Before the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) races at Mid-Ohio MTD had a conversation with Doug Fehan, GM Racing program manager for the American Le Mans Series. Among Mr. Fehan’s many accomplishments are Corvette Racing’s eight consecutive ALMS GT1 manufacturer and team championships in 2001-08 and seven straight drivers championships with Ron Fellows, Oliver Beretta, Johnny O’Connell, Jan Magnussen, and Oliver Gavin. Corvette Racing is a technical partner with Michelin and we asked Mr. Fehan about that relationship.
Michelin emphasizes the partner relationship it has with selected race teams in ALMS, what does a technical partnership with Michelin mean for Corvette Racing?
Mr. Fehan: I think when you dive below the surface of any successful race team, it becomes very apparent that that success is not only based upon the hard work the team does but on the alliance with their strategic partners. In Corvette Racing’s case, obviously Michelin is one of those strategic partners. I don’t think that is exhibited any more clearly than when we look at how our relationship has prospered on the racing side, with victories at Le Mans and championships, but also when we look at how that translates into OEM business for Michelin, whether it’s the Michelin tire for the first time in history on the Corvette ZR1, that crosses the board then as Corvette is the tip of our technical spear at GM and Chevrolet and we’re beginning to see Michelin tires turn up on other high performance cars like the Cadillac CTS V series and several other of our vehicle lines throughout the Chevrolet and GM line-up.
In addition to that, when you look at how Michelin conducts its business, using ZR1 once again as the example, the same engineer who designs our race tires is the same engineer who designs the street tires on the ZR1. Now, you can talk about technology transfer, you can dance around it, you can come up with other examples, but let me tell you what, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line and there is no straighter line than having the same guy design the street tire and the race tire. I don’t know how much more clear you can make the case for the importance of the relationship between Michelin and Corvette, Chevrolet and General Motors.
What can we look forward in the near future for Corvette Racing?
Mr. Fehan: I think, on the horizon, probably one if not the most exciting time await us and that is the introduction of the next generation Corvette, for the street, which I know our fan base, our customer base is very, very excited to see and then of course after that is introduced we’ll be competing with that version on the race track. Once again, the fan base is really excited about that. That’s something that will all come down oh probably in the next twenty four months, which for us is right on the horizon. It seems like a long time but in racing time that seem like it takes about twelve minutes. A year goes by faster than you can think, so we are already working on the race car, I know the production car is very, very close to being finalized, it’s going to be a very exciting twenty four months for everybody who enjoys racing and loves Corvette.
Has Michelin been involved in the development of the new cars?
Mr. Fehan: Michelin as our strategic partner has been involved from the very beginning on the seventh generation, absolutely.
Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and has been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993.