Doug opens by commenting on the strange times we are living in and much like racing, we have to learn to adapt to the latest conditions on the ground. That means a different kind of racing schedule than what was originally planned with racing scheduled to start July 4th with a sprint race at Daytona and then another two weeks later at Sebring with both races to be run without fans in attendance.
Like most of us, Doug tells us that the race shop has been closed since the end of March and they have been unable to do any testing or work on a fourth chassis as planned. The good news is that the shop will officially be opening back on Monday and he is really looking forward to getting back to work with the guys again.
The two biggest news items to come from Corvette Racing during the coronavirus shutdowns were the team’s withdraw from the rescheduled 24 Hours of Le Mans and the retirement of longtime crew chief Dan Binks. Corvette Racing’s program manager leads off with addressing those items.
Doug calls the decision to withdraw from the 24 Hours of Le Mans one of the most difficult decisions due to the standing 20-year history at the event, something he says may never be duplicated again. A number of factors lead to the decision including the revised IMSA schedule before and after Le Mans, as well as the logistical challenges of transporting equipment and people globally. Doug says that the compressed event schedule (one week vs one month) wouldn’t give them the opportunity to set up all their infrastructure at the racetrack, and perhaps one of the biggest challenges was that they only have three racecars built instead of the four that were supposed to be built by now.
As for the decision, Doug tells us that they are very much looking forward to returning in 2021 and that the sanctioning body wants Corvette Racing back as well. Doug says it won’t be the same without Corvette Racing there…no lunchtime train horn, no fans at scrutineering. “They are going to miss us as much as we will miss them”, says Fehan who adds that they “turned over every stone and simply could not get there from here.”
As for the Dan Binks retirement, Doug says that this is a business that is very difficult based on the mental and physical aspects and you can not do it if you don’t have the passion for it. There are certain individuals in life that you develop special relationships with. Dan and Doug have been together since the fall of 1989 and according to Doug, nobody has more passion than Dan, but he says when you do it for over 30 years, you reach a point where you might want to step back and do different things. Fehan says the pandemic has caused lots of introspection in what you are doing in life. Doug concludes by sharing his feeling about Dan’s retirement with the following, “On one hand I am heartbroken that he is going because there is just one Dan Binks. But I know he will be happy and loving life. We wish him well and he will be missed. I love the guy.”
As for the C8.Rs, Doug couldn’t be happier with what they now have to work with. He says that while the C8.R doesn’t have the same robustness and brute durability of the C7.R, he already is seeing some very significant developments with the reliability of the C8.Rs. Doug says that this was the first time they went to Daytona and ran all the practices, qualifying, and then 24 hours of racing without having to pull the engine from the car. Never before were they able to do that.
As Doug is talking about the challenges of the C8.R, he says “we don’t have the tank-like robustness of the C7, which was a brutal attack vehicle based on the front-engine configuration. You can witness some of the impacts the car had and continued on to win races.” Doug says, “we don’t have that with C8. It has very advanced cooling systems, doesn’t have the same serviceability, and doesn’t have the same physical robustness.”. He adds that the drivers have adapted very well and that it isn’t a fragile sportscar. He points to the fact that they could change the nose of the C7.R in minutes and be on the way, and the crew had gotten C7.R engine changes down to 30-35 minutes. The guys are now working on about 2.5 hours to do an engine change in the C8.R. However, he adds that the reliability of the powerplant and gearbox (which he describes as an engineering masterpiece) offers a new approach with higher reliability which compensates for the shortfalls of racing.
Finally, we submitted a question to Doug to talk about his personal C8 Corvette and you could see his face light up with excitement as he discusses his new Stingray, telling us “I washed it myself this morning because I could.” For the record, Doug went with a Torch Red Stingray with the 2LT Natural and Black interior and the 5-spoke wheels. He didn’t go with the Z51 because he “lives in a world of wings and didn’t want to walk out to the garage and see those wings,” says the program manager. Doug tells the Bash audience that he had no concerns buying a first-year model because he has been involved intimately with the development and that “it’s just the best car I have ever driven from every aspect,” and he adds, “Can you tell I am in love with this thing?”
As we mentioned, Corvette Racing will return to the track with the IMSA WeatherTech Championship Series on the 4th of July weekend at the Daytona International Speedway and I know I speak for a lot of you when we say we can’t wait to the see the C8.R back out on the track!
Also, make your plans now for the Corvette Racing weekend to be held October 23-24 in Hershey, PA. Doug will be joined with Corvette Racing driver Tommy Milner for a fun weekend of seminars, road tours, and even a brewery tour. See the Corvette Museum Events Page for details.
National Corvette Museum
Corvette Racing Crew Chief Dan Binks Retires
IMSA to Restart Revised 2020 Schedule with a Nighttime Race on July 4th at Daytona International Speedway
The 24 Hours of Le Mans Is Postponed to September 19-20th