of their breeding, Border Collies tend to get antsy when they're not herding something. So to keep them from, say, rounding up the neighborhood kids in the corner of the yard, owners often take their dogs to sheep farms to let them exercise their innate abilities.
The same is true with Corvettes. They're bred to run on the racetrack, so a weekly cruise to Starbucks just isn't true to their nature. And, like Border Collie owners, many Corvette keepers exercise their cars at the track, letting them run wild for a little while.
Recently, the Corvette-tuning gurus at Katech have acted as, well, the shepherds, opening the private Autobahn Country Club, near Joliet, Illinois, to give their customers the opportunity to wring out their cars' pent-up performance.
Tommy Marquez is one such owner. We met him at one of these recent "Track Attack" events, where he'd traveled from his California home. "[The event] is a blast," he told us. "You buy a Corvette mostly for the performance, but it's only at a racetrack where you can really learn what it can do."
Marquez owns a silver 600hp Z06 that was actually delivered to him at the event. "They finished the car and brought it to the track," he said. "I didn't see it before this weekend."
In fact, Marquez didn't even get the first drive on track with his newly upgraded Vette. That honor went to none other than racing champion Andy Pilgrim, who was on hand-along with another Corvette racing legend, Ron Fellows-to provide some instruction and lend a bit of celebrity sizzle to the event.
When Marquez finally did get to drive his Z, he was more than impressed by its performance. The car was not, however, unlike other Katech customer cars at the track. In fact, most of the participants were piloting C6 Z06s outfitted with varying degrees of the company's Street Attack performance packages, which include engine and suspension upgrades.
"Frankly, the car is beyond my abilities right now," Marquez said. "I've got a learning curve ahead of me with it, but it'll be fun getting there."
This enthusiasm was echoed by other participants, who milled around the paddock displaying an unmistakable camaraderie with other owner/drivers. "This is as much fun as I've had since buying my Z06," we overheard one owner telling another.
Like many of the others at Autobahn, Marquez is no stranger to the Corvette lifestyle, or the racetrack. "My first Corvette was an '01 coupe, and that got me into the culture," he said. "I kept doing improvements to it, and then I bought the Z06. I didn't think I'd modify it, but here we are."
Marquez's experience is typical of many Katech customers, according to Vice President and Director of Engineering Caleb Newman. "Many of our owners are professionals who are very busy, but an event like this gives them a special opportunity to flex their cars' muscle," he said. "We wanted to offer something no one else could, with first-class facilities, service, professional drivers, and instruction."
Because so many owners don't spend their workweek racing cars, Newman said the instruction portions of the event were big hits. "It was much more important to the drivers than we anticipated. Everyone was particularly thrilled with having pro drivers like Ron Fellows provide tips and pointers."
If there was a damper to the weekend, it was Saturday's dampness, brought on by a weak storm system that brought constant drizzle, intermittent rain, and pervasive cloudiness. It seemed more like fall in Seattle than spring in Illinois. Fortunately, the skies cleared for Sunday's track time.
In all, 42 participants and their cars hit the Autobahn road course. They came from all corners of the map, including Washington state, Florida, Virginia, and New Mexico. There was even a black Corvette making laps with an Alberta license plate.
"This was our first track event of this scope, but the enthusiasm and fun displayed by our owners means we'll do it again," Newman said.
We plan to be there again, too, and maybe next time we'll bring our own Vette.
About Autobahn Country Club
For those who equate "golf" with those pesky German compact cars that slow you up in the corners, the Autobahn Country Club is for you. Conceived by racing enthusiast Mark Basso and nestled on 350 acres in the countryside around Joliet, Illinois, Autobahn is a haven for serious drivers. There are two road courses-a 1.46-mile north circuit and a 2.1-mile south circuit-on the ground, and when linked together, they form the second-longest track in the United States.
Autobahn Country Club offers daily track time to members, racing schools, driver improvement schools, and more-and just like traditional country clubs, membership fees apply (starting at about $30,000 per year). There are condominiums on the grounds, too, for the truly dedicated. The track can also be rented by non-members. More information is available at www.autobahncountryclub.net.