One of the joys of owning a Corvette is knowing it's among the fastest and best-handling sports cars in the world. Unfortunately, if you use your Corvette's speed potential on America's highways, you're likely to face the strong arm of the law. The only way to legally run flat-out in the United States is at sanctioned track events.
This isn't the case in Europe-especially in Germany. On some sections of the famous Autobahn, there are no speed limits. Many Corvette owners fantasize about driving their cars in Europe, but that rarely happens in real life. For a small number of C5/C6 Registry members, however, that fantasy recently came true.
Dan Adovasio and Jake Drennon founded the C5/C6 Registry on Labor Day 1997, and it has grown to include over 7,000 members since then. Jake and Dan have created many memorable events, including the C5 Birthday Bash at the National Corvette Museum and car corrals at Daytona, Sebring, and Road Atlanta. The Registry has also been a strong backer of Corvette Racing. When the C5-Rs were struggling against the Vipers, the Registry always showed support for Corvette Racing's efforts, bringing large groups of members to each race to cheer on the team. This enthusiasm did not go unnoticed by David Hill, Gary Claudio, and Pratt & Miller.
When the team announced its intention to compete at Le Mans in 2000, Registry members approached Jake and Dan about going to the race. The duo liked the idea and wasted no time assembling the first "Trip of a Lifetime" to Europe. Putting their creative skills to work, they first secured Le Mans race tickets from GM Racing's Gary Claudio. Next, they offered members the option of shipping their cars to Europe and actually driving them to the event. A total of 24 couples signed up, and all decided to ship their C5s to Europe. In addition to attending the race, they spent two weeks touring the country. Because the trip was so well received, the Registry did it again in 2001. That year, 21 couples watched the C5-Rs finish First and Second in class and give the Corvette its first class win since 1960.
The tragedy of 9/11 put a damper on returning to Europe, but members continued to ask Dan and Jake to schedule another trip to Le Mans. Finally, the two agreed to serve as tour guides for one last trip to Europe, in 2005. Because of rising travel expenses, only 14 couples signed up. A mixture of C5s and C6s was shipped by freighter, with cars departing from New York, South Carolina, and Florida in early May and arriving in Antwerp, Belgium, in early June.
Members picked up their cars June 10th and spent the first night in Wurzburg, Germany, and the next day they ran the A7 Autobahn at full speed. One member, Jim Miller, made eight high-speed (140-180-mph) runs with his son, Andy, burning $224 in pricey European fuel in the process. Nevertheless, Jim told Team VETTE the flat-out blasts were worth every penny.
The group next motored to Rothenberg, then to Heilbron for the night. Ernst Woehr, director of Callaway Competition Europe in nearby Leingarten, served as host for the group during their Heilbron stay. Ernst arranged for the members to meet for a BBQ dinner at a friend's vineyard that overlooked Heilbron.
The next morning, the group was off to the Nuremberg Ring for hot laps around the famous 14-mile road circuit. The course is open to the public for a small fee, so virtually every type of car and motorcycle-from Honda Super Bikes and GT3 Porsches to Kia sedans-can be seen doing hot laps on a typical day.
Having circled the Ring without incident, the group headed across the border to Paris, where they made a "lap" around the famous Champs Elyses. In an uncharacteristic show of hospitality, scores of French citizens lined the streets and waved at the passing Corvettes. Later, group members went for a nighttime dinner cruise on the Seine to view Paris at night. After Paris was the magnificent Chateau Curzay, which was built in the 1700s and sits on 1,500 hectares of beautiful rolling countryside. While in Curzay, the group also toured castles and visited a Cognac factory.
On Friday, June 17, members packed their cars and headed to the city of Change near Le Mans. That afternoon, seven couples partici-pated in the pre-race Parade des Pilotes in downtown Le Mans. Drawing over 120,000 people each year, the parade allows spectators to get a close-up view of drivers who qualified for the race. After the parade, the group met back in Change at the White Horse Restaurant, where they ate and partied with members of several European Corvette clubs.
On race day, the group drove to the Le Mans circuit and met at the Corvette Europe hospitality suite. Once everyone was accounted for, members were allowed to take a hot lap around the actual racecourse in their own cars. With their hot laps completed, they settled in to watch the race, which saw the C6.Rs finish First and Second in the GT1 category, and Fourth and Fifth overall.
On Monday morning the group bid adieu to their French hosts in Change and headed to the Royal Barriere Hotel in Deauville. The final event was a tour to the Normandy battlefields and cemetery. The trip concluded where it began-in Antwerp-where tour members dropped off their cars and headed home.