Catching Up With Ron Fellows
Gary Horrocks spoke to Ron Fellows, ahead of the Petit Le Mans event.

dailysportscar.comIt’s been a busy time for Ron Fellows. Besides his usual drive with Johnny O’Connell in the ALMS Corvette, Ron was entered in a factory Cadillac CTS-V for the Speed GT races at Mosport and Road America, the Nextel Cup race at Watkins Glen and also in a pair of Trans Am races, where he raced for Jim Derhag in a Corvette. “It’s been a busy time, but it has been good. I felt like I was getting complacent from always driving the same car, but getting into a different car ignites the adaptation skills.”

Heading into Petit Le Mans, all Ron and Johnny O’Connell need to do is secure a second place finish to wrap up their second consecutive championship as a team, which will also be the third in a row for Ron (owing to changing scoring rules). “Obviously, Johnny and I are focused on the end of the race. You have to cover something like 70-75% of the race distance to score points, so we must get to the end. That means no low percentage moves, just like we have driven all year long. Max (Papis) understands what it takes to do that. Road Atlanta is not the easiest place to pass in traffic, it has lots of single file corners. We need to keep aware of that and stay focused on the overall picture. It is our intention is to go to Laguna as the 2004 GTS Champions.”

dailysportscar.comIn California, it will be yet another attempt to snatch a first ALMS win for a Corvette at Laguna Seca. “Yeah, that would be nice. That was one of the reasons I was there last weekend, racing in the Trans Am race. It would have been nice to get a podium there for Corvette. Jim has a great little team there and I’m sorry I couldn’t bring them a win this year. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the differences in the bodies, and to realize that we, in a Corvette, were at a distinct disadvantage in that series.”

A side excursion into NASCAR saw Ron as a hired gun in the DEI Monte Carlo at Watkins Glen. As far as the result, which was a strong second place finish to Tony Stewart, Ron feels that they should have won this one. “I want to get one of those wins real bad. I’m proud but still disappointed. I started last due to the rain out of qualifying and really had no idea how I was going to do in the race. I just figured that I would do the best that I could do and be patient. It almost worked out, but in the end, we just came up short. Tony (Stewart) had fresher tires at the end. At the last stop, he put on new tires and we didn’t. By the time the race ended, we had 40 laps on those tires and there was just nothing we could do. It’s amazing that I was able to bring the car home without a scratch on it. I’ve really enjoyed working with DEI this year. We’ve been the position to win, but it just hasn’t happened yet.”

While on the subject of NASCAR and DEI, Ron still feels bad about how things turned out at Sears Point for Dale Earnhardt Jr., and hopes that he will come back and give it another try. “It was some very unfortunate circumstances that caught him out. Johnny was out in our car at the time and he had just radioed in about how slick it was on the track. Then we saw the smoke but didn’t know what happened. Finally, on the monitors, we were able to tell that it was a Corvette. It took a while to realize which one it was though. Looking back, Dale was very unlucky about the whole thing. It happened that where he hit was an area just between tire barriers, and if you take into consideration how he hit – the angle and just how everything happened, it seemed that everything went wrong for him. I do hope he tries it again. I do think he is keen about giving it another try.”

dailysportscar.comAt Mosport, Ron had his first experience in a Cadillac CTS-V, in the Speed GT race (with regulars Max Angelelli and Andy Pilgrim, right). He qualified third fastest, but was forced to start the race dead last from pit lane, after missing the presentation lap preceding the race. Because of that mistake, Ron had to settle for a ninth-place finish and the knowledge that he did set the fastest lap of the race. “I would have liked a better result, but it is what it is. Unfortunately, we didn’t understand the pre-grid policy and we wasted the qualifying effort. On the first lap, I was on my own, and from then on, I was in traffic the rest of the way. The car was quick, and with about 4-5 laps to go, I caught the lead train, but with so much activity up there, I just couldn’t do much.”

For the second race on Sunday, Fellows qualified on pole. “I really only did one fast lap, it was a pretty decent lap. For the race, the team had been telling me that the Caddy didn’t do well on standing starts. Because of that, I had practiced the starts many times while testing before the event to insure I got it right. Then, to make sure we didn’t mess up the pole position, I got in the car with plenty of time before the race, ready to go. When the light went green, I kept waiting for the cars to pass me, but they never did. I got a three second lead and kept it. It ended up being no big deal.

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“It was nice to finish off the weekend with a win for Caddy. I really enjoyed working with the guys and it was cool to do that amount of driving all in the same weekend, especially at home. It was kind of like 15 years ago, when I was running in all of the multiple classes.”

Ron was in the car again at Road America, but was rewarded with 175 pounds of success weight. “It made the car drive more like an ESV than a CTS-V race car. It weighed more than a Nextel Cup car. It’s a requirement that the Caddy have a maximum of 48% of the weight on the rear end. That causes some real traction issues. The way the rest of the rules are set up really hamper the Caddy. It ends up weighing a lot, but it is so handicapped that it has no straight line speed. Pratt & Miller has done a great job with the car, as I really had no idea of the weight of it. It doesn’t drive like it is that heavy. Its only real advantage is in the corners.

“The Speed GT World Challenge is a great format with the sprint racing and the standing start, but they need to find a better method of equalizing the cars. There is something like 400 lbs difference between some of the cars. The idea of changing the weights throughout the season due to the success ballast and the regulation changes makes it an expensive series to run. You have to overbuild the cars to insure that you put yourself in a position to get every advantage that you can.”

The Cadillac team is in a giant battle for the manufacturers championship, and with only a few races left, there is still a chance that Fellows may see further action in Speed GT (Johnny O'Connell takes on that role at Road Atlanta). But first, there is something about a GTS championship that needs to be settled, possibly at Petit Le Mans this week. Stay tuned…

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