The 2013 season will be one of change for Corvette Racing, as the team closes the chapter on both the long-running C6.R race car and its hugely successful run in the GTS/GT1 and GT ranks of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). The C7.R will debut at the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in a newly merged ALMS/Grand-Am series.
We sat down with Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan during the team’s private winter test at Sebring International Raceway in January. The topics of our discussion included seasons past and present, the impact of the new C7, the synergies between road and racing Corvettes, and plenty more.
VETTE Magazine: Looking back at the 2012 season, what do you view as the high points for Corvette Racing?
Doug Fehan: When we look at 2012 as a season, it’s difficult to single out an event, or an occurrence, that would be a high point. Clearly, at VIR, when we wrapped up the championship, there was a lot of excitement, smiles, back patting, congratulations—all the things that go with winning a championship. And I am not diminishing that in its importance, but I think you have to view the year as a whole, because we were in our second full year of development of the GT car. We had only won a single race the prior season. There were those in our business who liked to talk about our resolve, our passion, our desire, our skill level. Had some of that diminished? Was the shine off because we had won so much? Were we really just going through the motions?
None of that was lost on these team members. They recognized within themselves what they were capable of, what their goals and objectives were. Winning championships is why we show up every day to the job. So I think it was important that everyone grabbed that mantle before we began the 2012 season, and our mission was…to go out there and demonstrate to the world that we hadn’t lost that desire. We hadn’t lost the passion. We had done nothing but hone our skills during 2011, and that resulted in the 2012 championships, so it was the whole year as a package that really mattered; the whole year was the high point.
VM: What would you identify as the low points?
DF: You know, as I sit here, I would be hard pressed…I don’t think we had any really low points. Surely when you don’t win, or you come close, there is a level of disappointment. We were close at Petit Le Mans again this year. We thought we had a strategy that was going to bring that home. That was disappointing. Obviously we had two cars capable of winning at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. When you work that hard, and you spend all that mental capital in preparing and executing that event, and have misfortune take you out, that’s disappointing. However, those disappointments are forgotten the minute you wake up the next day and you know what the next challenge is…so those couple of moments are ones that we choose not to relive. It wouldn’t be my choice that we go through that, but all they do is further inspire us.
VM: At the end of the 2012 season, what areas did the team identify where improvements could be made for 2013?
DF: I can tell you this: When we go back and review how the season went, regardless of the fact that we won the Driver’s Championship, Manufacturer’s Championship, Team Championship, and Michelin Green-X Challenge Championship, you don’t sit on your laurels. Two days later we were reviewing everything that we accomplished that year and how we could improve. From a materials standpoint, how do we get the car lighter? What can we do from a reengineering position? How can we make our pit stops more effective? Can we make our refueling system more efficient? All those little details that we know make a huge difference in racing. We were on top of that immediately after the conclusion of the season.