Pic: Dan Boyd/LAT
The merger between the American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am has posed an interesting problem for teams who employed drivers working in both paddocks.
In the case of the Corvette Racing ALMS team, it made use of factory GM Grand-Am drivers Jordan Taylor and Richard Westbrook for endurance events at Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans in its C6.R GT cars, but with the consolidation of the two series under the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship banner, Taylor and Westbrook will be required to focus on their full-time Daytona Prototype drives.
Finding suitable replacements for Taylor, who won the 2013 DP title with co-driver Max Angelelli in the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP, and Westbrook, a three-time DP race winner for the Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP team, has been one of the major tasks assigned to Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan who, as he shares, knows exactly what he’s looking for.
“Anybody who races for us, the speed is a given,” he told RACER. “No one’s going to win a job with us by how fast they go. Everybody is plenty fast enough. You stick around Corvette Racing and become part of our program, either a full-time guy or a part-time guy with your attitude and your understanding of the responsibility you have as a Corvette driver, which goes well beyond the performance on the racetrack.”
The Pratt & Miller-led Corvette Racing program has been busy developing its new C7.R chassis for competition in the TUDOR Championship’s GT Le Mans class, which will undergo more testing this month. Working in driver evaluations while also developing the C7.R has added to the complexity of the task at hand, but as Fehan explains, the evaluations also take place outside of the car.
“Our fans will play as important a role in our program as does our race performance,” he added. “And you have to be willing and have an understanding of what the commitment to our fan base has to be. And that means you’re checking your ego at the door. You have to become one with this team. And if you look at the drivers that we have over the years — with no exception — these guys have all embraced what we do on the racetrack and off the racetrack.
“And that’s why we create that environment and you have to be able to adapt that environment to be successful with us. We’re not going to go out there and get the fastest guy on the planet if we know he’s not going to meld and blend with our team philosophy. Anybody who thinks we’re just looking at the stopwatch doesn’t understand Corvette Racing. We’re looking at how they interact with the guys on pit lane, how they talk to the guy sweeping the floor, how they treat our engine guys, the tire guys, and most importantly, our fans and every Corvette owner that comes up to say hello and have a chat. We’re hiring a representative, not just a driver.”
With the 24 Hours of Daytona set to open the season late next month, Fehan and the GM Racing brass will need to pull the trigger on their driver roster in short order.
“We don’t have a tremendous amount of time left, so that’s driving the process all by itself,” Fehan admitted. “I expect to have this process concluded in the next two weeks or so, and from there, we go full-bore into Daytona. We can’t wait to go racing with this gorgeous new car, that I can tell you.“
Pic: Marshall Pruett