Doug Fehan Didn’t Retire, He Was Forced Out and I’m Mad As Hell About It

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Fehan Didn't Retire, He Was Forced Out and I'm Mad As Hell About It

Photo Credit: Keith Cornett


Throughout the long history of the Chevrolet Corvette, you will find a number of individuals with larger than life personalities who worked tirelessly to improve the brand. Classic figures like Harley Earl, Zora Duntov, and Bill Mitchell all come to mind, as well as the modern-day leaders who have led Corvette into the 21st century. This week, one of those individuals was let go by GM.

That collective gut-punch came on Wednesday with the announcement that Corvette Racing’s Program Manager Doug Fehan would be stepping down after 25 years of service. The official press release gives fans the impression that it was Doug’s decision, but according to a report by SportsCar365.com, it turns out that retirement wasn’t Doug’s idea, and he refused to comment further on the issue.

I haven’t spoken with Doug about this, but I do have some things to say about the matter.

Doug Fehan IS the heart and soul of Corvette Racing for fans around the world. From the very start, the program has been guided by his hand. And now GM has removed its highly effective leader of the team just as it appears we need him the most.

From everything we are hearing about the current state of racing, and especially the state of GT racing today requires that someone of his stature is representing the interests of Corvette and General Motors, as well as the fans. GT racing programs around the world are being shut down and scaled back. As the collective racing bodies like the ACO and IMSA work to advance a future standard for manufacturers (whatever that may be), it was always comforting to know that Doug would be there fighting for us as racing fans and as Corvette owners.

But perhaps Doug’s most important contribution to Corvette was his unyielding belief that racing made the street cars better. It was Doug who popularized the term “Cascade Engineering” to describe how each generation of street car is made better from racing, and how each generation of race car was improved because of having a better street car as a starting point. That Pratt & Miller made a conscious effort to not just race Corvettes, but to try and make them better by sharing data and technical expertise with Chevrolet engineers on the team is what should be remembered just as much as all the victories and championships earned over the years.

I don’t profess to know what happens behind closed doors at Corvette Racing but it appears that these major changes have been building for some time. Back in September, GM’s longtime racing director Mark Kent was shifted to GM Defense and former Camaro engineer Mark Stielow took his place as the new director of Motorsports Competition and Engineering. And since that move, major changes have been happening that also included the replacement of longtime Corvette “Captain” Oliver Gavin with former Porsche driver Nick Tandy.

I can imagine that Doug’s larger-than-life personality and ego have rubbed some of GM’s racing management the wrong way over the years, but you can’t argue with the success that has resulted. In 22 years, Doug has led Corvette Racing to 14 Team Championships, 13 Driver’s and Manufacturer Championships, as well as 113 race wins for the squad including eight class wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

I can also firmly say that as someone who has met and talked with all kinds of people in and out of GM that there wasn’t a better brand ambassador for Corvette and other GM vehicles than Doug Fehan and anyone who has witnessed one of Doug’s Corvette Corral discussions can attest to that. These are some huge shoes to fill and I hope and pray that GM Racing hasn’t messed up a winning formula just for the sake of change.

Thank you Doug for your service to Corvette and its fans over the years. You may be gone from the team that you built, but your contributions to Corvette, GM, and sports car racing will never be forgotten.

Update
Here are some additional thoughts on Fehan’s departure from Corvette Racing from the AutoExtremist Peter DeLorenzo:

This is what I say. Doug was forced out. After 25 years of molding and shaping Corvette Racing into the entity that it is today, he was summarily dismissed with little or no warning and without cause. I think the move was motivated by two things: 1. Jealousy. GM operatives couldn’t stand the fact that Doug had more credibility and a genuine connection with Corvette enthusiasts than all of them put together. Doug also represented Corvette racing to IMSA, the FIA, the ACO, the Corvette Museum and the other race teams, and he had the utmost respect from all of them. Doug tirelessly lived and breathed Corvette Racing, and he woke up every day trying to make the program better. This will prove to be a huge error on GM’s part. 2. Age-ism. They’d never say that but that had more than a little to do with it as well. This is a Bush League Bullshit decision. Doug is simply the best at what he does. Corvette Racing wouldn’t be what it is today without the commitment, dedication and passion of Doug Fehan. His winning legacy and his concept of racing “the right way” will endure for many, many years to come. -PMD


Related:
Doug Fehan Steps Away After 25 Years With Corvette Racing
Nick Tandy Will Replace Oliver Gavin at Corvette Racing
Chevrolet Captures GT Le Mans Manufacturers Championship

 



18 COMMENTS

  1. I met Doug Fehan in November 2012 at the Simeon Museum’s Corvette Racing Seminar. One of the team tractor-trailers and the C6.R race car “show car” was there. In the museum to the right and left side of the stage sat the C6.R racecar show car and Dr. Semone’s Wintersteen L88 Grand Sport #002. Harry Hurst, the museum’s MC said, “Ladies and gentlemen, before we bring up our guests, I’d like to introduce you to the C6.R and the L88 Grand Sport.” And with that, both cars were FIRED UP inside the museum! The cars rumbled and growled for a good 10-seconds before they were shut off. Harry Hurst then said, “Doug, I’m sorry, but I think the Grand Sport is louder!” And the crowd went wild. No one was expecting that!

    Doug then talked about the team sport effort that is the foundation of the Corvette Racing Team. Then he played an outstanding video about the preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The video captured the enormous effort required for such an event. The team effort was super impressive. Doug talked for about an hour and was engaging, interesting, and funny.

    At the time, there was a lot of consternation about the C7’s Camaro-like taillights. Someone asked about the taillights and Doug said, “I’ll tell ya, a lot of Mustang owners are going to be looking at those taillights for a long time!”

    After the presentation, I spoke briefly with Doug and told him that I believe that he is carrying the Corvette “racing” spirit of Zora Arkus-Duntov. He went a little pie-eyed, smiled, and said, “Why, thank you.” We will miss you, Doug!

  2. As a retired GM Engineer who worked there for over 47 years, I will share that when they want you out they always get their way. I saw it many times in my career and that was the way I left too. They give financial incentives to retire and then reassign you to a position you don’t want. As a result you soon realize that it is time to go; take the money and run.

  3. What happened to Doug happens all the time in large organizations with lots of levels, and lots of bosses. You can assume that Doug’s longevity means that many above him in the hierarchy had nothing to do with his appointment, and had no reason to support him if someone wanted to make a change. That lack of organizational support and protection is a very common reason long time employees are treated poorly. I have witnessed it countless times. In the case of this particular move, I can think of a number of individuals who could have stopped the outcome with a word or two. They chose not to do that, and that was the end of it. Welcome to corporate “culture.” If the move was the idea of the suits at GM racing, it was still made possible by the very top of the food chain.

  4. A shame I met Doug at Lime Rock a few time and he always took a minute to speak with my sons and I. He even allowed the boys to have pictures taken in the 3 car. It helped that even though they were young teenagers they knew their corvettes. Change for the sake of change is the worst kind. Just look at what is happening to NYC and LA.

  5. When “It’s business not personal” decisions from higher management are made they never reveal the suppressed truth about what is best immediately and in the future for success of a business.
    Doug Fehan is and always will be known as “Corvette Racing” … Doug’s devotion to Corvette Racing and all those who have followed Corvette since Zora until now and into the future will be remembered as a true believer in Corvette.
    We need a recount and those responsible held to the highest degree of accountability for this poor decision …

  6. It’s a shame, especially if Doug really didn’t support it. Doug loves to talk but he is above all, a diplomat and isn’t likely to even throw GM under their own bus. Times change. Those who supported him in the beginning aren’t anywhere now to continue that. Corporate worlds orbit their own version of the sun and are cold and uncaring regarding our lot. The cars are different and will become even more so if racing is to continue. His generation was/is pistons flying and cranks wildly orbiting nside thundering fossel-fueled mills. E-ray? Maybe that platform takes an Elon Musk’ish type… Doug, we’ll miss ya, but we already miss all those who you came after and those you brought forward with you. You and your gang was what I liked most about racing in back in 2007-10 when I was attending races… Rest up and perhaps we’ll hear from you soon…

  7. We are living in the second golden age of muscle cars. The first was from about 1964-1971. I’d say we are now in the equivalent of 1970. In interviews, people that lived through the first golden age said that the change was gradual, then one day they woke up and realized the muscle cars were no longer available.

    Corvette engineers moved to “green” cars, Corvette Racing firing/losing good people. New administration coming into power that despises automobiles and petroleum. The writing is on the wall – If you want one, get a fun car now while you still can.

  8. If it is any consolation about this forced retirement, all the major racing teams Always respected Corvette Racing under Doug’s Leadership. During the Epic battles with Prodrive/ Aston Martin in GT1, when they won, they where the first to acknowledge how tough the competition was. More over when a C6R broke down because of drive shaft issue at Leman putting the car out of contention, ProDrive where the first to say, “we don’t want to win this way”. Conversely if an Aston Martin Car came out of the garage after major issues, the Corvette Clan where the First to cheer them on for the fight to continue at Leman. The entire GT racing world salutes you Doug 🍺 and yes you have Earned the Title “the Spirit of Leman”

  9. With everything happening in the last few months in IMSA’s GTLM, and also Pratt and Miller, I really fear this is the end of Corvette Racing. I really really hope I’m wrong.

  10. When I heard Mary Barra say that all GM vehicles on its’ platform will be electric within fifteen years and that Corvette Design at headquarters was moved to Autonomous and Electric Vehicles in the organizational chart, I knew that something drastic was about to happen. My biggest fear, at this point, is that GM is going to de-emphasize its’ race programs. It’s hard to imagine promoting the Corvette without racing. The only way I see it is if GM eliminates the factory sponsored team and moves the racing to GTD in IMSA where private teams can take up the mantle.
    It’s heartbreaking news that Doug was cut loose. Mary has everyone below her shaking in their boots. You won’t hear a peep from the sheep for fear of losing their jobs.

  11. Change is never for the better, and this proves it. Thank you for everything you’ve done for Corvette racing Doug!

  12. I had a feeling this was coming early fall after I saw a wave of long standing people on the Corvette Racing team step down. Mary Barra is a mere axe person for the old men that run GM. I’ve said it a hundred times just how bad Corvette’s Marketing Team or lack thereof is. I had to laugh when Mary said they will be switching entirely to Electric vehicles, I was thinking of exactly how many EV’s GM currently makes and it was ZERO! They scrapped the Volt and the Bolt and started on a new drawing board instead of improving and evolving like the Prius. Therefore GM will NEVER make a reliable EV and certainly not an Autonomous vehicle. Mercedes realized it was an impossible feat and scrapped their entire autonomous plans. If it weren’t for GM’s Silverado line they’d be out of business (again)

  13. I agree with all replies above. G.M switching the name of the future Grand Sport to E-Ray should have been a sign of things to come for everyone. If you currently own a C7 Corvette hold onto it. Being the last generation of the front engine car, I believe it will hold it’s value maybe even increase. Doug you will be missed!

  14. Years ago, Doug swore that there would never be a production mid-engine Corvette. That may be the only tidbit he got wrong in his long, fruitful career. I predict he’ll land elsewhere on his feet.

  15. We of Corvette Nation were stunned by this news. We all had the same thought process as we read the articles and blogs ….. “Just what the muck is GM/Chev management thinking?!”
    Keith, your narrative, and all the following comments, are spot on.
    To compose a comment after all the above is redundancy.
    Surely GM/Chev execs are reading everything composed here.
    What poor judgement on their part for an unceremonious departure of Doug in front of Corvette Nation. Just a few words from Jim Campbell. That was it.
    The way this departure has been played out by GM/Chev execs makes it very, very difficult for the person who will try to fill Doug’s position. We all will agree a smoother transition should have been planned and carried out over the next racing season, which starts just a month from now. Just what the muck were you thinking GM/Chev management?

    Doug, you will always be the lead dog of Corvette Nation. Enjoy your Torch Red C8.
    Personally, I will miss talking to you at Corvette Corrals and at Hershey, bidding on Michelin stuff you would be auctioning off I don’t need.

    Looking forward to when our paths will cross again,
    Mike Waal
    8TY4SPD & MNL13GS
    First State Corvette Club and “No’ Club Corvette Enthusiasts Corvette Racing Reporter

  16. For the ‘more questions than answers’ folks among us regards the P&M sale and Doug’s departure, P&M is selling C7.R chassis #3 on the open market. This chassis has the most wins of any C7.R chassis in existence; 2014 back-to-back victories at Long Beach and Laguna Seca, 2015 Daytona-24, Sebring-12, Watkins Glen-6 and Mosport.
    Why wouldn’t GM/Chev obtain this historic C7.R for the Heritage Center?
    One has to wonder what is going on.
    And then this little tidbit ………
    GM Defense was awarded a $214.3 million contract to supply the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 pickup-based military truck, production of which will be at Concord, N.C., where GM Defense is taking over a building that was slated to become a GM performance and racing technical center.
    What is going on?

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