Fred & Sharon Smith – Corvette Racing Weekend

Corvettes lined up
Front of Hotel

Corvette Racing Weekend, April 30-May 1, in Monterey, CA by Sharon Smith

This weekend is not just about racing. It is a gathering of the greater Corvette family to enjoy not only the racing, but also to be updated on what is happening in all things Corvette, and share our passion for Corvette.

Saturday evening we attended the Monterey Corvette Racing Banquet at the Embassy Suites by Hilton. It was great to see a packed room for this event. Yes, the Corvette family is thriving and it was fun to make new friends as well as catch up with those we have met over the years.

We always enjoy the updates on sales, performance, engineering, tires, exterior and interior design, and the future for Corvette at the banquet. Try as they might, those in attendance were unable to get Tadge Juechter, Corvette Chief Engineer, to give up any juicy information on future plans for the Corvette. The question about a mid-engine Corvette always seems to come up. Tadge’s reply to that question was “only do mid-engine if it is good in every way”. So the way I see it from that answer is never say never. Time will tell.

Here are some highlights from Tadge’s presentation:

Regarding the exterior design of the C-7 generation Corvette, Tadge said that they started with over 300 designs submitted from around the world. They narrow that down to 30 designs and do 1/3 scale clay models. Then they do a full size clay model of the top 3. Tadge said Corvette is keeping the same proportions for the car, but got more experimental with design language

5,000-10,000 people are involved with the initial production of a new generation Corvette.

Someone asked, “How many C-7’s are crashed to satisfy safety requirements?” Tadge replied that there were 130 prototype C-7’s and they crashed a lot of them—some not intentionally. They crash them with different engines, they crash them with different seats. They re-crash to do another type of crash such as crash from front than crash on side. He said it takes 60-80 crash tests to get a car on the road. They keep crash vehicles around for a few years and then destroy them.

So who bought a C-7 in the first year of production? 30% of sales were to people who never had a Corvette before and for 30% of that 30% it was the first time they bought a GM product. The new owners are 10 years younger, wealthier, and more of them are coastal residents. No wonder we see so many C-7’s in our So Cal area. We are the perfect demographic to attract the C-7 potential purchaser. The only area where Corvette is not being as successful is in getting more women in the car.

Tadge had a few comments about the new paint facility and paint selection. The old paint shop is 30 years old. It will take 1 or 2 years to migrate to the new paint shop. When asked about adding more exterior colors to the line, Tadge said “it is hard to justify tooling for 1 or 2 cars out of 50”.

As always Tadge and other members of the Corvette team did a fantastic presentation and held the attention of the audience from start to finish. The Corvette racing team led by Doug Fehan, Program Manager (AKA Head Cheerleader) for Corvette Racing, stopped by for a few minutes to get us revved up for the race the next day.

Race Day, Sunday May 1 arrived with perfect conditions: blue sky, no jackets required, and a Corvette Corral filled with race fans and their Corvettes sporting a diverse assortment of after-market accessories and paint schemes. To make the weekend even sweeter Corvette owners have our own huge tent where we can chat with other Corvette owners as well as listen to presentations by Mobil 1, Michelin, Ron Fellows from Spring Mountain Driving School, and hear more from Tadge as well as Tom Peters and Ryan Vaughan from the C-7 design team, and Alex MacDonald, Chassis Engineer. I have to mention the catered lunch which is always healthy and plentiful, plus they kept a steady supply of water and sodas to keep us hydrated throughout the day.

The 2017 Corvette Grand Sport made its West Coast Debut at this event. A red Grand Sport with the white stripe was parked in front of the hotel during the banquet and then it was available for an up close and personal experience at the Corvette Corral on Sunday.

The race for our class (GTLM) was midday (11:15-1:15) so we watched part of the race while at lunch in the tent so as not to miss the action. Even though the outcome for Corvette Racing was not what we had hoped for the day, the experience of being away on a weekend with our Corvettes, chatting with other Corvette owners, making new friends, and supporting our Corvette Racing Team was . . . .PRICELESS.

Special thanks to the NCM, GM, Corvette Racing, and Buzz Marston and his WSCC team for their commitment, energy and time to give us another great event in Monterey. You are appreciated.

Sharon Smith
Fred Smith