Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Z06 Update

A few updates on the status of the Z06 Corvette.

The new license plate finally arrived!

By early September we had driven the car almost 500 miles and it was time to take the car to the Chevy dealer to have the break-in oil in the dry-sump system changed for 10 quarts of Mobil ESP Formula 0W-40 synthetic oil.  Don Kingery had alerted me to a "secret":  during the first 500 miles the computer "governs" the engine so that you can't drive it too aggressively and the red-line on the tach is kept back at 3,500 RPM.  He told me to watch the instrument panel carefully as the car clicked over from 499 miles to 500.  I decided to capture this event on a video!  Look closely at the odometer (lower left) and the red-line to see the "limiter coming off!"

As soon as the oil was changed we headed for Monterrey, California to watch the Corvettes race at Laguna Seca (stay tuned for the next blog post), putting 800 miles on the car in four days.  It ran perfectly.  While there we saw this cool poster hanging in the Corvette Corral --I wish I could find one of these for my garage.  I love the imagery of the Z06 for the street contrasted to the C7R Racecars!

While there, Nan bought me the model C7R Corvette, #3 (the car that eventually won the IMSA GTLM Championship in 2018 -- more on that in a future blog post, too!) and had it autographed by Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Program Director, and the drivers, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia.

In October we took a trip to the Society of Research Administrators conference in Orlando.  While there we took an afternoon trip to Epcot and visited the Chevrolet Test Track ride, a roller coaster that simulates a race track experience.

As we exited the ride, what do you suppose was on display as the "Ultimate Chevrolet"?

I was inspired to visit the gift shop where I found the perfect T-shirt!

Later that month I celebrated Bob Vollmar's Birthday with a trip to Harry's Diner in La Jolla.  Bob drove his 2007 Z06 and we got a nice shot of the cars together.  Remember, it's partly Bob's "fault" that I bought a Z06!

Happy Holidays to everyone.  Looking forward to more adventures in the Z06 in 2019!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Thanks Nan!

Quiz: What is missing from this picture?

As the date of my pending retirement from Scripps Research approaches (February 1, 2019), I’ve been contemplating the question, “Would it be possible to buy one, last, awesome, Corvette?” After owning Corvettes for 50+ years it would be nice to get something special. What would I choose if I had the chance? Who would deserve credit for motivating me to buy one?

Bob Vollmar, my Z06 hero, ranks a position high on the list of mentors. I love Bob’s yellow 2007 Z06. Bob let me drive it shortly after he bought it – what a rocket. Bob has put 30,000 miles on the car with multiple “circuit of the USA” trips. His descriptions of his love for the car, and his many adventures in it rest fondly in my memory, especially one story . . . .

Bob Vollmar Banzai Run in his Z06

Don Kingery, the first person I knew who purchased a C7 Corvette, shares credit for planting desire for a new Corvette in my heart. He let me drive his car, when the Chevy dealer wouldn’t give me a test drive. Don says this about his C7 Stingray, “I love this car so much, I’d sleep in it if I could!”

My Corvette driving school buddy, Bill deserves credit for motivating me to learn the fine points of driving a really fast car on a track. Our two trips to the Ron Fellows School in Pahrump, Nevada were memorable. Each of us wanted to take a turn in the Z06, but we were rebuffed by the instructors at the driving school. I also cherish the time Bill let me drive his Audi R8. Now Bill can experience the Z06 unfettered!

The Queen of Corvette Racing social media, Charley Robertson, has been a constant inspiration to me. Her love for Corvette racing, the drivers, the fans, and Corvette enthusiasts is evidenced in her many Facebook, Twitter, and email posts. It was Charley who introduced me to Harlan Charles (see below). Perhaps a tipping point for me to get a new Corvette was Charley’s recent purchase of the “Sebring” C7!

Going to the Corvette Races with Don, Shirley, and Nan, especially the Corvette Corral sites, has exposed me to so many different years, models, colors, and options. Which Corvette would be perfect for me?

While at Sebring, I had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with Harland Charles, Chevrolet Product Manager. Harlan patiently sat with me at dinner one night using my phone and the Chevy “Build Your Corvette” web site to help me choose the best options for my taste. Although we discussed the ZR1, I was surprised to find out how great the Z06 is, and how closely its performance compares to the all-out-track-ready ZR1.

Last month we went to Watkins Glen where I saw all those yellow Z06 cars. One night, while having ice cream cones with Nan, Don, and Shirley, we were joined by Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Program Manager. Doug listened to me debate with myself out loud, “buy now or wait for the mid-engine Corvette?” Doug finally held his hand up, quieted all conversation, and said, “You are 70 years old. What are you waiting for?”

Of course, there is one person who deserves more credit than anyone else for the decision to get a new Corvette.

As soon as we returned from Watkins Glen to Carlsbad I was on a mission to find a Z06 configured as Harlan and I had planned, and to seek the best deal. I wanted the Z06, with the Z07 racing package (brakes, suspension, and tires), the 3LZ interior and accessories, carbon fiber ground effects and interior treatments, the Corvette Racing Yellow Tintcoat paint, black wheels with the yellow stripe, yellow brake calipers, and the matching yellow interior stitching.

As I did more research on the 2018 Z06, reading car magazine reviews, the adverb most commonly used to describe the car was “ridiculously”, as in “ridiculously powerful” or “ridiculously fast”. I liked how that sounded. A friend (not a car person) remarked to me, “Why would you get a car that has more performance that you can ever use”? I replied, “Obviously you are unfamiliar with the concept ‘You Are What You Drive!’”

Test Drive Corvette Z06

Through the miracle of the Internet I was able to locate a few cars that were configured exactly as I wanted.

For some reason we buy our new Corvettes from out-of-the-way Chevy dealers. The 50th Anniversary car came from Randy Vollmar at Vollmar Motors in Holstein, Iowa. This time we found Mike Piccirilli at Miller & Sons Chevrolet and Buick, in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. Mike patiently answered all my questions, sent photos and all the details about the car, and offered us an amazing deal. Neither Nan nor I had ever had a ride in a Z06, much less driven one. Mike agreed to hold the car for us for a day. Nan went immediately to work reserving flights and hotel rooms and in less than an hour we were ready to go to Aliquippa. We took a late Friday night flight to Pittsburgh and spent 7 hours in an airport hotel.

Early on Saturday morning Mike picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the dealership.

We took a test drive, loved the car, bought it, and flew back home, all in less than 30 hours!

Our first problem was making room for a fourth Corvette, because we aren’t selling any of them. With Nan’s help we were able to squeeze four Corvettes, three Go Karts, and two Lexus cars in the six car garage.

The next problem to solve was getting the car to Carlsbad. Sherpa Auto Transport promised to treat the Z06 with special care, and with Mike’s help, the Z06 was loaded in an enclosed trailer by Wednesday. In one week it arrived on Seaview Way.

The final problem to solve was the license plate. It needed to be the California black plate with yellow lettering (to match the car). What should it say? All the combinations of Z06 were taken, so I decided to dedicate my last Corvette, and its license plate, to the person who has meant so much to me for 27 years, has granted my every wish, and spoils me every day.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Watkins Glen 2018

After Le Mans 2016, Monterrey 2017 and Sebring 2018, Don, Shirley, Nan and I continued our quest to visit as many Corvette Racing venues as possible by going to Watkins Glen, New York in early July.

History: Watkins Glen is a town in western New York, at the southern end of the Seneca Lake, one of the deep, glacial “Finger Lakes”. For Car People, the name has become synonymous with the legendary race track on the outskirts of the town. Races have been held there since 1956 including: The World Sports Car Championship, Trans-Am, Can-Am, NASCAR, SCCA, IndyCar, the United States Grand Prix of Formula One (for 20 consecutive years), and for our purposes, a host of one of the eleven International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) season races. 

Racing is such a huge part of the history and culture of the town that reminders of the racing heritage can be found everywhere. When we arrived in town on Friday night we found this mural at a grocery store!

Saturday: Corvette Corral Volunteers rolled out the red carpet with a huge tent at turn #1 with plenty of room for parking. The Corral was sold-out with 258 cars from Canada to Texas represented. We were told that this event had the largest Corvette fan representation in the twenty-year history of Corvette Racing.

A few people showed up in their new ZR1 Corvettes – the first time we had seen an owner’s edition of the 755 HP monster. Don decided he liked the Red one.

Z06-C7R:  I recently became aware of a limited edition Corvette that holds a strong attraction for me. In 2016, to celebrate the success of the C7.R Corvette race car, Chevrolet offered a limited edition Corvette designated as the Z06 – C7R. Only 500 were built. They came in two colors: the yellow of the race car or black; buyers could choose a coupe or a convertible. The car is equipped with all the standard Z06 goodies (including 650HP), special brakes, carbon fiber treatments, distinct badging, and racing seats. For the time, it was about as close to a track-ready car-for-the-street as you could buy. Christmas morning for a five-year-old could not hold more excitement than I found at Watkins Glen when I discovered that four of these cars were driven to the Corvette Corral.

Above are examples of the yellow coupe

And an example of the yellow convertible

Through one of the drivers I learned that you can essentially (nearly) duplicate the Z06-C7R by buying a new Z06 and specifying the right options: yellow Corvette Racing Tintcoat paint, the Z07performance package, 3LZ interior upgrades, the black wheels with the yellow stripe, and the yellow brake calipers.

Everywhere I looked there were yellow Z06 Corvettes!

There were even paintings of yellow Corvette race cars.

By late morning I was able to tear myself away from fantasy Corvette shopping long enough to watch the qualifying session for Sunday’s race. Early on the Corvettes were slightly off the pace, but by the final few laps the Corvette drivers had turned quick enough lap times to place 3rd and 4th. Ironically at the end of qualifying the eight GTLM entrants were arranged into four rows of two cars each with Fraud in row 1, Corvette in row 2, Porsche in row 3, and BMW in row 4.

Watkins Glen State Park:  With the exciting racing events over for the day, we decided to escape the heat of the track in favor of a visit to the Watkins Glen State Park, the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks. With hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities, the park is a favorite of tourists in this part of New York. The main attraction of the park is a trail that parallels a stream that descends 400 feet in a distance of two miles, revealing 19 waterfalls along its course. With trails that go over, under, and around waterfalls, cool, moist air, and shaded paths, the hike was the perfect escape from the July heat.

Having enjoyed a full day of Corvettes and nature, we headed to our hotel in Corning, New York for showers and dinner. Downtown Corning is both quaint and beautiful. Because it was about 20 miles from the track we were surprised to see racing team members and fans everywhere. After a great dinner at Burgers and Beer, the lure of homemade ice cream drew us to the east end of Market Street to Dippity Do Dahs.

It was here that we encountered the engine mechanics for Corvette Racing.

While inside the jam-packed store, filled with people escaping the July heat-wave, who should appear but Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Program Manager. It was a real treat to visit with Doug in this private setting and to talk about the program, season, and the coming race.

Doug, like all of the Corvette Racing people, is a real gem.

Sunday:  We were up early Sunday morning and off to the track. Don drove us through the beautiful New York countryside encountering barely any traffic. The Corvette Corral was even more jammed on Sunday than it had been on Saturday. To celebrate the upcoming Independence Day Holiday, the organizers arranged to park groups of Red, White, and Blue Corvettes in a long and wide banner on a bluff overlooking turn 1 of the track. Everyone thought this was cool! I wanted to find a vantage point to get a few photos of all the Corvettes. I talked my way into getting access to one of the bridges that spans the track for some nice photos of the sea of Corvettes before the start of the race. I told Security that I was a famous writer and needed photos for my next publication. That’s almost the truth, right?

We met some new friends, including Kevin and Linda Brooke, who drove their C7 Corvette all the way from Massachusetts. They have been to the Watkins Glen annually since the early 90’s so they knew everything about the town and the track. They have participated in NASCAR, IMSA, and club racing with “Corvettes of Massachusetts”. Kevin has restored a Corvette or two over time and is very knowledgeable about everything Corvette. Kevin and Linda have owned more than 30 Corvettes from a 1962 to their current C7. Their best memories of Watkins Glen are all the people they have met there.

The race was scheduled for six hours, one of the longer races of the season. At the beginning of the race, and for a full hour, there was no contest as the Frauds led the GTLM class easily, increasing their lead with each lap. Close behind and equal to the leaders, the two Porsche teams were running very strong. Then the two Corvettes trailed, followed by the two BMWs. The track and uncovered stands were scorching hot, so very few people braved the summer sun to watch from otherwise ideal locations. We roamed the track taking turns watching the race from different vantage points and trying to find ice cream vendors.

The Corvette Racing people have borrowed a line from Winston Churchill, “Never give up!” a motto that has served them well. As the race bore on, and caution periods and pit stops interrupted the early monotony, the two Corvette teams became more competitive. By the final 20 minutes, Jan Magnussen had negotiated his way to second place, sandwiched in between a Fraud and a Porsche. The three of them raced nose-to-tail until the checkered flag.

Always hoping for a win, we were almost happy to settle for a podium (2nd place) finish. We decided to go watch the trophy ceremony, which was fun, and to stop by the Corvette pits to congratulate and encourage the teams.

In the hot July afternoon, with no time to rest or reflect, the pit crews were crawling around and under the still scorching hot cars getting them ready for the race at the Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix in Ontario, Canada, just one week away. Dedication knows no better adherents than Corvette Racing.

By the time we departed the track the crowds had cleared and we enjoyed another peaceful drive through the country toward Corning. After showers, we headed for another dinner at one of the nice restaurants in town; tonight it would be Italian cuisine at Sorge’s. Who do you suppose we saw in the dining room? Right – Doug Fehan! We congratulated him on a valiant fight and for the points increase achieved that day, moving the #3 Corvette team into 3rd place for the season and Corvette to 2nd place in the manufacturer’s points. We made a repeat visit to Dippity Do Dahs for more ice cream.

Glenn Curtis Museum:  The next morning we did some touristy sightseeing. The first stop was a drive out to Hammondsport to visit the Glenn Curtiss Museum.

Everyone has heard of Glenn Curtiss, but few know of his amazing career and inventive prowess. The Museum is a showcase of turn-of-the-20th-century technology including bicycles, engines, motorcycles and airplanes. Who knew that Curtiss revolutionized bicycle technology and had a huge production operation in this remote part of New York? From his early days as a bicycle racer and builder, he quickly moved to motorcycle production, creating his own engines when those on the market proved subpar. His 1906 V-8 powered motorcycle was so powerful that he set a speed record of 136.36 MPH, a mark that was not broken until 1911 by a car, and remained the motorcycle speed record until 1930! Later in his career, a chance flight in a dirigible so influenced Curtiss that he immediately turned his inventive mind to the problems facing early aviation. Historians of aviation pioneers have given perhaps way too much credit to the Wright Brothers, to the exclusion of other significant pioneers, including, San Diegan John Montgomery and New Yorker Glenn Curtiss. We left Hammondsport with a fuller appreciation of the impact Curtiss had on such details as ailerons, light-weight yet powerful engines, seaplanes, and so much more.

Corning Glass Museum:  Our next adventure was a trip to the Corning Glass Museum. You could spend days here, but we only had a few hours. Inside the glass-walled (what else?) museum you will find more about glass than you could have ever imagined: its history through millennia; its manufacture; the zillions of uses; regal glass; designer glass; artistic glass; industrial glass; high-tech glass; everything imaginable glass. The place was simply amazing! We had to leave before we were able to fully explore all the amazing exhibits.

It was time for Don and Shirley to take me and Nan to the Elmira airport. They wished us well as they headed for Canada for the next IMSA race the coming weekend.

During the two flights and seven hours that it took to get back to San Diego all I could think about were those beautiful, really fast, yellow Corvettes.

Monday, May 28, 2018

National Wine Day and Corvettes

Friday was National Wine Day.  We decided to celebrate such a special day with the North County Corvette Club!

We met Sam Rindskopf and his wife, Donna, and Dave Regenhardt, and his wife,  Kathleen, at a fundraiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind a few months ago.  At the event we learned that both couples are Corvette fans and have leadership roles in the  North County Corvette Club!

Sam invited Nan and I to attend a "Ramona Wine Run" on Saturday.

We started the day by meeting some of the club members at the North County Fair shopping mall.

Then our Corvette caravan  was led by Dave to Mark and Ruth Harwell's house for a fabulous Saturday morning breakfast.  More NCOCC members joined us. 

We visited two wineries:  Hatfield Creek Vineyard and Winery; and Turtle Rock Ridge Vineyard and Winery.

I counted 16 Corvettes -- maybe there were more!  Everyone was so nice and the wineries were very happy to have the big crowd come for a visit.

We finished the day by driving to the home of Bob and Carol Haller for dessert.

Thank you North County Corvette Club for a great day!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Remembering Dana Moore

If you turn to chapter 32 in “Beltsville Shell: You Are What You Drive” you will find entries remembering many of my Beltsville buddies including Dana Moore, High Point High School Class of 1965 and his older brother, Stanley. One of the very best things about writing the book was that it helped me get reconnected with many of these dear friends. Such was the case with Dana.

It is hard to think about Dana without also remembering his neighbor and best friend Jim Mayo. My most amazing memory of these two was visiting with them one summer afternoon. I rode my bike over to their neighborhood in old Beltsville. They asked me to join them in the back yard. What a surprise to learn that they had somehow scored ownership of a 1952 Plymouth with three-on-the –tree. Their understanding parents willingly allowed them to drive the car all over the back yard, on the grass, dodging trees, and laughing hysterically. Everyone took turns driving the car. I was astonished that these guys had learned to drive a car while I was still riding around in a Go Kart. 

Dana’s older brother, Stanley, was an idol to many of us. Stan purchased a 1964 red Corvette Roadster with the 365 HP high performance engine, and racing transmission. The oldest brother, Bill, owned a maroon 1965 Corvette, also with the 365 HP engine. The Moore brothers were very smart. Stan realized at an early age that Corvettes would become classics and collectible cars, and he purchased and restored one of the very first Corvettes – the first year model – 1953 – serial number E53F001089 –meaning that it was the 89th Corvette to be produced out of a first year production run of 300. 

I remember back in the 11th grade I was going through a particularly difficult and depressing period in my young life. Dana showed a deep friendship to me and spent a lot of time helping me work through my problems. I’ve never forgotten his caring friendship to me. Only recently have I learned that his caring way was the hallmark of his entire life. 

Dana loved golf from an early age, quickly mastering a sport that challenges and frustrates even the best athletes. He was on the High Point High School Golf Team in his Junior and Senior years. Over the years Dana graduated from HPHS, joined the US Air Force, served in Viet Nam, received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia and his Master’s degree from Gardner-Webb University, and relocated to South Carolina. 

Dana was a golfer all his life. He was a two-time Senior County Golf Champion and had 12 career holes-in-one. Let me put this in perspective for you: Out of all the Professional Golfers who have ever been on the PGA circuit, only two have scored 10 holes-in-one! 

Professionally Dana was an instructor at the South Carolina School for the Deaf & Blind in the multi-handicapped area. He taught Physical Education in elementary schools in Spartanburg School District 7, was coach of the Golf Team at Spartanburg High School, and also served as an adjunct professor at Converse College. His dedication to others, and kindness to everyone was no surprise to me.

A few years ago I found and purchased the most beautifully-restored Fox Go Kart in the entire Universe. Best of all, it was identical to the Kart I owned in my teen years. The seller was a savvy collector, Tracy Schooler, another golfer who lived in South Carolina. After Tracy and I worked out the details of the purchase, I needed some way to store the Kart until could arrange for shipping. I called Dana on the phone to describe my problem. Dana was ready to step in and help any way that he could. What a guy!

Dana was an active member of our BSYAWYD email list and many times when I would make a blog post I would get a message of encouragement or news from him, and sometimes from Stan too. I really enjoyed our friendship. Recently Stan let me know that Dana was quite ill, and he asked me to keep the Beltsville faithful informed. 

We heard of Dana’s passing last Friday in a message from Stan. While Dana was battling cancer, Stan kept our High Point High School and Beltsville friends informed of his progress. We were hopeful that treatment at the Duke Medical School would do the trick, but sadly it didn’t. 

Below are some quotes from Dana’s family and friends: 

Stan Moore: Dana passed away this morning, 5-18-2018 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Thanks to the Beltsville crowd for all their prayers and support. He was greatly loved. 

It's a shame that, even I, never knew how much he was loved. I thought of the old movie "It's a Wonderful Life" ; To my brother Dana, the richest man in town." When you think of a life well lived, think of Dana”. 

John Bradley: “Sorry to hear that. He was a good friend.” 

Malcolm Van Kirk: I know Dana was a fighter and gave it his best to try to recover from this serious surgery. He was one of my two best friends in high school, and now both are gone. It is truly a sad day, and lets us know that life is precious and we should do everything we can to help each other, be with each other, see each other as often as possible. Our days may be short. Let's keep our tradition of the Beltsville Shell alive as long as we can in remembrance of those who are no longer with us. I will miss Dana! 

Lynn Garland: So sad to hear about the passing of Dana.... He always had a special way to brighten up everyone's days as we were going through school. I will keep Dana's family and Stan in my prayers. At least Dana is not in pain or not being at the top of his game, nor was it a long struggle for him before he left this world and is with God. Thanks for again being the point person for all news for the Beltsville gang. 

Sandi Watt: Cary, it was so sad to hear of Dana’s passing. A card was sent to him from all of us on the HPHS reunion committee. We told him we missed him at the reunions. He was a good friend in school. I always wondered where he was. Thanks so much for keeping me informed. 

Jim Mayo: Dana and I were neighbors and best friends as kids. I found the obituary after I got the message yesterday. Very sad. I haven't seen either Dana or Stan for many years. Despite exchanging Christmas cards and recently following Dana on Facebook, I wasn't aware that he was sick.

Rest in peace, Dana. Stan is correct – you were greatly loved. 

Epilogue: Malcolm called me on Tuesday in California to give me a report on Dana’s service. 

Dana's service was attended by over 300 people including the U.S. Congressman from his District. People spoke of his love of family, friends, teaching, and goIf. All true 

Malcolm drove the six hours and forty-five minutes from Maryland to South Carolina to attend Dana’s Service. He met with Dana’s family, Stan, and the oldest brother, Bill. Malcolm was representing HPHS Class of 1965 and Beltsville Shell. At the conclusion of the Service, Malcolm made the return trip to Maryland arriving home after 1 AM. That, dear friends, is a testimonial to love and friendship. Malcolm, you are the best! 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sebring 2018

Don, Shirley, Nan and I decided that we need to try to experience each of the racetracks that constitute the International Motor Sports Association racing season to watch the Corvettes race. So far I’ve been to Long Beach, California (Long Beach “Gran Prix”), Monterey, California (Laguna Seca), Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin (Road America), and our amazing trip in 2016 to Le Mans, France (24 Hours of Le Mans). This summer we are going to Watkins Glen, New York (Watkins Glen). In March we went to Sebring, Florida (12 Hours of Sebring). Here’s the story:

Sebring is one of the three endurance races of the IMSA twelve race season, beginning with the 24 Hours of Daytona, followed by the 12 Hours of Sebring, and, toward the end of the season, the “Petite Le Mans” 10 Hour race in Braselton, Georgia (there are four endurance races if you count the non-IMSA Le Mans event in France, in which the GT Le Mans Class participates). The Sebring track occupies a section of the Sebring Regional Airport, an active airport for private and commercial operations. The track covers 3.74 miles with 17 turns and two long straights. Some areas of the track are especially bumpy making this course very tough on the cars. Cars have been racing at Sebring since 1950 earning the track the title of “. . . the birthplace of endurance racing in America . . .” Our visit was the 66th consecutive running of the endurance classic. We tried to experience as many of the traditions as possible in two days – we discovered a few traditions that were a surprise!

The main goals were to: experience a legendary track; spend as much time as possible watching the Corvette time trials and the race, itself; visit with the Corvette drivers (past and present); see our Corvette friends at the Corvette Corral; and check out the newest Corvette, the ZR1.

We spoiled ourselves at this track by taking advantage of the “Sebring Club”, one of the suites at the start-finish line above the pit areas, and also by purchasing the VIP reserved parking pass. The Club provided a most civilized way to spend two full days at a race track with its real bathrooms, a spacious air conditioned suite with comfortable stadium seating, a well-stocked open bar, continuous food service, big screen TVs, a great sound system playing the official IMSA radio broadcast, proximate access to reserved parking, fantastic view of the main straight-a-way, and patios for the times when you wanted fresh air or to have your ear drums pierced by the sound of the cars screaming by. The staff members were attentive and so nice.

On Thursday we flew from San Diego to Orlando, and then made the drive south to our hotel. Up bright and early on Friday morning, Don drove us past countless lakes to the city of Sebring and its famous track. Once we were settled in the Club, and had reserved our front-row seats, it was time to go touring. The Corvette Corral was well attended just as we witnessed it at Laguna Seca. Rows and rows of Corvettes, a big tent filled with faithful Corvette fans, and lots of activities. Doug Fehan, Program Manager, Corvette Racing, gave everyone an update on the 2018 racing program and introduced the six drivers. Everyone received autographed posters and got autographs on photos, hats, shirts, and anything else they wanted. It is still amazing to me how accessible the GM and Chevrolet executives, engineers, program managers, and race team members are to the public. I guess they really appreciate the dedication of their customers to the Corvette brand.

We stopped by the Corvette Racing garage area just in time to see the cars being towed out for qualifying.

Don likes to see the topography of the tracks we visit by walking the perimeter. There are 17 turns at Sebring. We had heard that “Turn 10 is party central”. As we walked from turn to turn, we soon discovered why. For years the same groups of people have come to Sebring for the endurance race camping in the infield. Each group tries to outdo the next with outrageous, tacky, humorous, campsites, each one positioned for watching the race. We saw flatbed trailers loaded with used living room furniture, old school buses converted to travel campers, a dilapidated Winnebago painted to look like a home-made US Army tank (complete with turret guns), a plywood diner complete with a live rooster, and everywhere hundreds and hundreds of empty beer cans.

Soon another Sebring tradition came upon us – the herd of Sebring Cows.  We learned that there were no prerequisites for becoming a Sebring Cow, but that “. . . not everyone is cut out for the job . . .”

After the track tour we went shopping to see what was new in race apparel, and I bought a newly produced yellow Jake logo for Buff (the yellow Fox Kart). Next we headed for the huge Chevrolet tent to see the high performance cars (including the ZL1 Camaro), and GM performance parts (including the LS7 505HP crate engine).  Then danger struck!

I had seen photos of the new 2019 ZR1 Corvette and had read press releases and read articles about “. . . the most powerful Corvette ever produced . . .”, but had never seen one in real life. There it was, in a corner of the big Chevy display tent. Looking at the photos in magazines or on websites I didn’t care for the front grill area because it looked overly aggressive. At Sebring I learned that the large air intake area was necessary for cooling the 13 heat exchangers that were needed to permit driving a 755 horsepower supercar on the street. I also didn’t realize that the twin turbocharger cover on top of the engine protrudes through a massive hood opening, reminiscent of the “shaker hood” treatments on the 1960’s muscle cars. 

I was fortunate enough to meet Corvette Product Manager Harlan Charles.  My Corvette social media buddy, Charley Robertson, introduced me to Harlan.  Harlan patiently explained the features of the car to me, walked me through all the option packages, and gave me advice on how best to outfit a ZR1, especially one painted Corvette Racing Yellow Tintcoat.  Harlan should know all about the ZR1 since he helped design it and he drives one every day (even in the snow) in Detroit!

While sitting in the driver’s seat I wondered, “What would Bob Vollmar do with a car like this?”

Then Harlan started the car.  Damn.  I’m told that in “Track” mode blue flames shoot out of the four exhaust pipes.  The engine is certified (independently) at 755 HP with 715 foot pounds of torque.  You can get a 7-speed manual transmission, but the performance is better with the 8-speed paddle shifter automatic.  Zero to 60 comes in 2.8 seconds, zero to 100 (you know, for the freeway on-ramps) is 6 seconds flat and the top speed is governed at 212 MPH because that’s as fast as they feel safe going with the street tires.  Don and I could take one to Bonneville and join the 200MPH club, right?

Here is the video of Harlan starting the ZR1 at Sebring for Corvette fans.  I was here during the videotaping, but just off camera:

Eventually I had to tear myself away from the ZR1 since it was dinner time. We met Charley and a bunch of her Corvette fans at the Sunset Bar and Grille for dinner and a beautiful Central Florida sunset. Surprise! Harlan was at Charley’s dinner party and sat with me to configure the perfect ZR1 for my garage.

On Saturday morning we were up at 5:00 AM and arrived at the track at about 7:00 AM for race day. The crowds were larger than on Friday and the race was well attended. The big event for fans is the pre-race “Grid Walk” permitting fans got get up close to the cars, pit crews, and drivers.

Chevrolet has made it clear that the only GTLM car that is made in America is the Corvette. I like the flag treatment on the side of the car and the fact that the mechanics bring an American Flag to the pits!

The race officials finally cleared the pits of all the fans, and the 12 hour race began promptly at 10:40 AM. A yellow Corvette Z06 was the pace car (of course).

Three classes of cars race simultaneously on the track: Prototype; GT Le Mans (GTLM); and GT Daytona (GTD). To be honest, we only care about GTLM. Corvette had won the GTLM Class at Sebring in 2016 and 2017 and we were hoping for a three-peat. We spent our 12 hours alternating between watching the cars from the Club seating area, and touring around the pits. 

The #3 Corvette had problems from the very first lap when “contact” from another car punctured a tire, and the long day only got worse from there. At the 6 hour mark the #3 car was in last place and running 45 laps behind the class leader. But they kept going. At the 9 hour mark they were still -45 laps and last. By the end of the race the #3 car had managed to overtake the #66 car and we cheered like crazy that despite all their problems Corvette didn’t finish last!

The #4 Corvette ran flawlessly all day and night, had perfect pit stops, and didn’t make any on-track mistakes. But the BoP penalty prevented them from finishing on the podium.

Porsche is running their mid-engine 911RSR for the second consecutive year. Their cars ran really well and sounded nearly as good as the Corvettes. They finished 1st and 3rd. 

In 2017 BMW finished in 2nd place for season, closely behind Corvette and ahead of Porsche, Ferrari and some other small manufacturer from Canada; I can't remember their name. This year BMW is upping their game by racing the new BMW M8 and it is running really well – well enough that the #25 Car finished in 2nd Place at Sebring between the two Porsches.

By 10 PM on Saturday night we were ready to say goodbye to Sebring and head back to San Diego. It was great to have experienced all the history, lunacy, and legacy that is Sebring!