Described as “a museum springing to life,” the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion saw several hundred classic race cars return to the track in August. But we have a different take. It was really like a 10-ring circus of Corvettes, with more vehicular acrobatics in glamorous attire than PT Barnum could have imagined. That’s because Corvette was the featured marque for 2013, celebrating its sixth decade of existence. We can hardly do justice to all the activity that took place in the space of a few pages, but we’ll do our best to spotlight the main attractions.
At center stage in the Corvette booth was the new ’14 Stingray, with an adjacent naked chassis. This display drew a constant stream of spectators all weekend long, as did the surrounding race cars from the past. Chevrolet pulled out all the stops, emptying the Heritage Center of every vintage Vette it could lay its hands on.
Capping off this fond look back at Corvette competition was a peek at the future: A C7.R, disguised with checkered-flag camouflage, escaped from its pit garage for a few brief warm-up laps with factory driver Tommy Milner manning the wheel, only to disappear from view just as quickly as it emerged.
Milner is the 2012 ALMS GT champion and 2011 Le Mans winner who currently is the only American on the Corvette Racing team. Commenting on sharing the stage at the Rolex dinner with Sir Jackie Stewart, and recalling his last visit to Laguna Seca in 2003 at the tender age of 17, Milner noted, “I was just a kid; now it’s twice as big -- the whole event is magnified from when I remember. To be asked here to do this, to participate in the Rolex dinner last night [with GM’s Vice President for Global Design Ed Welburn], and then to be here with Sir Jackie, I keep having to pinch myself to make sure it is real.”
We had a similar reaction when we went on the track in a Z51-equipped C7 with Bondurant driving instructor and COO Darren Law slicing through the corners at speed. (Besides serving as VP of Global Operations, Law has driven a Corvette Daytona Prototype during the last two seasons.)
“Exhilarating” and “delirious” are a couple words that barely do justice to the experience. Hurtling into the sharp bends at full throttle, it seemed as if we had bitten off way too much to make the turn -- the pucker factor. But those big binders on the Z51 package hauled down our speed so effectively, we just whipped right through the corkscrew, feeling virtually invincible. And the new seat design grabs your glutes like glue. Law had the traction control turned off so the C7’s tail stepped out on the apex, but it never felt sloppy or loose -- just way too much fun!
Of course, those weren’t the only Corvettes on the track. Some 50 or so old warhorses demonstrated decisively that they still have plenty of the right stuff, such as a ’63 Grand Sport (the Miles Collier ex-Delmo Johnson Corvette that placed second at Nassau in 1962 and raced at Sebring in 1964 and 1965). Driven by Bruce Canapa, it fittingly bested James Farley’s ’65 Cobra on Saturday afternoon (Group 5A, 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2,500 cc). And nearly skinning this Cobra as well were a ’65 and a ’64 Corvette, driven by Tommy Steurer and Erickson Shirley, respectively, who came in Third and Fourth.
In Group 3A (1955 to 1962 GT Cars), Tony Garmley’s ’62 Vette took First, narrowly beating a ’61 Ferrari 250 GT. And in 6A (1973 to 1982), Didier Andre’s ’77 Greenwood Corvette grabbed Third.
Some of the old-timers weren’t available for track duty, but it was still a joy to check them out firsthand. Among the many historically significant cars on display were the ’61 Mako Shark and Manta Ray, along with the ’60 Cunningham Corvette that placed Eighth overall at Le Mans in 1960. Also on hand were the ’67 Corvette Le Mans raced by Dick Guldstrand and Bob Bondurant, the ’68 Owens Corning Corvette once driven by Tony DeLorenzo, an ’01 Pratt & Miller C5-R, and an ’11 C6.R.
Not to be outdone, a number of privately owned collectibles were spotted among the acres of Corvettes that showed up (a few of which we plan to feature separately later on). Ed Welburn, GM’s Vice President of Global Design, summed up the experience nicely: “When you leave the Corvette display area and walk around the rest of the paddock, you see all these incredible race cars from the past. For me it is incredible, because I look around and see the cars that all my heroes drove; they’re all here today. I feel today how I felt when I was an 11-year-old kid.”
All of which means that whatever the year or background of these Corvettes, they all qualify as time machines, a way to turn back the clock to our heritage.