Corvette Racing's next test would come at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah-the last stop on the ALMS schedule before the ultimate showdown at Le Mans in June.
Corvette Racing Profile:
Steve "Pickle" LonghiSteve Longhi is one of the truck drivers who maneuvers Corvette Racing's 18-wheeled behemoths down the highway every time the team needs to travel. There are 12 ALMS races during the year augmented by frequent trips for testing the tires, the suspension, engine reliability, and other parameters. While most of the team travels by air, the three transport drivers do it the old-fashioned way, departing a day or two early to ensure that everything is set up in plenty of time before the race. With one driver sleeping in the back and the other driving, the trucks motor straight through, stopping only for refueling and driver changes. That means getting from Pratt & Miller headquarters in New Hudson, Michigan, to the Long Beach race in just 40 hours.
Once Longhi arrives at the racetrack, he and his fellow drivers are in charge of setting up the paddock compound as well as the surveillance complex at trackside in the hot pit lane. Corvette Racing has one of the most advanced, complex pit operations in the series, and setup typically takes at least a day.
When he's not driving or setting up, Longhi pulls double duty as the "tire guy." Mentored by retired tire-wrangler Chuck Miller, Longhi has served up the shoes for the racing Corvettes for the past five years. The ALMS allows each race car five sets of tires to get through practice, qualifying, and the opening stint of the race. Longhi takes the proprietary team wheels over to Michelin to have the tires mounted, selecting the compound specified by the Corvette Racing engineers. Once these wheels are mounted, certified, and marked by IMSA/ALMS, they can't be altered or adjusted.
After the race has started, the teams are allowed to replace the tires as many times as they wish, and this usually means about once per hour. Team engineers will also frequently alter tire pressures to suit changing track conditions. Longhi is charged with making sure the specified pressures have been dialed into each fresh set of tires.
Whenever the tires come off, Longhi assesses their condition and records their hot pressure readings. He then makes a trip to the Michelin compound to have the worn race tires exchanged for new ones. In short races such as Long Beach, there may be only one pit stop, obviating the need to make multiple remounting trips. But in endurance races such as Sebring, Le Mans, and Petit Le Mans, Longhi is in constant motion between the pits and the Michelin tent.
Handling tires is a tough, dirty job. The wheels come off the cars blazing hot and covered with brake dust that must be cleaned before the rollers are reinstalled on the car. Longhi's reward for manhandling the wheels and tires all weekend is to break down the pit and paddock compounds, load them back into the race transporters, hop in the truck cab, and settle in for the nonstop 40-hour trip back to Michigan.