Many Corvette Racing fans, this one included, weren’t following the team in the early days and so many of the stories that are from that time period are not only entertaining, but show how the team evolved to the powerhouse in GT racing that they are today.
In this week’s Michelin GTLM Insider at SportsCar365.com, Corvette Racing’s former driver and current ambassador Ron Fellows is featured. Ron talks about the fateful trip to the 2003 Le Mans where despite Corvette Racing running a flawless race (Ron says it was “the best race we had ever run there to that point”), they got trounced by Ferrari who beat the team by a margin of 10 laps or nearly 85 miles.
Ron says GM and Corvette Racing dove deep to find out what happened and that it came down to tires, “We saw that the Ferraris could double-stint the Michelin tires with no performances drop off.”
The Corvettes had raced previously on Goodyear tires and for Fellows, that’s about the only tire he had ever raced with. A tire test was ordered up and the Corvette C5-Rs tested a set of Michelins after Petit Le Mans, and following that, a major test was scheduled for Sebring International Raceway.
Ron says of the test: “There were substantial differences in lap times (reported to be nearly three seconds per lap at Sebring) and that would keep us from continuing to be successful. It appeared that the Michelin technology was superior at that time. After that first test session, it was impossible to ignore.”
Ron would go on to win the Twelve Hours of Sebring in 2004 with his team mates Johnny O’Connell and Max Papis, and for the first time, wore the now-familiar Michelin cap into the post-race press conference. The Corvette C5-Rs with the new Michelins were able to lap Sebring six seconds faster per lap than the year before and they also set a record for race laps at the 12-hour race.
The success of the Corvette C5-Rs after switching to Michelins could not be denied as Corvette Racing won every race in 2004 included a 1-2 finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
As the purpose of racing is to build a better street car, Michelin’s tire technology transferred from track to street:
“That success throughout the year opened the door for Michelin to the internal team at Corvette. Through Corvette Racing, Dave Hill and Tom Wallace, then the chief engineer for C6 Corvette, saw the performance and invited Michelin to a test,” recalled Fellows. “They were developing the ZR1, the most powerful Corvette ever, and it led to an opportunity. As result of the tests, Corvette chose Michelin,” said Fellows.
Check out the full article at SportsCar365.com.
[VIDEO] Ron Fellows and Corvette Racing’s Pit Crew Demonstration at RaceFest
[VIDEO] Ron Fellows Hot Lap at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in a Corvette Z06
Ten Years Ago: GM Launches the 2007 Ron Fellows Corvette Z06