Doug Fehan – Prior To The Start of The 2006 Season
”I don’t quite think I would do that”
© Gary Horrocks
important that we provide fans with good racing. If some teams are
unable to compete, either due to lack of proper funding or technical
capability, then it is necessary to give them some adjustments to
allow them to compete.” These are the words of Doug Fehan,
Corvette Racing Program Manager for GM.
Does this mean
he is happy with the way the GT1 regulations are in the ALMS? I
would have to say not, but Corvette Racing has never been one to
whine. It may be a cliché, but Corvette Racing is the ultimate
example of when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
But the reality
of the above statement by Doug Fehan is that the American Le Mans
Series has come up with regulations for the 2006 season that give
further weight and restrictor concessions to the Corvette adversaries.
And when compared to its chief rival, Aston Martin, now running
on Pirelli tires, the Corvette will be at a significant disadvantage.
not sound like much, but 110 pounds and 20-25 additional horsepower
are significant,” says Fehan.
no place that we raced the Aston last year were we able to out accelerate
them or have an advantage over them in top speed. And if you look
at the last two to three races of last season, this class was a
fight. If all you did was look at the results on paper, I guess
you could say we dominated, but the reality is that we had our hands
full with the Maserati, Saleen and later the Astons. At the finale
at Laguna, our detailed analysis indicated that the ACEMCO Saleen
was by far the fastest car on track. It was in the pits and in strategy
that we beat them. But then again, as a privateer, they don’t
have the means to collect that data, and because of that, they could
never see how well they actually did.”
So while the
final results indicate that 2005 was yet another Corvette dominated
season, the results do not show the full story.
a team worked our asses off to stay on top. We did not mail it in
at all. But it has been that way through the entire existence of
Corvette Racing. When we started in 1999, the Viper, with its V10
that produced a gang of torque and would live forever, was our nemesis.
It was our mountain to climb. When I discussed this with the ACO,
the comment from Alain Bertaut was ‘I can give you what you
need. And what you need is to go home and work harder’. And
that we did. For two years, until we got to the point where we could
Things in racing
are different now. Call it a new generation, or what, but it appears
that regulation changes have replaced hard work. Think back to the
days in racing when restrictors were unheard of. Back when the only
way a team fought back for success was through hard work.
it’s instant gratification now. We’re here for the long
term and because of that, it puts our competitors in a good bargaining
position. I would suggest we are the victims of our own success.”
to strike a balance between competition and technology can be a
difficult thing, but it is something that the American Le Mans Series
appeared to achieve last year. But working with the series to try
to help them achieve that balance is something that is extremely
difficult for Doug Fehan. While he realizes that it is not healthy
for the series to see his team dominate, he is also a driven competitor
who truly wants to win every race. He might not admit it easily,
but you get the impression that having either the ACEMCO Saleen
or the Maserati break through for a win might not have been that
bad a thing to occur.
have to say that they (the ALMS) have done a good job balancing
the class. I know what they want and I know it is something that
we gotta do. But the fans are smart. They don’t want to see
contrived competition. If you go overboard on regulation changes,
the fans will figure it out. Relying on regulations to make teams
competitive is a slippery slope to be on. It’s like a tube
of toothpaste. Once you’ve squeezed the paste out, it’s
tough to get it back into the tube. Decisions like this can affect
much more than appears on the surface.”
Part of the
difficulty of striking a balance in the class is the factory vs.
privateer situation. There are not many privateers who feel they
can take on the might of a well run factory program such as Corvette
Racing without assistance. On paper, a car of the design and configuration
of the Saleen S7 should be a world beater, but so far, it really
hasn’t been developed to its full potential, something that
is not lost on Doug Fehan or his team.
the cars that are running in the GT1 class, he makes the interesting
observation that from below the green house, all of the cars are
similar, at least as far as dimensions go.
are all based upon similar dimensions and tire sizes, the lower
body and front profile are all just about the same. It is in the
greenhouse area that the cars differ, and that is where the rules
dictating the rear wing width come into play. It is a way of leveling
the aero effects of a sleeker greenhouse.”
What could prove
to be the most interesting observation concerning the class is “while
the focus is on the breaks that the Aston got, the Konrad Saleen,
also on Pirelli tires could very well be the sleeper of the field.
They’ve got a bigger wing, a weight break and a larger diameter
fueling pipe.” The potential is there, still there…
and we'll see this battle re-joined at Le Mans (on strictly ACO
So, what about
the C6.R, the dailysportscar Car of the Year in
North America? How will it be with the added weight this year and
specifically at Sebring?
of all, I was absolutely blown away by that award. I’m surprised
that the Brits would let it happen! (Patriotism doesn't come
into it, Doug. Our contributors just looked at what the C6.Rs achieved
during 2005. Ed.) As far as this year, I’m not sure.
We built new cars for this season as we sold last year’s cars
to teams in Europe. The cars are not really any different than last
year’s, just new. We did test them, but we haven’t really
run them at the 1180kg weight as of yet. Over the length of a sprint
race, the added weight shouldn’t be a big deal, but over the
course of a longer race it could be significant. The added weight
consumes more fuel and eats up the brakes and tires faster. I would
have to say that multiplied over 12 hours, it will have an effect.
in the end, it all comes down to durability, reliability and driver
consistency. Those are areas where I believe we are very strong.
As I have said before, we don’t give up. Look at last year
at Sebring. O’Connell had that crash when the brake disc exploded.
The team got the car back into the race when many expected the car
to be retired. I’m not saying we are going to be beat, but
when someone does beat us, it won’t be because we let up.
It will be because they were incredibly lucky or they did an outstanding
job. Competition? Bring it on. I hope we see even more as the year
Doug. Bottom line. Should I change my prediction of a Corvette 1-2
in GT1 at Sebring? “I don’t quite think I would do that.”
While truly not a villain in real life, you get the impression that
Doug would relish the opportunity to play the villain, to the cars
that are the choice of James Bond. In reality though, he is the
man who won the 2004 ALMS "From the Fans Award" for his
contributions to sportscar racing - definitely a good guy.