The 24 Hours of Le Mans kicked off this morning, marking Corvette Racing’s 20th consecutive start in the historic French endurance race – a monumental motorsports achievement for Chevrolet.
Corvette Racing is a fan favorite at Le Mans thanks to its familiar bright yellow ‘Vettes and their unmistakably American V8 engine note. When they first contested the race in 2000, however, they were just a band of relatively unknown outsiders.
Team boss Doug Fehan recently explained how they first won over the French fans at Le Mans on an episode of The Marshall Pruett Podcast. Knowing that French culture was largely based on tradition, Fehan had a feeling Corvette Racing would have a tough time convincing fans that their newly formed operation deserved to be on the grid.
“We weren’t treated rudely (by the French fans), but we wanted to do things that would endear ourselves to not only the race, but to the town of Le Mans,” Fehan said.
“We knew that French people were crazy about cowboy, western movies. They love American movies, all American movies,” Fehan continued. “So we showed up (to scrutineering) in cowboy hats, and the fans, they didn’t know what to think. They were loving it, but they just didn’t know what to think. This was their first exposure to an American team like this.”
Fehan also explained another instance in 2000 when the cars were on display in the town of Le Mans. Other teams traditionally roped their cars off so fans couldn’t get too close, but the Corvette Racing took a more American approach to the display.
“We get down, and (I said) ‘I want you to open that up and the first kid that comes along, I want you to open the door up, get them in the car and let his parents take a picture of him inside the race car’,” Fehan told his team. “‘And then line them up, and let’s do that for every kid that comes along before we get called up to scrutineering.'”
“Everybody was smiling. The next thing you know, the parents were lined up, the kids were lined up, to get their picture taken in the Corvette. It was a great moment in time.”
Listen to the full episode of the podcast embedded above to hear more of Doug’s entertaining stories from Corvette Racing’s 20 years at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.