Wednesday
Jun242009

Corvette Racing lives on to fight another day

Photo by John Thawley Peter M. De Lorenzo is a national columnist who founded Autoextremist.com, a highly-regarded website devoted to news, commentary and analysis of the auto industry. He is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.Last week, while toasting the tremendous success of Corvette Racing (see: Toasting A Decade of Excellence For Corvette Racing ), I also pointed out that it hadn’t come easy, as internal political squabbles within GM marketing had plagued the program from the beginning, threatening to derail it many times during its existence. This was especially true last week when GM marketing and racing operatives traveled to Charlotte to deliver the bad news about the realities of its financial cutbacks to its NASCAR teams. It’s no secret that certain individuals within GM marketing are openly biased toward the company’s NASCAR programs and were willing to throw Corvette Racing under the bus in no uncertain terms if it meant “protecting” its sacred NASCAR involvement.


Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Last Thursday night on the “Autoline After Hours” webcast (you can see the program by going to autolinedetroit.tv and clicking on “John’s Journal” - WG), Mark LaNeve - GM’s top sales and marketing VP - confirmed that Corvette Racing would indeed continue, with its all-new ALMS GT2 effort debuting at Mid-Ohio in August, as scheduled. This is great news for Corvette enthusiasts and road racing fans everywhere, as now the vaunted Pratt&Miller-prepared Corvettes will be going up against BMW, Ferrari and Porsche head-to-head in the red hot GT2 class after basically running unopposed in GT1 (except for Le Mans) over the last two seasons.

With the official confirmation that Corvette Racing would live on to fight another day and go after its toughest competitors in GT2 (one world GT class begins in 2010 based on current GT2 regs), road racing fans are in for a treat, as I expect the GT2 class to offer the best road racing seen in this country since the glory days of the factory-backed Trans-Am era of 1966-1971.

That the various revivals of the Trans-Am series have fallen flat is no big surprise, as there wasn’t direct involvement by enough factory-backed teams to provide that knock-down, drag-out flavor that the great road racing series possessed back in its heyday. Of late, the Trans-Am series has usually been dominated by one factory-backed team that steam-rolled privateer teams at will. That won’t happen in GT2 beginning in August. With well-prepared and well-financed factory-backed teams from BMW, GM (Chevrolet), Ferrari and Porsche squaring off against each other - with the gloves off - it should be sensational.

GM’s decision to continue on with Corvette Racing also validates the role racing plays in the continued research & development program conducted on behalf of the production Corvette. As I said last week, the Corvette Racing program delivers a direct transference of advanced technology to the production car. Every dime that is spent on Corvette Racing is - for all intents and purposes - an extension of an ongoing, real-world research and development exercise that actually results in calculable benefits to the production Corvette that the company puts on the street.

Since GM’s entire marketing budget for the Corvette is basically encompassed in the expenditures earmarked for the Corvette Racing program, I can only hope that with a few hard fought Corvette Racing wins against its toughest showroom competitors, GM can at least spring for a couple of national print ads to promote the effort.

The car deserves at least that much…

 

 

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