Car stories always seem to be filled with strange twists and turns. Take for example our July '07 feature article, "Dream Matchup." The piece covered how MTI Racing modified a new Z06 for a nine-segment appearance on SPEED TV's Dream Car Garage. Once the car was complete, DCG co-host Tom Hnatiw would race it against partner, Peter Klutt, at the wheel of his L88 Corvette vintage racer. The loser would pay for the crew to travel to Europe for a follow-up shoot at the Nrburgring.
When MTI owner Reese Cox found out about the specifics of the contest, he was concerned. During the Z06's buildup in Toronto last winter, it was -20 degrees and snowing, providing no opportunity for track testing. Hnatiw, however, assured Cox he had a trick up his sleeve that would greatly improve his odds of winning. When the weather warmed sufficiently, the race was scheduled to be held at a track in Toronto.
Hnatiw's trick turned out to be a good one: He tapped longtime Corvette Racing driver Ron Fellows to race the Z06 against Klutt's L88. Guess what? Fellows won, and Klutt was left to ship the winning car and the DCG production crew to Europe to film the final three episodes of the '07 season. Fellows told Team VETTE that the Z06 triumphed because of its excellent balance. Klutt's 700hp L88 had more power, but the new car was able to stop quicker with its upgraded Brembo brakes. Fellows also told us that MTI's coilover suspension allowed him to corner harder and apply the power sooner.
After the contest, we were asked to help plan the European trip. We agreed and contacted our friends overseas to help make this a successful adventure. After much discussion, it was decided that we would visit the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. When Cox heard about our plans, he decided to accompany us at his own expense. This would be his first trip to Europe, and he wanted to watch over the untested Z06 to make sure it performed up to expectations.
Koos Pettinga, Corvette brand manager at Dutch mega-dealer Kroymans, proved to be an invaluable planning resource. He provided us with a Euro-market Cadillac BLS to drive during our stay and arranged visits to special sites that are closed to the general public. He also secured a Corvette-based Cadillac XLR-V from the U.S., giving the show the opportunity to road-test the car in a European setting. Ernst Woehr, director of Callaway Competition, served as our host in southern Germany. He directed the crew to scenic shooting locales and allowed Cox to use the Callaway shop to make adjustments to the Z06.
Pettinga met us in Amsterdam and took us to Kroymans' Corvette, Cadillac, and Hummer headquarters in Breukelen. After taping a short segment there, we traveled to Kroymans' Ferrari dealership, where the crew filmed Frits Kroymans' personal Ferrari collection. The next morning we picked up the Z06 in Antwerp, Belgium, and headed to Callaway Competition in Leingarten, Germany. While Hnatiw, Klutt, and the TV crew went to Stuttgart to secure a Porsche 997 for road-testing, Cox spent time with Woehr inspecting three GT3 Z06.R race cars under construction. When Woehr asked us to deliver a prototype Callaway SuperCharged C6 to a Corvette show at the Nrburgring, we quickly agreed and headed to the famous 'Ring.
Woehr arranged for us to stay with local families in Nurberg, located inside the 14-mile racetrack. We had excellent accommodations that were located close to the public entrance of the race track. Our remaining time was spent filming the Z06 lapping the 'Ring and making high-speed passes on the A60 Autobahn. Host Klutt touched 186 mph on the Autobahn, a feat that aired on the show. Ever the competitor, Cox later topped that number on a side trip to a Corvette dealership in Bitburg.
One of the highlights of our 'Ring visit was meeting legendary Sabine Schmitz. Schmitz, who drives one of BMW's famous "Ring Taxi" M5s, has completed over 20,000 laps around the difficult course and is scary fast. Hnatiw and Klutt filmed an on-track segment with Schmitz driving, doing their best to provide commentary as they bounced around inside the car.
In the end, the Z06 exceeded the crew's expectations. In spite of how hard it was pushed, it never missed a beat and was able to keep up with everything it encountered on the Autobahn. If you missed the action the first time around, be sure to check your local listings for repeats of the '07 DCG season on SPEED. After all, a full-on Corvette invasion of Europe isn't something you see every day.