Corvette Racing Profile: Melanie Correll
You may not know her name, but if you're a Corvette Racing fan, you're probably familiar with her face. During each race, Melanie Correll sits in front of the team's pit stand, timing and scoring every car on the course. She does this via computer, entering the information by hand, one car at a time. Because the job requires constant attention and concentration, Correll can't take a single break during the course of the event-no bathroom visits, no time to eat, nothing. As daunting as that might seem in a typical two- or four-hour race, just imagine what it must be like at the Sebring 12-hour or the 24 Heures du Mans.
That was Correll's only job when she came to Corvette Racing in 2000. It was a time when the official timing and scoring process was not totally reliable. Since then, the ALMS has improved its methods through the use of transponders and upgraded computer-monitoring systems. Most teams in the ALMS no longer have someone performing a job like Correll's, preferring to rely upon race officials to deliver that information. However, there are times when the official system breaks down, as it did for more than half of this year's Petit race. Without Correll's back-up statistics, the team would have lacked the data required to make critical race decisions.
With the official system now providing semireliable data, Correll has taken on a much more involved role with the team. In addition to scoring and timing duties, she also monitors the IMSA/ALMS communication channels, keeping track of any important information that may be flowing around the race circuit. Her job is to take all of the scoring info, radio chatter, and internal engineering-staff communications and distill it into concise recommendations on team strategy.
Correll's "race craft," as she calls it, stems from years of experience. She started out timing and scoring for her father's amateur racing effort in the '70s. When he decided to retire from racing in 1978, Correll joined the SCCA, eventually becoming chief timer for the New England Region. That soon segued into doing 24-hour races with showroom-stock classes and eventually becoming the official timer for IMSA from 1979 into the '80s. She became involved with timing for Camel Lights teams in 1986 and then the Nissan GTP effort in 1990.
Along the way, Correll subsidized her income by doing temporary clerical work. This gave her a good understanding of business systems and led to her becoming team coordinator and business manager for Brix Racing and the PACWEST touring-car program. By 1999, she was back as official timer for IMSA, a move that led to her being hired by Corvette Racing in 2000, to serve as team timer and scorer. Also in 2000, Ferrari asked Correll to handle all of its timing and scoring functions for the Ferrari N.A. Challenge and Shell Historic Challenge programs. Additionally, she provides the equipment, staff, and management for Ferrari's North American race operations-all while keeping track of the Corvette program.