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GM = Gasping Mothers

The Intro
In the wake of the sudden upheaval of the dismissal of three of the drivers from the
factory Corvette team, there has since followed a bizarre silence. Getting anything
out of GM has been difficult and the drivers are keeping words to a minimum. The
pressure has made its way to some of the automotive editors who have made a
conscientious decision to ignore the whole matter. That is a heavy charge and can
it be backed up? Well, yes it can.

Most of what you will be reading from here on belongs to someone else. I have
had to scramble the text around, add a word here and there, delete a name here
and there, in order to present it on SportsCarPros. Simply put, the story was
researched and written by a journalist of impeccable credentials within the
automotive field. After completion it was deemed to be to "hot" to run in a
mainstream publication and would have to be toned down considerably. The
question now as it will be later, is why? This is just a sampling, hopefully the
whole story as written and intended will be in print soon. We will let our readers
know when and where…

The Massacre
The new program directors at GM Racing were said to be under pressure from
upper management for another Corvette win in 2003 at Le Mans. This didn't
happen for a number of reasons, thus the nightmare before Halloween. Firing half
the six man Corvette Team's roster of highly-skilled, loyal, and proven drivers this
late in the season, in favor of a short list of as yet officially unnamed and untested
foreign drivers, seemed like a cold and senseless reaction to the Pratt and Miller
team's failure to win at Le Mans this past June.

The supposed line out of GM is "there will be significant changes planned for next
year in both the equipment and driver line-up and that management felt we should
give some new talent a chance in our cars next season." Then why drop half the
team and what criteria was used in selecting the three who remain? It wasn't the
six drivers who lost to the Prodrive 550 Ferrari Maranello at Le Mans. The C5R was
overwhelmed at La Sarthe and when the Ferrari was developed to the point of
running on the short tracks of the ALMS properly, only the skill of the Corvette
drivers kept the C5R in the picture.

Translation: Mechanical obsolescence isn't a logical reason to let go half the team
that made it wildly successful when they were on top. No matter how many failed
F1 drivers you put in the existing Corvette are going to make any real difference.

Lost in translation
Making major program changes by removing proven winners for a group of
probably equally capable Europeans proves nothing, except that Doug Fehan will
have to start all over again trying to perfect the tenuous balance of egos that could
deliver exactly the same performance he already had. Why on earth, when the
American public wants to see AMERICAN drivers in the most American of sports
cars, would GM Racing decide to choose this route? Will Doug Fehan, who has
done such an admirable job, have it in him to tackle this most unwelcome
situation. GM's top management must decide whether they want the Corvette to
remain a world-class sports car, suitable for international GTS class racing or
throw in the towel. Halfway measures are never enough in racing, especially when
the pressure is on.

So the question remains… why destroy the team that has given GM its best road
racing record…ever. A quick analysis of what the entire Pratt and Miller team faces
next year is really quite favorable compared to what they endured this year, so it
would seem senseless to short circuit the winning combination. Fredric Dor's
three Prodrive Ferraris will reportedly not return to America for the ALMS, which
leaves the ALMS GTS championship wide open for Corvette. Sure, there will be at
least one well-prepared privateer Saleen S7R (sans the weight and restrictor
penalties the ACO/ALMS officials have imposed on the Saleens for the past two
seasons) which could theoretically challenge the twin C5R Corvettes, but that's it.

La Sarthe not le solution
The problem is Le Mans. GM's top management saw two straight wins from the
Fehan led team and figured they were getting a third. No one in those corner office
suites even had a clue as to what the savvy team-manager had really
accomplished and, like most bottom-line types, simply expected the same this
year. When it didn't happen, and then the Corvettes lost the last five rounds of the
ALMS they, in true corporate fashion, began looking for culprits.

The Three Amigos
And what of those three culprits, does upper GM management have any idea of
how Andy Pilgrim saved the ALMS championship for Corvette? It was his wise
personal decision, under extreme pressure, that in fact saved the Corvette team
from making a fatal mistake during the final, critical race for the championship at
Petit Le Mans. Had Pilgrim not had the cojones and brains to have gone against
team orders to pit his third-placed Corvette in the waning hours of the race it could
have cost Corvette this year's Championship.

Pilgrim's Corvette was holding third when he sensed something wrong with his
car. He radioed in to say that he intended to pit but was told to stay out as all
telemetry data in the pit showed the car was in perfect condition. One of the
Prodrive 550s was closing on Pilgrim's Corvette and loss of the position would
cost the championship. Pilgrim brought the car in. It was discovered that a rear
tread was just beginning to separate. Had he stayed out as ordered the tire would
most likely have failed ending the American team's chances. As it was Pilgrim
went on to finish third, with co-drivers, Oliver Gavin and Kelly Collins to win the third
ALMS championship for Corvette. "That kind of sensitivity in a race car is just
priceless," said Doug Fehan after the race.

The release of Frank Freon, the team's New Jersey based French-American "third
man", who only drives for the Corvette team at the major enduros, like Sebring, Le
Mans and Petit Le Mans was even more bizarre, as Freon is the team's proven
press star when the Corvette's go to France. The suave, handsome Frenchman is
the only driver on the team who speaks fluent French and thus is mobbed by the
French media who love all the Corvette driver's but must use Freon as the team's
spokesman for comment on their performance. In three years as a team-driver for
Corvette, Freon has never made a costly mistake and has proven himself
incredibly quick, time and again, in the long, rain-filled nights that are so typical of
the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

That leaves Kelly Collins, the archetypal Southern California racer, he is the fast
All-American kid who grew up racing everything on wheels and has, like every
other member of the original group of six, proven that he is a solid, fast team
player; the kind of driver the other members can count on to give them as good a
car as the one he climbed into at the beginning of his stint.

Coming soon to a theater near you, the sequel…
It remains to be seen if the replacements are going to be significantly faster than
the proven winners…and if they shave a few tenths by flogging the existing cars,
what does that really prove? The ultimate goal is to win at Le Mans, a race that
takes consummate skill for hours in sometimes treacherous conditions. What's
needed here is the known quantity of proven success not stopwatch flash from a
set of new faces that are desperately trying to impress by pushing an obsolete
design beyond its limits to insure they have a paid seat in a car next season.

Edited by Kerry Morse

The doughnut in GM's treehouse

One major point that has to be addressed is what may be the worst kept secret on
pit row. The Goodyear tires as used by the Corvettes simply were not in the same
league at the Michelins of the Prodrive Ferrari team. Even Rafanelli and his Pirelli
shod 550 made improvements during the course of the season. The lack of public
or team criticism from GM towards Goodyear is understandable when you
consider the commercial implications towards the production side of the
automotive business. Bad mouthing race tires from one of your big production car
and truck suppliers would not be looked upon as a kindly gesture from those in the
lofty offices. I'm sure that Doug Fehan, if given the opportunity, would have jumped
at the chance to run Michelins, even if he had to stencil Goodyear on the

Kerry Morse

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