The C5 racing programs started several years ago, but most folks only found out about it last year. Even now, very few people realize how big the Corvette racing programs really are, and how much bigger GM hopes they will become. GM Racing knew they had a new beginning with the introduction of the C5 Corvette in 1997. They also knew that they needed more than just a couple of factory-backed Chevy Corvette C5-R race cars on the track. The Corvette needed a comprehensive racing program.
The best racing program over the past few decades has been Porsche's. Year after year, Porsche has always had a host of private teams carrying the Porsche banner in the "lower" classes. The best part was that these private teams actually purchased their cars and spare parts from Porsche. Not only were there a bunch of Porsches on the race track, but the customer cars created profits that could be used to finance the factory race team.
GM Racing liked this model. They decided to provide private race teams around the country with C5s at a rock bottom price. These Corvettes were offered as a kit, not a complete car. The average race team would only take a fully assembled Corvette apart to go racing anyway, so why assemble a complete car in the first place?
Early in 1999 the Corvette plant in Bowling Green assembled 20 sets of "components" that they would sell internally to GM Performance Parts. Remember, GM does not build race cars. These "components" were then sold by GM Performance Parts to a select group of private individuals around the country. The idea was, and still is, that race teams would take all these parts and turn them into Corvette race cars.
What you see here is an example of those parts coming together. Danny Kellermeyer is a former GM Field Engineer, working with all the service problems that dealers struggle with when a new model hits the pavement.
In February 1999, DJ Race Enterprises, Danny's race team, picked up two of the Corvette "kits," chassis numbers 002 and 006, and began the process of turning them into real race cars. If you think making a race car from a kit is like assembling a Revell model, consider that it took DJ Race Enterprises five months to build the two cars. Part of the reason was that everything was done in-house. This team even builds their own engines.
Danny Kellermeyer's guiding force was to create the ultimate production Corvette race cars. All those years in the field taught him that GM builds a pretty good product. Take the brakes for instance. Danny decided to use the stock calipers and brake rotors, along with Hawk brake pads. This meant that he could keep the stock C5 ABS system intact. Most other teams were sending large checks to Brembo and Alcon for the latest Euro calipers.
Now in their second year of racing C5s in World Challenge racing, a lot of the new teams are leaving the Brembo and Alcon calipers on the shelf and retaining the stock Corvette system. The stock C5 braking system is one great braking system.
The same thing is true with the chassis. While other teams discarded the front and real leaf spring system, DJ Racing called the folks at Vette Brakes and Products. They developed a set of leaf springs that have proven superior to all the fancy coilover packages.
When it was time to put wheels and tires on the Corvette, Kellermeyer went back to the old C4 Corvette. Everyone in the World Challenge runs a spec BFGoodrich tire. In the case of the Aristeo Construction Corvette, the sizes are 275/40-17s on the front wheels and 315/35-17 on the rear, mounted on late ZR-1-size wheels.
The pair of Aristeo Construction Corvettes are the future of Corvette racing. The whole idea is that GM will provide racers with the technical information that will make a Corvette go fast. All of these racers then purchase Corvette parts from GM Performance Parts. There are no midnight deliveries of engines like in the old days of Corvette racing. No one gets free engines-everyone sends a check to GM when they need new parts.
On the other hand, none of these World Challenge teams could even begin to afford the technical development programs run out of the GM Motorsports Group. They couldn't even begin to make the first down payment on the lobbying effort that GM spends getting the SCCA to massage the World Challenge rules so the Corvettes can be competitive.
This means that teams such as DJ Racing can purchase a Corvette kit (or two), assemble it, and then massage the final results. The base development work, and the political efforts, are all done for them. That's why this is the biggest Corvette racing program in the history of the brand. DJ Racing's Aristeo Construction Corvettes, and Danny Kellermeyer, represent the future of Corvette racing. And the future is bright, indeed.
The "J" portion of DJ Racing happens to be one of the most talented Corvette race drivers around, John Heinricy. John, a GM employee who currently is Chief Engineer for F-bodies (Camaros and Firebirds), has a racing resume that is impressive to say the least, and all in GM-powered cars. He was one of the team drivers who set a dozen world and international land speed records (including the 24 hour mark) in a ZR-1 at Fort Stockton, Texas, in March 1990. The year before that, he won the SCCA Escort Endurance SSGT championship in a Morrison Racing Corvette, and in 1993 won the SCCA GT-1 National Championship in another Morrison Corvette. He has also won two series championships in Firebirds, and one with a Camaro. He was also one of the factory team drivers in last year's C5-R efforts.
In the three World Challenge races DJ Racing entered towards the end of the '99 season with their new C5s (Kellermeyer drives number 37, and Heinricy the identical number 39), John placed third at the West Michigan Grand Prix in Grand Rapids, and followed that with a second place at Pikes Peak International Raceway just a few weeks later. And on October 9, at Laguna Seca, Heinricy showed the competition just how good the new C5 kit cars could be by thrashing the Vipers and Porsches in a decisive win at the World Challenge season finale.
Let's salute a bright future for Corvette racing, and take a look at the first winning C5 "kit" car, John Hienricy's number 39 out of the DJ Racing stable.