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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Burger Run and Surprise Party

Our Burger Run for February 2020 included a surprise Birthday Party for two Corvette friends -- Dick Reylek (on the left) and Bill Hatch.

This event was  our first visit to the The Habit Burger Grill, rather than our usual stop at In-N-Out.  Their menu has more options (than just beef), the parking lot was spacious, and and they accommodated us on their outside patio area!

We had great weather for February.

We weren't able to get all the Corvettes together, but most of them found parking in "our" spaces!

This was the largest turnout of cars and people for a Burger Run! 26 people and 13 Corvettes.

For this event the attendees were (in chronological order -- the cars not the people):

Nancy Thomas 1956 Corvette
Bill Connelly 1957 Corvette
Bill and Marylyn Hatch 1957 Corvette (and Birthday Boy #1) 
John Elder 1961 Corvette (but unable to bring it this time -- it is getting a new crate engine) 
Cary Thomas 1962 Corvette 
Walter and Jean Perkins 1995 Corvette 
Barry and Jacque Rechtorovich 2002 Corvette 
Jeff and Sherri Smith 2002 Corvette
Bill Brandon 2003 50th Anniversary Corvette 
Dick Reylek  2011 Corvette  (Birthday Boy #2) 
John and Lula Maddox 2015 Corvette 
Scott and Donna White  2015 Corvette 

Mark Trapolino 2015 Corvette
Valerie Treese 2016 Corvette 
Doug Johnson 2017 Corvette

And our other guests . . . .

Wayne Cowie
Brad Lindgrin
Zoe Mullen
Lisa Oskam
Warren Wilkinson

Special note:  We had two black 1957 Corvettes, each owned by a guy named Bill!

Thanks to everyone who came out to make this our biggest and best (to date) event!

Sincerely,  Cary & Nan

Saturday, March 7, 2020

The Z06 Goes to Spring Mountain

Nan and I have had the joy of attending the Corvette Racing School at Spring Mountain on two occasions with Bill, Don, and Shirley.

Spring Mountain Motor Resort & Country Club is a first-class racetrack but the owners have designed it to be a complete racing experience. It’s like a great golf resort – but with race cars instead of golf carts. Although the site is in the desert, the facility is set against a mountain backdrop just 55 miles West of the Las Vegas Strip. Spring Mountain boasts the longest road course in North America with over 6 miles of challenging racetrack and more than 50 unique configurations. Well-staffed, it offers professional racing instruction, race mechanics, race car sales and service, great hospitality and (my favorite) the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School.

So, when Rick Sing, a Club Member of Spring Mountain, invited us to join him and his wife, Kristy,
for a weekend there, we instantly accepted.

The plan was that we would take the Z06 for me and Nan and drive it on the track for the first time. Rick and Kristy would track their Radical race car which is stored at the track. We would drive to Pahrump early on Friday morning, drive the track Friday afternoon and all-day Saturday, and then return home on Sunday.

Friday morning the Z06 was packed with my racing helmet, neck brace, and fancy Jake driving shoes, our luggage, a bottle of good wine, and some refreshments. We rendezvoused with Rick and Kristy at their house and began the 300-mile drive to Pahrump. The commuter-style drive north on the I-15 through Riverside and over the Cajon Pass into Apple Valley was uninteresting. To entertain ourselves, Nan and I played the Sirius XM Radio, channels “50s on Five” and “60s on Six”, playing “Name that Tune” by trying to guess the name of each song and the artist(s). After a few hours we stopped in Barstow to take on fuel and off-load recycled coffee.

Life got more interesting once we made the turn off the I-15 in Baker on California Route 127. The next 56 miles was through endless, vacant, rolling desert on a two-lane road until reaching Shoshone. Rick had made the drive many times, and assisted by his radar detector, we felt the opportunity to experience some speed. Rat-racing through the desert at 90 MPH, mile after mile, extinguished any boredom from earlier in the day. Whenever we encountered the need to pass someone going the same direction, we were hitting more than 110. Passing at any speed in the Z06 is a breeze – the supercharger and eight-speed transmission provide all the performance you could ever need.

We rolled into Spring Mountain just in time for lunch at the clubhouse.

Next, we went to one of the classroom buildings to collect helmets and driving suits for Kristy and Nan.

The weather was perfect on Friday afternoon with cool temperatures and calm winds. The traffic on the track was light giving us plenty of room to drive unmolested. The mechanics at Spring Mountain had prepped and fueled Rick’s Radical. Rick and Kristy got strapped into it while Nan and I boarded the Z06. I selected the TRACK driving mode for maximum performance, and double checked that Traction Control was engaged (ask Dave Regenhardt why this is important!).

On Friday we were assigned the West course – the shortest of three tracks and the one with limited straightaways.

With the Radical leading and the Z06 following, Rick showed me the course and the driving line. We enjoyed two stints in this configuration.

I was using the Corvette’s PDR (Performance Data Recorder) for the first time. The system uses a forward-facing camera in the rear view mirror for track video and overlays it with loads of information such as: gear selected, RPM, MPH, G-force, brake pressure, water and oil temperatures, steering angle, and more. The part I noticed the most was the “skid” indicator – I was paranoid that I would slide off the track and scratch my newest toy! Below is a shot from the PDR

I was tempted to push the Z06 harder. But I decided that it is one thing to go all out in the Ron Fellows School Corvettes (and burn up their tires, brakes, and clutch) and quite another using your own, precious, car! (The skid marks where other cars had left the track reinforced the wisdom of my decision!)  Even in my caution it was easy to appreciate the performance GM has made available in the Z06. The torque is readily at hand in abundance. I left the car in drive, and let the transmission decide when to shift. Upshifts were crisp and at or near redline. The down shifts came with the satisfying “rev matching” that I could never reproduce in a manual shift car. I learned that Traction Control doesn’t guarantee that you won’t slide; it just makes the sliding manageable. The clearest realization was that this car has performance capabilities way beyond my driving skill. And that fact was just fine with me!

I decided that two stints were enough for the day, especially right after eating lunch! We parked the Z06, Kristy and Nan went to the club house for afternoon refreshments, and Rick suited me up for my first ride in the Radical. 

If you aren’t familiar with the Radical (I wasn’t) this thing is a real race car. Radical Sportscars is a British manufacturer of racing cars dating back to 1997. They have produced a succession of cars and Rick’s is the best-selling model in history – the SR3. With over 1,000 units produced, it comes with a carbon-steel space-frame chassis, and uses a Suzuki Gen-3 four-cylinder 1500 cc DOHC motorcycle engine producing 225 HP at the wheels. A few inches off the ground, ridiculous power-to-weight ratio, open cockpit, removable steering wheel, in-cockpit adjustable brakes, fire suppression system, and electronic recording system – this sucker has it all!

As soon as we got strapped in, the marshals released us onto the course. Before the first lap was over, I was comparing my ride with Rick to the flight I took with Don Kingery in the Alpha Jet in 2014.

Rick knew the car and he knew the track. The tires were warm after one lap and Rick was determined to make every corner count. The G-forces were impressive pushing me from side to side through the corners alternating with forward and back surges as Rick dove into corners and rocketed out the other side. My helmet was banging on the roll bar and my left hand was frozen in a death-grip to the grab bar inside the cockpit. Rick had a full command of the controls – my favorite part was his skill with the paddle shifters – making a sound that I had heard at the IMSA races. Round and round we went gaining speed and clipping seconds of time off each lap. It was a miracle that my lunch stayed put! Finally, I could tell that we were taking a cool-down lap and soon we were back in the pits. Wow! We took a break and joined Kristy and Nan in the clubhouse for an afternoon snack.

Since it was early afternoon, and we mostly had the track to ourselves, we went out for a second session. It was every bit as exciting as before, but this time it felt even more crisp and slightly faster. As we drove back to the pits to put the Radical up for the night, I thought to myself, “This was a very good day”! Don Kingery would have approved!

After showers and some recovery, the four of us were off to the Pahrump Valley Vineyard and restaurant for dinner. Saturday morning brought more good weather and fun. Breakfast at the clubhouse was delicious. The students at the Corvette school were scattered around the dining room, planning for their day ahead. Today the Z06 would take a rest and Rick would be putting the Radical through its paces again. Since the Corvette School was using the West course, Rick would be driving the more challenging Villeneuve course with its multiple long straights, elevation changes, and variable curves.

I found an ideal spot in the top of the tallest observation tower and used my iPhone 11 Pro to record lap times and capture videos. Rick’s driving skill was constantly improving, and the lap times confirmed it.

After a while Rick came into the pits and we all went “shopping”. The Corvette Racing School has some nice themed apparel. But Spring Mountain also has a sales office for turn-key, ready to race, cars.

After lunch Rick was back on the track joined by a group of Porsche cars – RS GT 2s and similar models. As the day wore on, more and more Club members were out on the track for a good day of performance driving.

We ended the day at dinner at a nearby golf resort and on Sunday we made the drive back to Carlsbad.The total trip distance was 641.7 miles and we averaged 21.6 MPG at an average speed of 71 MPH -- which is staggering to think of especially at the speeds we were driving!

Special thanks to Rick and Kristy for a really fun weekend and for sharing their Club membership with us!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Corvette C7.R Legacy

The 2019 IMSA Racing season has come to an end, and with it the racing career of the Corvette C7.R

What was the legacy of the 7th Generation Corvette as a race car?

Seven years ago I posted a synopsis of the racing success of Corvettes with the C6.R:

The C7.R replaced the prior version of the Corvette race car in 2014, and raced for six seasons.  Here is a season-by-season analysis (yes, I really do collect all these statistics!):


 In its first year the C7.R competed in a field of 12 cars including 2 Vipers (who remembers the Viper?), 4 Porsches, 2 BMWs, 1 Ferrari and 1 Aston Martin.  Corvette won four races in a row in the middle of the season (Long Beach, Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park).  After BoP changes, no more 1st place victories accrued to Corvette, but the #3 Corvette, driven by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, accumulated enough points to finish second place in between the two Vipers in 1st and 3rd.  

Because of consistent performance throughout the season, Magnussen and Garcia placed 1st in the Driver Championship with 125 points.  They were followed by Dirk Meuller and Joey Hand (BMW) and 3rd place Driver points went to the other Corvette team of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner.

So the maiden year of the C7.R was pretty good for Corvette Racing.


In 2015 the field of competitors dropped to 10 with the absence of the Vipers.  The 2015 season started out great for the C7.R with first-place victories in the first two endurance races - Daytona (24 hours) and Sebring (12 hours). But neither Corvette finished better than 3rd place for the remainder of the season.  Porsche got "serious" in 2015 with two Porsche North America factory entries and ended the season with 1st place points, followed by BMW, and Corvette -- this year it was the #3 car's turn to shine.

The Corvette C7.R scored its first Le Mans win at the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Jordan Taylor driving the #64 Corvette to victory in the GTE-Pro class. It is also Corvette Racing's 8th win at the circuit.

Corvette Racing won endurance racing's infamous "triple crown" with wins at the 24 hours of Daytona, 12 hours of Sebring, and the 24 hours of Le Mans all in the same year.  This feat is amazing!  You will recall that the "triple Crown" was a significant part of the plot in "Ford versus Ferrari" in which Ken Miles was denied this distinction by the bone-headed leadership at Ford!

Despite winning the "Triple Crown" of endurance races, Corvette fans were a little disappointed in the second season of the C7.R.


Ahead of the season, the C7.R received an update, which included a new diffuser, to comply with the new for 2016 Group GTE regulations, aimed at increasing the performance of the class. 

The 2016 field of competitors increased to 11 entries.  2016 was also the year that the Ford GT debuted in the GTLM class.

 Perhaps the C7.R's ultimate 2016 performance occurred at the inaugural race of the year, the 2016 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.  The Corvette racing team scored a class win with a photo finish between the numbers 3 and 4 cars, driven by Oliver Gavin and Antonio Garcia. The cars finished .034 seconds apart from one another.

In 2016, the Corvette C7.R scored its second 12 Hours of Sebring win with car #4 driven by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fässler in the GTLM Class.  The #4 Corvette C7.R went on to win the WeatherTech Sportscar Championship in the GTLM class. They won the Drivers', Team, and Manufacturers' championship, as well as the North American Endurance cup.

The #3 Corvette finished with third-place points.

2016 was also the year that Nan, Don, Shirley and I attended the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  The C7.R didn't do well in France, but we had a blast with the National Corvette Museum group that went to Paris, Normandy, and Le Mans for the event.


The Ford GT population increased in 2017 with four entries, but two were only used for the endurance races.  The 2017 field remained at 11 entries and there were 11 races.

2017 was another wildly successful year for the C7.R, but this year it was the #3 team that earned the high honors.  The #3 Corvette won at Sebring (the second year in a row that Corvette placed first in GTLM), COTA, and VIR.  The #4 Corvette won at Long Beach.  By the time Nan, Don, Shirley and I attended the race at Laguna Seca, we were quite certain that the #3 Corvette would win the Team championship with a comfortable lead over the new BMW M6 and both Ford GT cars.

By season's end, once again, Corvette Racing won the Team, Driver, and Manufacturer titles -- a second sweep in a row.  


After wining the Team championship in the GTLM class two seasons in a row, would it be possible for the C7.R to "three-peat" in 2018? It turned out that the 2018 GTLM scoring was tighter than it had been for the previous four years -- a margin of victory of only 6 points!

Of the eleven races, one or the other Ford GT placed 1st in 5 races, one or the other Porsche placed 1st in 3 races, one of the BMWs placed 1st in 2 races, and the #4 Corvette only placed 1st in one race -- Long Beach.  

The #3 Corvette, without winning a single race, accumulated enough points to edge out the #67 Ford GT for the team championship -- a "three peat"!  Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen secured 8 podium finishes out of the 11 race season -- a consistency that had become a hallmark of Corvette Racing.  

Read about the exciting final race -- and the thrilling finish and team work in which the #4 Corvette held off the #67 Ford to seal the championship for their sister car!


No one at Chevrolet would admit it, but everyone in the World knew that 2019 would be the final season for the C7.R -- too many spy photos of the mid-engine C8 Corvette had been taken to leave anyone in doubt that a all-new Corvette was coming in 2020.

Despite racing with the oldest platform in the GTLM Class of IMSA, Corvette racing pursued the 2019 season with dedication and determination.  Porsche had the season from the very beginning, winning 6 times and placing 2nd twice.  Of the 11 races, the #3 Corvette team finished 2nd place three times and third place three times, accumulating enough points to tie the #911 Porsche for 2nd place on the season.

2019 would also be the final season for the Ford GT.

Summary Results:

Summarizing the results above, we see that in six years, a Corvette was the season champion three times, finished (or tied for) second-place twice, and finished third-place three times. 

If we use the "Podium" points to tally scores for the top three winners each season (35 points for first, 32 points for second, and 30 for third), Corvette accumulated more points than any other manufacturer over the six-year period -- clear dominance.  And no team had a three-peat of 1st place team finishes as Corvette did in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

To make a fair comparison to the Ford GT, which only raced the final four years, the results are shown below.  Still a clear dominance by the C7.R. The much heralded Ford GT never won a team championship in their four years of IMSA competition.

Our memories tend to be short, and most IMSA fans are probably only remembering last year's results.  I hope this analysis sets the record clearly before us -- the C7.R completely dominated the IMSA series during its six-year run.

As Doug Fehan remarked a few years ago about why manufacturers and teams compete in GTLM, "They come here to try to beat us -- we are the standard."

In my view, the C7.R was enormously successful, and I'm euphoric that I was able to buy a Z06 Corvette that is so reminiscent of the C7.R!