Thursday, August 10, 2023

1 SASY 67

When I met Nan in 1991, I owned a 1984 Corvette -- just one Corvette.  Nan owned two sports cars -- a Datsun 300ZX and a classic 1967 1/2 Datsun "Fairlady" Roadster.  

I decided a beautiful woman who owned two sports cars was too good to let get away, so we got engaged, married, and joined our lives together.

Nan had purchased the Roadster in 1984 and drove it to college classes at San Diego State University.  The car had a convertible top, but she preferred to not use it in favor of a tonneau cover -- a California girl in a convertible.  Parking at SDSU for commuter students was a challenge, so she would head to class in the early the morning chill, crouched down in the driver's seat, peering between the top of the dash and the bottom of the steering wheel.  

Nan loved the car and after we became a couple, she would drive it around San Diego County on weekends with me riding shotgun, and her big golden retriever, "Boomer", sitting on the back "ledge" behind the bucket seats.  After Canon was born in 1993, Nan would take her for rides in the Roadster down by the beach here in Carlsbad.

Nan had purchased a vanity tag for the car -- 1 SASY 67.  Completely fitting.  


By 1997 I had purchased and restored a 1962 Corvette.  I did all the maintenance on the Corvette and her Roadster.  I came up with a great idea! I said to Nan, "You know, the Roadster is worth $4,000, and we could put $10,000 into it and it would still be worth $4,000. Maybe we could sell the Roadster and buy a classic Corvette for you!" I'm not sure how "sold" she was on this idea, but we did sell the Roadster (see below) and Nan used the money to purchase a Robinson's English Greenhouse, which she had shipped from England, for her garden.  Eventually we purchased and restored a 1956 Corvette for Nan.

Before we had an opportunity to think about how to market the Roadster, a chance conversation solved that problem.  

In the early 1980's I was traveling the country selling and installing computerized ticketing systems to college sports teams.  Customer # 4 was the University of Washington Huskies in Seattle.  The Athletic Department was instantly sold on the system since it had been operational at USC, San Diego State and the University of Illinois.  But the UW IT department was slightly skeptical of this new company with a new product.  So to ensure that everything would meet expectations, they assigned one of their IT guys, Dennis Sullivan, to oversee the project.  Denny got deeply involved in the project, going even so far as to pick me up at SeaTac airport, drive me to the campus meeting sites, and escort me to my hotel.  We became good friends and have maintained this friendship ever since.

Shortly after we decided to sell the Roadster in 1997, I took a business trip to Seattle and asked Denny to meet me for dinner downtown.  We talked about PAC 10 football, family, careers, and sports cars.  Denny told me that he once owned a sports car -- a 1967 Datsun Roadster, but he sold it in order to have a larger vehicle to support a growing family.  Completely surprised, I told Denny that we were selling the classic Datsun so I could buy Nan a classic Corvette.  Denny said that he would like to buy it. Reaching a decision to sell and to buy was never easier!  Before we shook hands on the transaction I insisted that Denny be aware of every problem, irritant, or issue with the car (which I later listed and emailed to him) -- I wasn't going to lose a long-time friendship over a 96 HP Datsun.

Exhibiting far more courage than I could ever muster, and showing his belief in the reliability of classic Datsuns, Denny flew to Carlsbad and drove the Roadster 1,200 miles up the California (and Oregon and Washington) coast to his home in Burien.  Before cell phones, I worried every night that the car might not make it -- but it did.  Denny has recalled to me many times that the trip was one of his fondest memories!  Here is Denny's recollection:

"The drive back to Burien was amazing.  I drove the Roadster like Nan, with the top down.  It took over four days.  I chose Highway 101 for the scenery and less traffic.  At Cary's recommendation, I used partial choke to keep the engine running well.  Along the way I stopped in LA to visit with my son, Scott.  I took a little side trip through the Redwoods.  I would let truckers pass and they waved and tooted their horns." 

Denny and his wife, Nancy, continued to keep in touch sharing the annual Christmas cards and photos -- sometimes a photo of the Roadster -- over the 26 years from 1997 until now.  Denny kept the California license plate, but was also able to secure the State of Washington plate 1 SASY 67.

For a reason that I'll never be able to explain, I sent Denny an email on February 20, 2023 with our usual update on how things are going, and the latest news from Carlsbad.  At the end of the message I said, "How is the Datsun Roadster doing? If you ever think about selling it, maybe you could call us first?"

Three days later, I received a reply from Denny with an update from Burien. His response included this, "Well the Datsun has been sitting in the garage for over a year. . . . You guessed it right, I was thinking of selling after I replace the master cylinder and have it running and (I will) give you a call first."

Then on May 2, 2023, while Nan and I were sitting at our monthly Corvette Club meeting, my phone lit up with the following email message from Denny, "Greetings from Burien and hope all is going well. Well, the Roadster is for sale and as you requested, you have the honor of being first. Denny & Nancy."  Attached to the email were four photos of the car in Denny's driveway, looking as good, or better, than it ever looked.

I was so excited, I left the meeting, ran outside, called Denny on his cell phone and said, "Sold!" In a generous style that Denny has always exhibited, we worked out all the details of getting 1 SASY 67 back in Nan's hands after 26 years.

This time the Roadster would be shipped, rather than driven, back to Carlsbad.  Denny and Nancy packed up everything that was associated with the car -- spare parts, the original wheels (Denny had replaced them with some cool "mini-lite" style wheels), receipts, and a big Tupperware box full of manuals and receipts that we had given to Denny 26 years ago.  They sent this photo of themselves with the Roadster as it began its trip back to Carlsbad.


 Denny has shared his memories of his time with the Roadster:

"At home, the Roadster was used to drive to and from work, taking the grandchildren for rides, and the Roadster also made the trip to the San Juan Islands. 

The Roadster has been idle for the past couple of years.  This moment, and this transaction, come at the most perfect time -- we are looking to start paring down for the future, and the return of the Roadster to Nan is the best of all worlds."

We kept the new addition to our car collection a secret from the neighbors, but when the delivery truck arrived in the neighborhood, everyone came out of their houses to see what was going on.

It was a joyous reunion, shared by all our dear neighbors.  Everyone loved the idea that Nan was getting her Roadster -- her college car -- back after so many years.


After the delivery truck left, and the neighbors returned home, I spent a few minutes unpacking the car and organizing a few things to make the Roadster comfortable in its new garage.  I was touched at the loving way that Denny had packaged up everything -- the original wheels were carefully wrapped, and the parts and documentation sorted neatly for the 1,200 mile trip.  Even more, I was so pleasantly surprised at the excellent condition of the Roadster after 26 years in the Seattle area.  The car had received a beautiful new paint job, the seats had been reupholstered, and the engine compartment displayed new parts of correct vintage.  The car was close to pristine.  It was obvious that Denny and Nancy loved 1SASY67.

As I closed up the garage, I noticed an envelope, addressed to Nan, taped to the dash.  I took it into the house to Nan and here is what she found inside:

No gift could have ever been more perfect, no kindness greater, no friendship more dear.

Denny and Nancy, thank you so very much!

Love, Nan and Cary

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Laguna Seca 2023

For the sixth time since 2016, Nan and I went to Laguna Seca Raceway on May 13th and 14th to watch Corvette Racing.  Unlike every prior year, this time we were missing Don, Shirley, and Bill Athas.  

As in recent years, we drove the Z06 the 400 miles from our house to the racetrack. This year, we broke up the drive by stopping in Paso Robles on Friday night -- we enjoy the town, its wineries, and the scenery (and we would be returning to Paso Robles in a few weeks with Canon -- so this was a trial run).  That strategy made it possible for us to arrive at the Corvette Corral early on Saturday morning so that we could take advantage of all the activities.

The Laguna Seca race has  been traditionally held in September, but the IMSA people changed the schedule to allow the IMSA teams to stay on the West Coast for the Long Beach race, followed by the Laguna Seca race.  We had been at the Long Beach race just four weeks earlier.

This was the 25th straight year that Corvette Racing was at the Laguna Seca track.  After finishing P2 at Long Beach, we were hopeful for a good showing in Monterey on Sunday.

The first stop was to get our goodie bags.  

Next, we spent time drooling over the same red C8 Z06 that we saw one month ago at Long Beach.  I asked one of the attendants if Nan couldn't just drive this car home?  We didn't get a satisfactory answer.

We made our rounds to the exhibits and vendors, then stopped by the pits to check on the preparation of the Corvette C8R.

Besides the race, our favorite activity at the Corral is meeting with, and talking to, the Corvette engineers and program managers to learn as much as we can about the new mid-engine Corvette. Over the years, Harlan Charles – Product Manager, Tadge Juechter – Executive Chief Engineer, and Josh Holder – Vehicle Chief Engineer have spent time with us sharing important information.  This year we met Devon Blue – Program Manager.

Nan is concerned about the lack of rear visibility in the C8 convertible.  Tadge and Devon explained the nuances of the rear view "mirror" -- which on the LT2 and LT3 cars is actually a camera and not a mirror!

 Devon took her time to help Nan with many more questions and ideas. Thank you, Devon!


As the day turned into evening, and the track got quiet, we drove the short distance to our hotel.  Customarily we would do that with Don and Shirley, but tonight it was just the two of us.  We stayed at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Monterey, located on the Del Monte Golf course.  We were able to walk the grounds then enjoyed a nice dinner at the hotel.

As Saturday night turned to Sunday morning we checked out of our hotel and returned to the track, early enough to be among the first arrivals.  The weather had turned foggy overnight and the usually noisy track was eerily quiet.

We spent time visiting with the nice people we always find at the Corvette Corral and checking out all the C8 Corvettes for options that we liked.  Happily, Doug Fehan stopped by for a brief visit -- Just like old times!


Finally the weather cleared and the race was on. Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia have struggled all season to be competitive in a year in which IMSA has made an "exception" for Corvette Racing's entry, but saddled them with BOP limitations (I'll write more on this as the season draws to a close).  But the Corvette team is always pushing, and we were hopeful for a good result.  Although they qualified 5th, they were just 4 tenths of a second behind the pole winner.


We love watching the race from various vantage points -- the "corkscrew", the hairpin at turn #2, the elevation change leading up to the Corkscrew, and the final turns as the cars head back down the hill to the start/finish line.

Driving first, Jordan Taylor quickly moved up to 4th place, then an excellent pit stop catapulted the Corvette two spots to second place. When the leading Porsche was penalized for leaving the pit lane with the pit exit closed, the #3 Corvette was leading the race at the one hour mark.  During the next pit stop Garcia replaced Taylor, and took on full fuel and four tires.  Unfortunately, the Aston Martin exited in first place because they took less fuel and no tires.  It was Aston Martin - Corvette in tight contention for the lead right up to near the end of the race when disaster struck for both teams.  During the final full-course yellow, the Aston Martin, the GTD PRO leader, went around the Safety Car -- a penalty, and unfortunately, Antonio followed!  Antonio -- what were you thinking?  You would have won the race easily!! The race ended in a frustrating 4th place finish for the Corvette

Nan and I packed the Z06 and made a non-stop drive back to Carlsbad, arriving before bed time.  We passed the time looking at the central coast vineyards, hills, and oak trees, and playing "name that tune and artist" for the 50's and 60's songs emitted from the Sirius XM radio.

We had traveled 861 miles in three days -- which got us prepared for our next Corvette adventure -- a Corvette Caravan to the Black Hills Corvette Classic. 

It was a nice time, but it just wasn't the same without Shirley, Don, and Bill.  😢

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Mike's Father's Day Gift

I have met some very nice guys as a result of participating for 10 years in Canon's "Father - Daughter" dance program, but none nicer than Mike Eddy.

Mike has three daughters, and all of them danced at Carlsbad Dance Centre -- same place where Canon danced.  Every Saturday afternoon in the Autumn dozens of dads would arrive at the dance center for instruction on the performance that they would appear in with their daughters in the Spring. The camaraderie of the dads was only surpassed by the bonding with the girls.  So, it was through dance that I met Mike.

At the time we owned three Corvettes and on some Saturdays, I would take one of them to dance class.  Mike was a very friendly guy and we enjoyed talking about my Corvettes.  Before long, Mike surprised me when he purchased a silver C6 convertible.  Our friendship grew with this additional common interest.

Mike joined our Carlsbad Corvette fraternity and attended many of our events.  Here is a photo of Mike and his wife, Patty, who was a major force in convincing Mike to buy a Corvette in the first place, at our 60th Birthday Party for Corvette in July 2013 (back row, second from the left).

As time went on, and three daughters started attending college, pressing priorities pushed Corvette ownership to a lowly position -- Mike sold his C6.

But Mike and I have stayed in close contact.  When the C8 was announced, Mike told me how much he loved the new design.  I joked with him that we needed to go on the "Buddy System" and each buy a new C8.  He liked that idea.

A few weeks ago, I was working in the garage and my phone rang -- it was Mike.  He asked me if it would be OK for him to stop by for a few minutes -- there was "something" he wanted to show me.  I said, "Of course, come over whenever you like!".  As soon as I hung up the phone, I knew what the "something" was.  I told Nan that Mike was coming by -- she instantly knew what was going to happen!


Before long, Mike appeared in our driveway with another "silver" Corvette -- This one is "Hypersonic Gray Metallic".

Nan came out of the house to check out the new car and together we heard the story of its acquisition.

Mike had enjoyed a nice Father's Day this year, but because of family schedules they celebrated one Sunday earlier than the "correct" Sunday.  So, with no other commitments on the actual Father's Day, Mike and Patty decided to drive to Temecula for some wine tasting. Before heading back home, Patty suggested that they stop by Paradise Chevrolet to see if they had any Corvettes available.  Mike dismissed the idea, knowing how difficult it is to purchase a C8.  Patty prevailed and they stopped at the dealership.

Sure enough, the perfect car for Mike was sitting there waiting for him.  With Patty encouraging him, the two quickly decided to make the deal!

Mike and Patty really scored!  The car has a beautiful exterior / interior color combination, is well equipped, and suits the two of them perfectly.

To help celebrate, the four of us went out to dinner, and Nan was able to ride along with Mike. 

Welcome back to the "fraternity" Mike and Patty.  We can't wait to go cruising with you guys!

Cary & Nan, July 2023

Friday, May 12, 2023

Long Beach 2023

 The 2023 IMSA racing season has begun and it is time to go watch some racing!

The Fantastic Foursome (Don, Shirley, Nan and me) were able to attend the race in Long Beach last year.

Long Beach 2022

Nan's persistence has paid off because we are now on the "list" of people who get invited to the Corvette Corral.  With this season's tickets in hand, we pointed one C7 and one C8 Corvette up the San Diego Freeway to see our first Corvette race of the season.

The corral was at the same location as last year, with plenty of parking and a very good turnout of Corvettes.

 The goodie bag included all the usual swag.

We got our third close-up look at the Z06.

Here is a shot of the interior with the "dipped" interior treatment and the carbon accents.

As usual, we stopped by the Corvette Racing pit to visit with two of our favorite drivers -- Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia.  The Michelin Man was there to greet his biggest fans!

This year Nan secured reserved seats on the final turn as the cars head to the start/finish line.

So many beautiful Corvettes.  Which one do you like the best?

Jordan and Antonio were limited in time for qualifying, and were only able to qualify P4 -- which is a problem at Long Beach, because it is almost impossible to pass on the city street turned race track.

Undeterred, they eventually finished P2 in another exciting race.

Next, we travel to Laguna Seca in Monterey to watch the next race in May.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

My Friend Bill

It is a continuous marvel to me that in my life's journey from my youth in blue-collar Beltsville, I have worked closely with, or become close friends with, an amazing collection of exceptional people: two university presidents (Tom Day, San Diego State and Max Nikias, USC); two Internet Hall of Fame pioneers (Jon Postel and Paul Mockapetris, both from the Information Sciences Institute "ISI"); two Nobel Laureates (Jerry Edelman and Barry Sharpless, both from Scripps Research); one Top Gun Pilot/Instructor (Capt. Donald Kingery, USN Ret.); one Rogallo Kitty Hawk Hall of Fame pilot (Dave Kilbourn); the Smithsonian engineer who restored the 1903 Wright Flyer and the Enola Gay (Richard "Dennis" Horrigan); one Bonneville Land Speed Record holder (Lou Bingham); one multi-time NHRA Dragster Champion (Dan Schrokosch); and a world famous sculptor (Leopold Bernard).  I'm not sure how I got connected to all of these exceptional people, but I feel very fortunate that I did!

In this edition of my blog I want to tell you about another very exceptional friend -- William Costas Athas.  My closest friends know Bill as "Cary's Apple Computer Genius car-guy buddy". Until now I have kept Bill's identity anonymous to protect his privacy.  Bill is very private.


I first met Bill, a freshly minted PhD graduate of Caltech, in the early 1990's when we both worked at the Information Sciences Institute ("ISI") at the University of Southern California.  Bill's PhD advisor was the legendary Chuck Seitz who helped steer Bill's research interests toward Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) chip technologies -- a significant advancement in which "everything is on a single chip" rather than having separate chips for CPU, RAM, controllers,and such.  Here is a link that describes Bill's early research and his many publications:

Bill Athas Biography and Publications 

Bill was initially in Bob Parker's systems packaging group, then briefly in the Advanced Systems Division, and finally he worked for Peter Will. 

Bill came to my office one day, introduced himself, and told me that he had an idea for a patent -- I'm not sure exactly what words he used to describe his idea, but what my non-scientist brain thought it heard was he wanted to use the heat generated by the computer to generate electricity to drive the computer. I had no concept of what he was describing, but I helped him file his invention disclosure with the lawyers at USC.  

[Note: Inventing things and filing patents became a regular activity for Bill. During a dinner with Bill, Don, Shirley, and me in September 2022, we asked Bill how many patents he holds.  His reply was, "Just south of 100."  Here is a link to a partial list -- and you can see that many of them are evidenced in the features of Apple products.]

Patents by Inventor William C. Athas

A few days later I went to Bill's office to get his signature on the USC forms.  There was a big poster affixed to his office door:

I decided this guy is very cool and I need to get to know him better!  At this time Bill was a "Chevy Man" -- driving a Camaro.  He previously owned a red 1984 Corvette (just like me!).  In addition to our professional relationship, we forged a "car guy" friendship that lasted for the rest of our lives.

There is frequently a schism in academic research between science and "administration". At ISI I tried to bridge that situation by being accessible to the scientists. One thing helped a lot -- each year I would give a town hall type talk to the Institute.  ISI's cost accounting system was extremely complex and not well understood by the people who wrote grant proposals. During my talks I would review the past year's financial performance, describe the funding we had secured for the future, and explain the costing rates for the coming year.  Bill always attended these talks and referred to my slide on costing details as "the secret decoder ring of ISI finances". I'm told that a variation of those annual town hall meetings continues today under the leadership of Craig Knoblock.

It wasn't long before Nan and I received an invitation to Bill's wedding.  The wedding service was to be performed at the Wayfarer's Chapel in Palos Verdes.  I lived in Palos Verdes for 13 years and had driven by the chapel many times, stopping by on occasions to marvel at its beauty and its setting on the coastline of the peninsula.  I had never been inside the chapel.  

On Bill's wedding day, once Nan and I settled into our seats, we decided that this was an exceptional place to get married.


As the service began, the most beautiful woman, in an elegant wedding dress, appeared.  This was the first time we saw Rachelle.  

The reception was held at the Athenaeum at Caltech.  The joyous day, in two iconic settings, was the perfect beginning for a beautiful couple's life together.

By the end of the 1990's Bill had moved from ISI, first to the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles, and then to Apple Computer in 2000.  But we stayed in touch even though Bill was living in San Jose and I was in San Diego.

After Bill joined Apple he graduated from Chevy to more exotic cars.  I think his favorite car of all time was his 2009 Porsche 911 Type 997.1 Turbo Coupe.  It was all-wheel drive, with the DOHC, twin turbo, fuel-injected engine putting out 473 BHP at 6,000 RPM.  Bill gave Nan and I a ride in the car on one of our trips to San Jose.  

Bill also let me drive his Audi R8 and his Acura NSX, cars I would have never had access to without his friendship.

Travels with Bill

Bill has joined Don, Shirley, Nan and me at Laguna Seca for many years for the IMSA races -- we would smuggle Bill into the Corvette Corral and he tolerated our passion for Corvettes.  

All the super-car sales guys are constantly tempting Bill to sample their wares, and Bill could frequently score better seats at Laguna Seca than we could.  Here is a photo of us at Laguna Seca in the Acura suite right above the start/finish line.

Bill has constantly invited me to exceptional car events.  

The coolest car event I ever attended was when Bill invited me to go with him to the Quail Lodge and Golf Club for their exotic, multi-day car show in 2019.  I had never seen so many $1+ million cars.  We went to parties, were treated to receptions, and rubbed elbows with the"One Percent".  I had to do a blog post about that experience.

The Quail Supercar Event

Bill's newest Porsche purchase garnered him a trip to the Porsche Experience center in Los Angeles in June 2022. Bill invited me to be his guest.  He flew in to Torrance the night before, I picked him up at his hotel the next morning and we drove over to the Porsche facility, first in line for the day. I'm happy that the Porsche people didn't have my Corvette Z06 towed from their parking lot.

During the day-long experience, Bill got to drive the best Porsche cars in all the driver training settings: straight away; track; skid pad; steep inclines; etc. 

In between sessions, Bill asked the ride-along expert about a glitch he was having with his nearly-new 2019 992 S.  The young driver made a few calls about Bill's issue to the Porsche geniuses, and then let Bill know that his known glitch could be repaired on a newer model car with a software download, but not on his three-year old car.  Bill said, "Really?".  I watched as the guy tried to explain to Bill the complexities of computer architecture.  I thought, "Does this guy have any idea who he is talking to?".  Bill never said another word about the encounter -- displaying his forgiving nature. 

In 2015 Nan and I went to Yosemite, staying at the Ahwahnee Lodge for a peaceful getaway.  Bill and his family joined us for a very nice visit, including some memorable hikes in Yosemite Valley.

In 2016 we had a nice rendezvous with Bill and his family in Disneyland.  

Events that failed to materialize

There were three times that Bill and I had planned an adventure that failed to materialize. 

In 2016 Ford announced the rebirth of the Ford GT.  But you couldn't just buy one of these $450,000 cars, you needed to fill out an application to buy one -- and the people in the PR department of Ford would decide if you were worthy (or not).  Car and Driver magazine posted the application form for all to see:

Ford GT Application

Bill called me as he was filling out the form.  He let the good people at Ford know that if they allowed him to buy a Ford GT, he (and I) would take a grand tour of the USA in the car, and then he would donate the car to charity.  What a road trip that would be!  What a philanthropic gesture!

In July 2016 Bill received a not-quite-satisfying reply from the Ford GT Team declining his application!

Undeterred by the Ford GT rebuff, Bill arranged in 2019 to order a Porsche 992 S including factory delivery in Leipzig, Germany.  This time, instead of a grand tour of the USA, we would take a road trip of Europe.  The itinerary, scheduled to start in April 2019, included stops in Lund and Gothenburg, Sweden, Hamburg, Germany, dropping the car off for shipping to San Jose, then a trip to London and finally the flight back home.  Bill and Nan made all the flight and hotel arrangements.  This was going to be amazing!

Then COVID hit.  Despite negotiations that went on for months, the Porsche factory cancelled our visit and the car was eventually shipped to the USA without a proper road-trip break in.  We were both very disappointed. 

Last year, while vacationing at the Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise, Nan and I were waiting to be seated for dinner when my phone alerted me that Bill was calling.  The Lamborghini boys were offering to host Bill for a special event, and he could bring a guest.  Bill chose me!  Unfortunately, Nan and I had already booked a cruise that precluded my opportunity to sample a Lambo.  Another disappointment.

Quiet Kindnesses

Bill is skimpy with words, but effusive with kindness.  Through the years, at completely random times, gifts would arrive from Bill.  Examples are: A tee shirt that says "Life is too short to drive boring cars" with images of three classic Corvettes; another tee shirt poking fun at Steve Jobs, saying "This is our best T shirt ever!"; a copy of the 450 page book "Designed in California by Apple" -- a fantastic pictorial history of Apple and its many products; a classic poster from the 1960's showing a Corvette Stingray sales brochure taken at LAX; and countless Apple products.

Five years ago, we invited Bill to my 70th birthday party.  Bill told us he would attend even though he would need to fly down from San Jose. On the day of the party, Bill arrived as expected.  But we learned that he had another commitment that he had to meet, but he still dropped by to celebrate the event.  He was only able to visit for about 15 minutes. A more dedicated friend could not be found.

The Ron Fellows Performance Driving School

We have been trying (in vain, I'm afraid) to convert Bill to come back to the "Corvette side".  Bill has joined Don, Shirley, Nan and me at the Ron Fellows Corvette school three times -- 2016, 2017 and 2022.

In 2016 Don, who had been to the school before, was in the "advanced" class while Bill and I were in the "regular" class.

We returned in 2017 and Bill and I got promoted to the "advanced" class, but Don was in the "expert" class!  Both times we were all driving the C7 Corvette.

Then in 2022, after Don had purchased his new C8 Corvette, he decided to return to Spring Mountain. He registered for the class that was scheduled for September 11 and 12.  Bill registered for the same "advanced" class.  

Bill and I had been invited to a fabulous gala in Los Angeles on September 11  -- the 50th Anniversary of ISI's founding in 1972. He decided that he would rather drive fast cars with Don.  Nan and I decided that we could go to the gala on Sunday night, then drive to the Corvette School on Monday morning to meet up with Bill, Don, and Shirley.  Even though we missed Day 1 of the class, we arrived in time for dinner.  

At dinner we celebrated Don's birthday -- Bill gave Don a special USAF coffee mug (to tease Don who was a Navy pilot).  But it was a thoughtful gift, like all of Bill's gifts.  Nan and I gave Bill a coffee mug too -- the ISI 50th anniversary mug.

On Day 2 Shirley, Nan and I watched Don and Bill alternating between time on the track and in the classroom for debriefing and more instruction.  On the afternoon of Day 2, Bill told me that he wasn't feeling well.  He left early and returned to San Jose.

After we all returned home, we kept checking in on Bill to see how he was doing.  In September he confirmed that he had contracted COVID on the trip to Nevada (Don caught it too -- probably in the classroom). In early October Bill told us he was doing better but was carrying a full workload. 

We didn't hear from Bill for the rest of October despite sending messages and inquiries about his health.  Then in early November Bill told us that his health had taken ". . . a sudden and serious turn for the worse . . . a massive vertigo attack . . . terrible tinnitus".  In late November we talked with Bill by phone about his health, and he was still struggling.  The last text message we received from Bill was December 11th.  After that date, Bill never responded to our messages to him.

Rachelle called us in early January to let us know of Bill's passing. We could not have been more shocked or devastated.

Bill's memorial service was held at his local church on Saturday, January 28th -- one month ago. The St. Francis Episcopal Church was standing room only, packed with friends, neighbors, church members, and, of course, scores of Apple people.  The eulogy was delivered by Johny Srouji, Senior Vice President, hardware technologies, Apple Computer -- Bill's boss. Johny delivered a beautiful eulogy, describing Bill's professional, and personal life.  He used the word "exceptional" a few times to describe Bill and his accomplishments -- which is why I have chosen that word many times in this tribute. The same intelligent, quiet, humble, kind, and caring person that we have known in our small circle of friends is the same man that his professional colleagues knew and loved.

Johny respected the secrecy of the technologies that Bill was working on in his eulogy.  In trying to learn more about Bill since his passing, I came across the article below.  In it, we learn that Apple's most secretive team is called the Exploratory Design Group, or XDG, and that for many years Bill was its leader. Bill was one of the few people earning the title of  "Apple Engineering Fellow".  

My favorite quote from the article is, "Athas was seen by the late co-founder, Steve Jobs and current Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook as one of the brightest engineering minds of the company." 

Bill Athas and the Apple Experimental Design Group

Like so many others, we are dealing with an emptiness borne of sudden, permanent, loss.  Our only comfort is that for so many years Bill chose to include us in his exceptional life -- and it was the best road trip ever.

Cary Thomas

February 28, 2023

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Corvette Racing 2022 -- Looking Back and Forward

There are no bigger fans of Corvette Racing than the Fantastic Foursome (Shirley, Don, Nan, and me).

Well . . . . Charley Robertson is a bigger fan than us, but we are right behind her!

Since the 2023 IMSA racing season has begun (last weekend), now is a good time to look back on the 2022 season.

Recall that in the prior eight years (2014 - 2021) Corvette racing had finished 1st or 2nd every year except 2015.  We enjoyed a "three-peat" in 2016, 2017, and 2018, and back-to-back 1st place finishes in 2020 and 2021.  You might say that we were spoiled. It was great fun going to the race track, hanging out in the Corvette Corral, getting driver autographs, and enjoying the Corvette and Chevrolet displays.

Here we are with Doug Fehan in 2021.  Those are the smiles we wore to all the Corvette events.

I'm not exactly sure what happened in 2022, but people started messing with the rules.  GTLM, where Corvettes had been so successful, was replaced in 2022 with something called GT Daytona Pro (GTD Pro) using GT3 machinery. Since Corvette didn't have any GT3 cars on the market, the C8.R was allowed to run in the GTD Pro class using a GTD "kit". I have no idea what that is.

The table below shows how that plan worked out -- not so well!

If you look at the race-by-race breakdown, you might get depressed.  See below.

As reported last year on this Blog, the Fantastic Foursome attended the Daytona race in January 2022 -- the first race of the 2022 season. Out of a field of 13 cars, the Corvettes finished 6th and 10th.  The Corvettes were not competitive, losing more than a second each lap -- which puts you way behind in a 24 hour race. 

Fantastic Foursome at the 24 Hours of Daytona 

Daytona was the only race with two Corvette entries for that year. The next race was Sebring and the #3 Corvette finished 1st, restoring our faith in the team. 

Next up was the race at Long Beach, California -- the closest race to our home -- so we drove our Corvettes up to Long Beach to watch.  Again the Corvette was really doing well until the "wheel nut fiasco" which precluded the Corvette from a second 1st place finish.  But we were enthused.

Fantastic Foursome at Long Beach

Our joy was short-lived, as the highest finish for the remainder of the season was 2nd (two times).  On the positive side, Corvette enjoyed five podiums out of ten races.  

Going into the final race of the season at Road Atlanta, Corvette was second in points just ahead of the Lexus entry and behind the eventual season winning Porsche.  Finishing ahead of the Lexus would have given Corvette a 2nd place season -- not too bad. Instead the Vasser Sullivan team (Lexus) won the race outright, pushing themselves into 2nd place and the Corvette, that finished 5th, into 3rd.  

What has gone wrong here?  If you look at last year's 10 races you will find that in many events a number of GTD cars have finished higher than any GTD Pro car.  Sorry, this just doesn't make any sense to me.

How will the 2023 season go?

Corvette Racing returned to the GTD Pro class at the 24 Hours of Daytona on January 28, 2023 with familiar faces in the driver's seat -- Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Tommy Milner.  The Corvette was competitive this year, holding the lead after four hours and performing well for the entire 24 hour race.  They finished 2nd behind the Mercedes AMG GT3, and ahead of the Lexus RC F GT3.  So, maybe 2023 will be an improvement over last year.  Time will tell.

And everything will change completely next year as Corvette will be fielding a GT3 spec car run by independent teams for the first time.  Here is a website to tell you all about next season's car:

Corvette Z06 GT3.R

We are hopeful that this new platform and the driver rules will get us as excited about Corvette racing as we were a few years ago!  The car sure looks cool!

Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.R Is A Legit Race Car You Can Buy -