Corvettes first appeared at Sebring (Florida) International Raceway in 1956, and Chevy's sports car has competed there every year since. While no Corvette has ever won the Sebring race outright, the marque has secured numerous Grand Touring-class victories.
In recent years the Corvette Corral--located just outside SIR's Turn 17--has been the ideal place for Corvette owners and enthusiasts to watch the race. Backed by strong support from GM, the C5/C6 Registry, and the National Corvette Museum, the Corral provides excellent parking for Corvettes and includes a large tent that features new cars, live TV race coverage, guest speakers, food, and cold drinks. A large grandstand is even provided to help owners get a closer look at the on-track action. It's a popular place that typically draws a veritable "who's who" of the Corvette world.
One of the Corral's featured show cars this year was the LS7-powered '13 Convertible Collector Edition, which elicited many favorable comments with its bold design. Guest speakers, meanwhile, included Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter, Corvette Product Manager Harlan Charles, and a host of other GM celebrities. Each was willing to chat with owners and answer their Corvette-related questions (with the notable exception of C7 queries).
The Corvette Racing drivers also took time out of their busy race schedules to sign autographs for the large crowd of Corvette aficionados. Later, team Program Manager Doug Fehan served as an auctioneer to help raise funds for Motorsports Ministries, a nonprofit organization that provides spiritual and emotional support for people involved in professional and amateur automobile racing. Auction items included everything from broken C6.R parts to a very detailed oil painting of the Corvette racers in action. The painting was autographed by the all of the drivers before being presented to its new owner.
Many of the Corral participants traveled to Sebring as part of the National Corvette Museum's MIM (Museum in Motion) caravan. The caravan originated in Panama City, Florida, on the Monday before the race and toured various locations along the state's west coast during the week. Some of the stops included the Silver Springs theme park, the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing, and St. Armand's Circle in Sarasota. The MIM then headed to Sebring and participated in Corral activities for the remainder of the weekend. (Check out the NCM's website, www.corvettemuseum.com, for information on upcoming MIM trips.)
As we reported last month, the Sebring race ended with an epic battle between Corvette, BMW, and Ferrari, with the Corvette Racing C6.Rs ultimately finishing Second and Third in the GT category. Visitors to the Corral got a full dose of exciting racing, along with updates on the production Corvette and a chance to rub elbows with the people who will chart the future direction of the brand--all in a comfortable, convenient setting. If you're planning to attend the Sebring 12-hour race next year, consider making the Corvette Corral an integral part of your weekend.
Corvette and Johnny O Join Sebring Hall of Fame
The Sebring Hall of Fame was opened in 2002, for the purpose of honoring drivers and automotive companies for their contributions to motorsports. This year the Hall recognized Corvette for its success over the last five-plus decades of competition at Sebring International Raceway. Since its first appearance at SIR in 1956, the Vette has accumulated 24 GT class victories. It joins Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari as the fourth manufacturer to be recognized by the Hall.
Johnny O'Connell is Sebring's all-time winner, with seven class victories and an overall win he earned in 1994 while driving for Nissan. He has captured 12 podium class finishes and holds the record for his 20 consecutive Sebring starts. O'Connell is perhaps best known for his success behind the wheel of Corvette Racing C5-Rs and C6.Rs, including four class victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The induction ceremonies were held at Sebring's Chateau Elan Hotel and Conference Center on Friday before the start of the 60th running of the 12-hour race. Hall of Fame member Derek Bell served as the emcee for the event, the proceeds from which will help the nonprofit Hall to continue preserving Sebring's rich racing history.